The fourth-ranked Michigan Wolverines (21-7-1) and the Michigan State Spartans (11-16-1) have gone two different directions since the calendars turned to 2022.
Michigan has won seven of eight games in the new year with its lone defeat coming in a 2-1 overtime loss at Minnesota on Jan. 21. The Spartans, however, have lost eight in a row and have not won a Big Ten game since Dec. 11 against Notre Dame.
Despite the teams’ opposing trajectories, the Spartans will look to take advantage of Michigan’s limited roster due to the Olympics to get back on track this weekend.
The Wolverines will be without their top four scorers for this series and next week’s series against Ohio State. Matty Beniers and Brendan Brisson are representing the United States (GO USA), while Kent Johnson and Owen Power are representing Team Canada. But Michigan will still feature a pair of 20-point scorers in sophomore center Thomas Bordeaux (seven goals, 17 assists) and freshman defenseman Luke Hughes (10 goals, 13 assists) in their absence.
Michigan State will try to keep pace while dealing with an absence of its own in the form of veteran forward Mitch Lewandowski (seven goals, 11 assists), who has not played since December. Freshman Jesse Tucker (two goals, 17 assists) has emerged as a premier set-up man with sophomore Jeremy Davidson (10 goals, eight assists) handling the primary goal-scoring responsibilities.
But due to an overall lack of depth, the Spartans have struggled to score. Michigan State has only scored 62 goals on the season (2.21 goals per game), compared to Michigan’s 112 (3.86 goals per game).
Due to their ineffective offense, the Spartans over-compensates and over-relies on the strength of stellar goalie Drew DeRidder to remain competitive. Through 20 games, he sports a .934 save percentage and leads the Big Ten in saves per game (32.40). Due to the below-average play in front of him, he averages four more saves per game than any other goalie in the conference.
Not to be outdone, Michigan sophomore goalie Erik Portillo has also been outstanding this season. The Swede has started every game this season for the Wolverines and is second nationally in wins (21) and saves (793).
In their first series of the season back in November, the Wolverines took both games over the Spartans (one in Ann Arbor, one in East Lansing) by a combined score of 10-4.
Can the Wolverines continue their hot streak without several key players and sweep the season series against the struggling Spartans?
How to watch
Friday (2/10): 7:30 p.m., Yost Ice Arena
Watch: CW50, BIG+
Saturday (2/11): 7:00 p.m., “Duel in the D” at Little Caesars Arena
Watch: Bally Sports Detroit, BIG+