The Buckeyes and Spartans meet in a preview of the Big Ten Hockey Conference
Michigan State takes on Ohio State in a two-game series this weekend. Friday evening's game, starting at 8:05 EST, will be shown on Big Ten Network, which, thanks to Jim Delany's thirst for conquest, is pretty much a nationally televised game.
There's a lot of similarities between this year's Michigan State and Ohio State teams. Both teams are in the process of rebuilding their programs with new coaches--MSU's Tom Anastos is in his second season, OSU's Mark Osiecki is in his third--and while they have shown signs of growth, their results this season have been average at best. Ohio State comes into this game 4-2-2-1 in CCHA conference play, good for a tie for 2nd place in the conference, and 5-4-3 overall. Michigan State is 3-4-1-0 in conference play, tied for 9th in the conference, and 4-6-2 overall.
Both teams are also pretty young. The Buckeyes only have four senior skaters on their roster, and they have combined for one goal and three assists so far this season. Meanwhile, their top five scorers consist of four sophomores and a junior. Similarly, the Spartans only have four senior skaters, who have combined for a measly 10 points on the season, with no senior appearing among the team's top nine scorers.
A lot was made in the media this week about the current struggles of the future Big Ten teams, but with all the young talent on both of these teams, they certainly look like teams headed in the right direction, that should be back where they belong once their new coaches get settled in.
Who to Watch:
For Michigan State, their top line of Matt Berry, Matt DeBlouw(Calgary draft pick), and Brent Darnell has clearly been their best line so far. They're the only three players on the team to have registered double digits in points so far. Minnesota Wild draft pick John Draeger is a promising young freshman as well.
For the Buckeyes, sophomores Ryan Dzingel and Max McCormick were both drafted by the Ottawa Senators in the 2011 NHL Draft after being passed over by everyone in the 2010 NHL Draft. They, along with fellow sophomore Tanner Fritz, have been Ohio State's top three forwards this year.
The Buckeyes have been splitting goal tending duties between Minnesota-Duluth transfer Brady Hjelle and Carolina Hurricanes pick Collin Olson. Both have been stellar, but Hjelle has been particularly exceptional this year, boasting a 0.62 GAA and .977 save percentage in CCHA play.