Halloween night…the spookiest night of the year. But for the Michigan State Spartans, the two months since Halloween have been terrifying. MSU has not won since October 31st, going 0-9-2 in that span and also losing 4-2 to the US Under 18 team in exhibition action. The Spartans scored two or fewer goals in 10 of those 12 games and bring a season record of 4-11-3 into the 44th annual Great Lakes Invitational.
It’s been a mixed bag of tricks and treats for the Fighting Sioux in that span. North Dakota beat Wisconsin 3-2 on Halloween night in Grand Forks, and have gone 7-5-1 since that victory. UND has not lost in December (4-0-0 in sweeps of Harvard and St. Cloud State) and now has an overall record of 9-8-1. These next two weekends will mark the final four non-conference games for the Green and White, and provide an excellent opportunity to improve on a 3-3-0 non-conference record and position for the NCAA tournament.
The winner of this matchup will face Michigan or Michigan Tech in Sunday’s championship game at Joe Louis Arena. North Dakota has captured the GLI championship in two of its previous three tournament appearances.
Michigan State Team Profile
Head Coach: Rick Comley (7th season at MSU, 146-96-27, .593)
This Season: 4-11-3 Overall, 2-8-2-2 CCHA (12th)
National Rankings: NR/NR
Team Offense: 1.61 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.00 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 10.7% (9 of 84)
Penalty Kill: 87.6% (78 of 89)
Last Season: 25-12-5 Overall (NCAA West Regional Finalist), 19-6-3 CCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Matt Schepke (7-3-10), Senior F Tim Crowder (3-7-10), Sophomore D Jeff Petry (1-6-7), Senior G Jeff Lerg (3-10-1, 2.88 GAA, .912 SV%)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 115-64-16, .631)
This Season: 9-8-1 Overall, 6-5-1 WCHA (9th)
National Ranking: #18/NR
Team Offense: 3.33 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.06 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 19.7% (26 of 132)
Penalty Kill: 82.5% (85 of 103)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (7-8-15), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (4-7-11), Senior F/D Brad Miller (4-14-18), Senior F Ryan Martens (7-7-14), Junior D Chay Genoway (2-16-18), Freshman G Brad Eidsness (9-5-1, 2.72 GAA, .909 SV)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: October 13, 2007 (Grand Forks, ND). North Dakota blitzed the defending national champions 6-0 in the US Hockey Hall of Fame Game.
Most Important Meeting: March 28. 1987 (Detroit, MI). The Hrkac Circus invaded Joe Louis Arena and took home North Dakota’s fifth national championship with a 5-3 victory over the Spartans.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 62-35-2 (.636), and holds a record of 6-3-0 in games played on neutral ice. North Dakota has won nine of the previous ten meetings between the schools.
Game News and Notes
UND freshman goaltender Brad Eidsness has appeared in fifteen consecutive games (including fourteen starts). The last freshman netminder to appear in a longer stretch of games was Aaron Schweitzer, who played in the last 18 games of UND’s 1996-97 championship campaign. North Dakota senior forward Ryan Duncan is currently 23rd on the UND career scoring list. Duncan has notched 148 points in his Sioux career and would move into the top 20 all-time with six more points this season.
This looks like a walk-over for North Dakota, but Michigan State is a proud program with a veteran coach, a seasoned goaltender, and a home crowd advantage. I expect this game to be close until the third, when the Fighting Sioux will break it open. UND 5-2.
Thank you for reading. As always, I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.