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Wisconsin Hockey Preview: Michigan State edition

The Matchup: No. 18 Wisconsin at Michigan State
Dates: Friday/Saturday, Feb 3/4; 6pm CT
Location: East Lansing, Mich.; Munn Ice Arena (6,470)
Ice Surface: 200’ X 85′
TV: Friday/Saturday — FS Wisconsin Plus
Stream: BTN2Go
Radio: Friday/Saturday — WIBA-AM 1310
Audio Stream: Badgersportsnetwork.com (Free)
All-Time Series: MSU leads 53-49-3
Last Meeting: Wisconsin win, 5-1 (Jan. 7, 2017)

For the first time this season, the Wisconsin Badgers will face a familiar Big Ten foe, as they tangle with Michigan State for the second series between the two squads this season.

Last time it was all about building momentum going in to a break, which the Badgers did with a pair of 5-1 wins at the Kohl Center. This time, Wisconsin finds itself as one of the hottest teams in the country and ranked following a three-game winning streak over Minnesota and Ohio State combined.

Meanwhile, Michigan State comes in as one of the biggest strugglers in the Big Ten. Can the Badgers avoid being tripped up on the road and maintain their drive to a potential NCAA tournament berth?

This weekend’s series will almost be as telling about that question as the last two weekends were. Anything short of a sweep and Wisconsin will have plenty of work in front of it to attain that goal.

 

About Michigan State

Record: 5-15-2 (1-6-1-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Tom Anastos — 76-113-22 record at MSU (6th Year at MSU/overall)
Notable: The Spartans come in to this series after a bye last weekend. However, they surprised some with a 3-0 win at Michigan and a tie in the following game at home two weeks ago. Clearly this is a team capable of playing some good hockey when it wants to.

Stats Leaders:

Points: Mason Appleton (19 points — 9 goals, 10 assists)
Goals: Appleton (9)
Assists: Taro Hirose (12)
Save Pct.: Ed Minney (.891)
Goals Against Average: Ed Minney (3.41)

About Wisconsin Badgers

Record: 13-8-1 (6-2-0-0 B1G)
Head Coach: Tony Granato (13-8-1; 1st season and overall)
Notable: The Badgers sit tied atop the Big Ten standings with 18 points, something that hasn’t happened since October of 2011 when UW was part of the WCHA. A top-place standing in conference play this late in the season is rare too, as the Badgers haven’t gone in to February leading the standings since the 2005-06 season. Such is the crazy turnaround we’ve seen under Granato this season.

Stats Leaders

Points: Luke Kunin (24 — 15 goals, 9 assists)
Goals: Kunin (15)
Assists: Cameron Hughes (15)
Save Pct.: Jack Berry (.901)
Goals Against Average: Jack Berry – 2.46

Prediction

Last time out the Badgers were still trying to find out if they could be anything worthwhile in the Big Ten this season following a road split at Michigan. It’s safe to say a pair of 5-1 results gave Wisconsin their groove back.

UW has lost just once since that sweep of the Spartans, and while MSU found some momentum in a win and tie against Michigan two weekends ago, the Badgers are just hot right now.

The goaltending has picked up, the physicality is increasing and Luke Kunin is playing out of his mind. It is hard to see a Spartans defense that is allowing 3.82 goals per game (57th in the NCAA) stopping a Wisconsin attack that is scoring an average of 3.59 goals per game (6th in the NCAA) this weekend.

Look for the Badgers to continue to play at the top of the Big Ten with a weekend road sweep of the Spartans.

Friday: Wisconsin 4-1; Saturday: Wisconsin 6-1

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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