Michigan State stumbled in a pair of road games last weekend at Ohio State (loss, 4-2) and Miami (tie, 0-0) and returns home with hopes of getting back to its winning ways. The Spartans (22-4-5 overall, 14-4-4 CCHA) stand second in the CCHA, three points behind Michigan.
Friday Michigan State hosts struggling Western Michigan (6-23-2, 5-17-1), which stands in last place in the CCHA. Ohio State (17-10-2, 14-9-1), which should appear in the national polls this week for the first time following last week's win over MSU, comes to Munn Ice Arena (6,170) Saturday. Both games begin at 7 p.m. (MediaOne 6 or 17, TCI 13, Horizon 11, WVFN-AM 730, AudioNet).
Head coach Ron Mason (St. Lawrence 64) is in his 19th year at Michigan State and his 32nd as a head coach in college hockey. He is the all-time winningest college hockey coach with 797 career victories as he comes ever closer to becoming ther first coach to reach the 800-victory plateau. His records stand at 797-347-63 overall and 508-237-49 at Michigan State. Mason made his record 17th NCAA tournament appearance last year.
Western Michigan head coach Bill Wilkinson (St. Lawrence 70) is 306-283-46 in 16 years as a college coach, all with the Broncos.
Ohio State's John Markell (Bowling Green 79) also played college hockey for Mason and with MSU assistant coach Tom Newton. Markell's four-year school and career records stand at 41-61-5.
Western Michigan snapped a CCHA record 18-game losing streak with a 4-2 win at Ferris State Friday night. Goals have not come easily for the Broncos, who are averaging just 2.13 goals per game, but they are capable of playing strong defense. Matt Barnes has played most of the minutes in goal (6-18-2, 3.02, .896).
Ohio State is unbeaten in its last nine (8-0-1), including a 4-2 win over the Spartans last Friday at OSU. Hugo Boisvert is the offensive star, leading the CCHA in league scoring and standing second overall with 17-24-41. Freshman Jeff Maund (13-5-0, 2.60, .913) and sophomore Ray Aho (4-5-2, 2.43, .903) have formed a strong 1-2 punch in goal.
Last weekend's recap
Ohio State scored just 0:29 into the game Friday night, the first of two goals from Todd Compeau. Although MSU tied the score at 1-1, the Buckeyes had more jump all night and netted the next two to make it 3-1. MSU cut the lead to one, but an empty-net goal produced a 4-2 final.
The goaltenders were the stars in Saturday night's scoreless tie with Miami. Each team had opportunities -- including an MSU power play in overtime -- but Chad Alban and Trevor Prior kept the game 0-0.
After a statistical analysis of the top 12 hockey leagues in North America, it could be argued that Michigan State has the best defensive team on the continent (based upon statistics from the Feb. 6 Hockey News). The Spartans allow just 1.65 goals per game, 0.37 better than the NHL's Dallas Stars.
Not only that, but the Spartans excellent defense is not necessarily a reflection of lower scoring in college hockey. Here's why: Michigan State's goals against average is 0.35 better than the next-best team in college hockey (Yale, 2.00). It is the largest margin between the Nos. 1 and 2 defensive teams in the 12 leagues examined (NCAA Division I, NHL, AHL, IHL, ECHL, Central, United, West Coast, Western Pro, OHL, QMJHL, WHL). The next largest margin is in the WHL, where Portland's 2.69 goals against average is 0.29 better than No. 2 Prince George (2.98).
Did You Know?
Summit meetings Michigan State is in the midst of a stretch of very important CCHA games. From Jan. 30 to Feb. 21, seven of Michigan States eight opponents figure to be in the top 10 of this weeks national polls. A home-and-Joe series with league-leading Michigan featuring one game at Munn and the next at Joe Louis Arena looms Feb. 20-21. Michigan State is 5-0-2 this season against teams which were ranked at the time of the game.
Amazing Alban Michigan State was disappointed by its one-point weekend in Ohio, but senior goaltender Chad Albans statistics actually improved. Alban, who leads the nation in goals-against average, now has a 1.56 GAA and a .923 save percentage.
Alban recorded his second shutout in three games in Saturday night's scoreless tie, and with each shutout he sets new records. Saturdays was the 12th of his career and the sixth of this season (both MSU records), and the 10th of his career in CCHA games, a league record.
Two-game winless streak
Michigan State enters this weekend with a two-game winless streak, the only time this season that the Spartans have gone back-to-back games without a victory.
Michigan State has not allowed a power-play goal in its last eight games (an 0-for-26 stretch). The Spartans last gave up a power-play goal vs. Northern Michigan Jan. 9. Opponents are 1-for-34 (2.9%) in the last 10 games.
Center of attention
Michigan State's dynamic 1-2 punch at center, senior Sean Berens and junior Mike York, are both among the top 10 goal scorers in the NCAA. The pair is tied for second in the nation with nine power-play goals each.
Deciding the season series This weekend's games should decide the Spartans' season series against Western Michigan (currently lead, 1-0-1) and Ohio State (tied, 1-1-0). Michigan State has clinched all five season series with CCHA teams which have already been decided.
INJURY REPORT Bryan Adams (Jr., LW, doubtful for this weekend, separated right shoulder, injured Feb. 6); Shawn Horcoff (So., C, status for this weekend to be determined Monday or Tuesday, fractured right thumb).
Did You Know?
Homeward bound Michigan State plays five of its next six games at Munn Ice Arena, with the lone away contest a neutral-site meeting with Michigan at Joe Louis Arena Feb. 21.
Lines by province
Last Friday, Ohio State featured a first line comprised of three players from Quebec and a second line made up of three Ontario natives.
Michigan State has had three eight-game unbeaten streaks this season and lost in the ninth game all three times.
Lovers, not fighters
Michigan State is 4-10 all-time on Valentine's Day.
A real zero
Saturday nights scoreless tie at Miami is the fourth in Michigan State hockey history and the second in less than a year. The Spartans tied Bowling Green 0-0 last March 1.
Saturday night senior center Sean Berens had his career-best 10-game point-scoring streak broken. He had 14-5-19 totals in that time.
In the clutch, get the sensation
Seventeen of junior center Mike Yorks 21 goals have come when Michigan State is trailing, the game is tied, or MSU has a one-goal lead.
Head coach Ron Mason is just three victories shy of becoming the first college coach to record 800 in his career.
Chad climbs the charts
Senior goaltender Chad Alban's career goals-against average (2.55) is the best in MSU history. Where Alban stands at MSU all-time in other career goaltending categories:
Saves Save Pctg. Games Played Wins 1. D. Versical (3,108) 1. G. Cooley (.899) 1. J. Muzzatti (130) 1. J. Muzzatti (83) 2. J. Muzzatti (2,928) 2. Mike Buzak (.898) 2. CHAD ALBAN (120) 2. CHAD ALBAN (77) 3. Ron Scott (2,884) Rick Duffett (.898) 3. Mike Buzak (115) 3. Norm Foster (76) 4. Mike Buzak (2,836) 4. Ron Scott (.897) 5. CHAD ALBAN (2,466) 5. CHAD ALBAN (.894)
Senior goaltender Chad Alban, who allowed just one goal in three games to Miami, the CCHA's highest scoring team, is having one of the best season's ever by a college goaltender. How Alban's 1997-98 numbers stack up against the only goaltender ever to win the Hobey Baker Award, Minnesota's Robb Stauber (1987-88):
GP W- L-T WIN % MIN GA GAA SV SV% SO CHAD ALBAN (1997-98) 28 20- 3-5 .804 1686:59 44 1.56 529 .923 6 Robb Stauber, Minn. (1987-88) 44 34-10-0 .773 2621 119 2.72 1243 .913 5
NEW: AUDIO UPDATES A new way for media and fans to hear from MSU hockey players and coaches is available at www.msuspartans.com. A several-minute sound clip will be updated four times a week, featuring a player of the game within an hour of each game, a player or coach by 2:30 p.m. Monday and Hobey Baker candidate Chad Alban by 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.
1997-98 Multi-Point Games (57)
Mike York (11; MR: 1/31 vs. MIA)
Rustyn Dolyny (8; MR: 1/31vs. MIA)
Sean Berens (8; MR: 1/16 vs. UAF)
Kevin OKeefe (6; MR: 1/31 vs. MIA)
Bryan Adams (6; MR: 11/15 vs. Mank.)
Shawn Horcoff (5; MR: 1/31 vs. MIA)
Andrew Bogle (3; 1/24 vs. LSSU)
Mike Weaver (2; 1/31 vs. MIA)
Jeff Kozakowski (2; MR: 1/17 vs. FSU)
Chris Bogas (2; MR: 11/22 vs. BG)
Brad Hodgins (1; 1/10 vs. NMU)
Tyler Harlton (1; 12/6 vs. BG)
Damon Whitten (1; 11/22 vs. BG)
John Nail (1; 10/31 vs. ND)
1997-98 Multi-Goal Games (17)
Sean Berens (5; MR: 1/10 vs. NMU)
Mike York (4; MR: 1/17 vs. FSU)
Shawn Horcoff (2; 1/31 vs. MIA)
Rustyn Dolyny (2; MR: 1/17 vs. FSU)
Kevin OKeefe (2; MR: 10/28 vs. FSU)
Mike Weaver (1; 12/28 vs. Mich.)
Chris Bogas (1; 11/22 vs. BG)
800 career wins: Ron Mason has 797
150 games played: Tyler Harlton has 148
75 career assists: Mike York has 73
50 career points: Bryan Adams has 49
Player (Yr., Pos.) G-A-P Mike York (Jr., C) 21-17-38 Sean Berens (Sr., C) 23-12-35 Rustyn Dolyny (Fr., RW) 12-16-28 Bryan Adams (Jr., LW) 6-18-24 Shawn Horcoff (So., C) 12-10-22 Kevin OKeefe (Sr., RW) 10-12-22 Mike Weaver (So., D) 4-15-19 Goalie (Yr.) W-L-T, GAA, Sv.% Chad Alban (Sr.) 20-3-5, 1.56, .923
QUOTING COACH MASON
SPARTANS IN THE CCHA 1997-98 Standings Team (Overall) League Pts 1. Michigan (23-6-1) 17- 4-1 35 2. MICHIGAN STATE (22-4-5) 14- 4-4 32 3. Miami (18-6-4) 13- 6-4 30 4. Ohio State (17-10-2) 14- 9-1 29 5. Northern Michigan (14-10-4) 12- 8-3 27 6. Lake Superior (12-12-4) 9-10-4 22 6. Notre Dame (14-13-4) 9-10-4 22 8. Ferris State (11-15-3) 8-11-3 19 9. Alaska Fairbanks (9-18-3) 6-17-2 14 10. Bowling Green (6-21-3) 4-15-3 11 11. Western Michigan (6-23-2) 5-17-1 11 LAST WEEK'S POLLS U.S. College Hockey Online (2/2) 1. MICHIGAN STATE (22) 289 2. North Dakota (8) 262 3. Boston University 229 4. New Hampshire 213 5. Wisconsin 159 6. Michigan 141 7. Miami 129 8. Boston College 81 9. Yale 76 10. St. Cloud 36 OTHERS: Colgate 14, Colorado Coll. 7, Northeastern 5, Ohio State 4, Cornell 4, Clarkson 1. USA Today/Amer. Hockey Mag. (2/2) 1. MICHIGAN STATE (10) 100 2. North Dakota 87 3. Boston University 77 4. New Hampshire 72 5. Wisconsin 61 6. Yale 42 7. Miami 37 8. Michigan 33 9. Boston College 25 10. St. Cloud 12 OTHERS: Colgate 3, Ohio State 1. MSU WEEK-BY-WEEK IN THE POLLS USCHO USA Today WMEB WMPL 10/6 3 - - - 10/13 2 - - - 10/20 2 2 2 - 10/27 2 - 2 - 11/3 4 6 4 4 11/10 3 3 4 3 11/17 1 1 1 1 11/24 1 1 1 1 12/1 1 1 1 1 12/8 2 2 2 2 12/15 2 2 2 - 12/30 2 2 - - 1/6 3 2 - 3 1/13 2 1 - 2 1/20 2 2 - 2 1/27 1 1 - 1 2/2 1 1 1 1