July 14, 2010
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State hockey program announced its 2010-11 schedule on Wednesday, and the Spartans will play up to 16 games against teams which qualified for the 2010 NCAA Tournament in addition to an outdoor game at Michigan Stadium. MSU opens its upcoming season on Oct. 8, and will play nine of its first 13 games in the friendly confines of Munn Ice Arena.
Game times have not yet been announced, due to several pending changes due to television. Once the television schedule is revealed in early September, game times for all MSU hockey contests in the 2010-11 season will be announced.
"I think our schedule will challenge us,"said head coach Rick Comley, who will embark on his 38th season as a head coach in the fall of 2010. "We'll have a young team again, and a stretch at home early on will help us gel and get ready for a challenging stretch run in late January and February."
With an 11-team CCHA, the scheduling format has changed from the prior clusters. MSU be grouped with Ohio State and Michigan, and in addition to playing each team in its group four times, the trio will also play home and away series with Alaska and Ferris State. Among its non-conference games, the Spartans will take on Maine (featuring Hobey Hat Trick finalist Gustav Nyquist) and CHA Champion Alabama-Huntsville, as well as WCHA/Big Ten rivals Minnesota and national runner-up Wisconsin. The Spartans will also tangle with WCHA entry Colorado College in the Great Lakes Invitational.
The most high-profile game on the MSU schedule is its Dec. 11 game at Michigan Stadium against the Wolverines, billed the "Big Chill at the Big House". Arguably the most heated rivalry in college hockey (and currently the most-contested), the nemeses will play the second outdoor game in program history. Spartan Stadium hosted the first modern-day outdoor game on Oct. 6, 2001 - the "Cold War" game which ended in a 3-3 stalemate. This will serve as the first of four games against the two schools this season.
"Outdoor games are a fantastic, unique opportunity for student-athletes," commented Comley. "This is a heated, passionate rivalry that is embraced by the alumni of the schools and fans of the sport. No outdoor game held since the "Cold War" has broken the attendance record - and on Dec. 11, we will likely set a new one. Michigan State-Michigan is the best rivalry in college hockey, in my opinion - and setting a new attendance record will add another chapter to this already-rich tradtion."
The Spartans open with a home exhibition against Western Ontario on Friday, Oct. 8, and the following Thursday/Friday, will host Hockey East runner-up Maine (Oct. 14/15) in the official home opener. The CCHA opener for the Spartans will come on Oct. 22/23, when MSU hosts Alaska in a two-game set; a non-conference series with Alabama-Huntsville (and head coach/former Spartan Chris Luongo) to close out the month of October (Oct. 29/30).
One change in the scheduling matrix for 2010-11 is the lack of home-and-home series with in-state and regional rivals Western Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ferris State. The Spartans will open November with a two-game set in Kalamazoo as its first road trip of the season. Western Michigan is one of three conference schools with a new head coach this season; former Miami assistant Jeff Blashill will be leading the Broncos. Another first-year head coach, Mark Oseicki at Ohio State, will bring his Buckeyes to East Lansing on Nov. 12/13. A set at Notre Dame follows on Nov. 19/20, followed by a Tuesday night tilt (Nov. 23) against Ferris State. The Tuesday contest is scheduled to accommodate a single-game weekend for the Big Chill at the Big House.
The College Hockey Showcase will be on MSU's schedule for the weekend after Thanksgiving, starting with a game at Minnesota (Nov. 26) before a showdown with NCAA finalist Wisconsin the following evening in Madision. The tournament is in its 17th and final season in 2010. MSU holds a 13-15-6 record all-time in Showcase contests.
December opens with a home-and-home series against Ferris State (Dec. 3/4), before the Big Chill at the Big House closes out the pre-holiday action for the Spartans. MSU tangles with Colorado College in the semifinals of the Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit on Dec. 29/30. The 46th annual event is on Wednesday and Thursday this season at Joe Louis Arena.
MSU has a chance for three straight games against Michigan - the two could meet on the second day of the GLI, and also open with a home-and-home series on Jan. 7/8. Due to the Big Chill and the annual game at Joe Louis Arena, the teams will each just get one home contest in the rivalry this season.
MSU travels to Lake Superior State on Jan. 14/15, then return home for a showdown on Jan. 21/22 against CCHA regular-season champion and Frozen Four participant Miami. A Thursday game at Ferris State (Jan. 27) precedes the Saturday, Jan. 29 showdown with Michigan at Joe Louis Arena.
February opens with a trip to Columbus to take on Ohio State (Feb. 4/5), followed by a home set against CCHA Tournament finalist Northern Michigan (Feb. 11/12). MSU treks to Alaska Feb. 18/19, then hosts Bowling Green in the final weekend of the regular season.
With an 11-team league, the playoff format also features a change. The top five teams will receive a first-round bye, while the 6-11 seeds engage in first-round action March 4-6. The quarterfinal round, featuring the top four teams hosting seed five and the three advancing teams from the opening weekend. The annual CCHA Championship weekend will once again be held at Joe Louis Arena on March 18-19.
NCAA Regionals begin March 25, and will be held in Bridgeport, Conn., Green Bay, Wis., Manchester, NH, and St. Louis, Mo. Regional victors will advance to the NCAA Frozen Four at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn from April 7-9.