Michigan State takes on archrival Michigan on Saturday evening in Ann Arbor in the Spartans' final regular season game. While the annual battle for the Big Bear Trophy is generally a red-letter day on the Spartan calendar, Saturday's game has even bigger meaning in 2012. With a win, MSU would claim the Big Ten title outright, its second regular-season title in program history. Michigan State is 8-8-1 on the season and 3-2-0 in conference play while Michigan is 7-8-1 overall and 2-2-1 in the Big Ten.
The Last Meeting
October 30, 2011
East Lansing, Mich.
Big Bear Returns to East Lansing; Spartans Down UM, 1-0
Senior keeper Jeremy Clark made nine saves in his fourth shutout of the year and redshirt freshman Ryan Keener headed in the game's only goal on a corner play as Michigan State (6-7-4, 2-2-2 B1G) took back the Big Bear Trophy with a 1-0 victory over Michigan.
Heading into the game, the Spartans find themselves controlling their own destiny in the Big Ten race after last Sunday's 3-1 win against Indiana. The Hoosiers then played to a tie with Northwestern on Thursday night, holding Big Ten front-runners Penn State and Northwestern just two points in front of Michigan State in the Big Ten standings. With a win over Michigan on Saturday, Michigan State would pass the two teams and end the regular season as Big Ten champions. The Spartans previously won a Big Ten regular-season championship in 2008, and captured Big Ten Tournament titles in 2004 and 2008.
The winner of Saturday's game also takes home the Big Bear trophy, awarded to the annual winner of this rivalry game. Michigan State is the current holder of the trophy after earning a 1-0 victory at home over the Wolverines last season. Since the trophy was first awarded in 2000, the Spartans are 9-2-1 against Michigan and own a 28-5-5 record all-time.
The Spartans are coming off a 1-0 loss to No. 2 Akron on Wednesday. The game's lone goal came off a corner kick in the 48th minute. The Zips outshot MSU 14-7 on the day but held just a 5-3 edge in shots on goal, and MSU limited the Zips to just one shot on goal in the second half. All three of MSU's shots on net came in the second half, and Kevin Cope had a header deflect off the crossbar with just three minutes remaining in the game. Despite the loss on Wednesday, Michigan State is 5-2 in October after starting the season 3-6-1.
Freshman goalkeeper Zach Bennett continues to be a consistent force in net for the Spartans. In his seven starts, Michigan State is 5-2 and has outscored opponents 10-5 in those games. Bennett has given up multiple goals in a game just once - in a 2-1 loss at Penn State in which the game-winner was an own goal. Bennett is second in the Big Ten in GAA (0.71) and third in save percentage (.828).
Adam Montague continues to lead the team in scoring with four goals and four assists, and is fifth in the Big Ten with 12 points. Domenic Barone, Jay Chapman and Luke Norman all have tallied three goals each and Ryan Thelen is the team's leading assist man (and second in the league) with seven on the season.
The Spartans have earned Big Ten honors in two straight weeks, beginning with Domenic Barone and Zach Bennett sweeping Big Ten honors on Oct. 22, followed by Freshman Jay Chapman earning Big Ten offensive player of the week for his three goal effort in the win against No. 16 Indiana on Oct. 29.
The Wolverine offensive attack is led by Tyler Arnone and Fabio Pereira with 11 points each. Arnone has four goals and three assists while Pereira has three goals and leads the team with five assists. Four other Wolverines (T.J. Roehn, James Murphy, Latif Alashe (the older brother of MSU's Fatai) and Kofi Opare) have added two goals each on the season. Adam Grinwis has started all 16 games in net for the Wolverines so far this season. He owns a 1.27 GAA and .779 save percentage and has recorded three shutouts.
Five teams on MSU's 2012 slate appear in this week's NSCAA poll. Four of those teams (all MSU non-conference opponents) are in the current NSCAA Top 10: No. 2 Akron, No. 6 Connecticut, No. 7 Notre Dame, and No. 10 Marquette. Conference opponent Indiana fell six spots to No.22 with its loss to MSU.
Some significant injuries have shortened MSU's bench this season, with players being lost for the remainder of the year. Starting back Josh Barens has not seen the field at all this season, but is expected to be ready to go for spring training and games. He will apply for a medical redshirt season. Freshman Andrew Herr sustained a season-ending injury in the exhibition game vs. IPFW, and will also apply for a medical redshirt.
MSU lost two players for the remainder of the season during the Big Ten/BIG EAST Challenge - Wesley Curtis sustained his injury against Notre Dame, and Kyle Rutz in the home game against Marquette. In addition, Brent McIntosh will miss the remainder of the season as well.
Michigan State was selected third in the pre-season Big Ten men's soccer poll. In conjunction with the pre-season survey, Senior Domenic Barone , junior Kevin Cope and sophomore Adam Montague were mentioned on the Big Ten 2012 Players to Watch List.
Michigan State will play in the Big Ten tournament next weekend hosted by Northwestern. First-round play begins Wednesday in Evanston, with the semifinals on Friday (1/3:30 p.m. ET) on the Big Ten Network. Sunday's final will be at 1 p.m. ET.