Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Michigan & Michigan State: Rivalry Weekend

The picture says it all. A bitter rivalry from the get-go where emotions run high and reputation in the state is on the line; It's Michigan-Michigan State weekend. A top-notch series, the in-state rivals go head-to-head this weekend opening up at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor 7:30 Friday night before heading to Munn Arena for a 6:30 faceoff Saturday.

The current Central Collegiate Hockey Association foes on ice (and Big Ten enemies in all other sports) will battle it out for state bragging rights where past competition doesn't matter and history of the series is erased. This weekend is all that matters.

"It doesn't matter how much they've won or lost lately. It's a series that it doesn't matter if we or they have lost every game,'' newly appointed MSU coach and former Spartan player Tom Anastos told's Neil Koepke. "I've been on both sides of it. Having a game against your rival is exciting for everybody. We're fired up. It gives you an extra jump in practice.''

Coming off a split last weekend to Alaska and a tough start to the season overall, Michigan has gone just 1-6-1 in its last eight games while the No.14 Spartans continues to move up the national rankings with an 8-1-1 run as of late--including a sweep over Bowling Green last weekend-- and are 10-5-1 overall.

But as in any game--especially one that the fans crave--it's anyone's game.

Michigan players to watch: Shawn Hunwick- Hunwick once again has been stellar between the pipes. Recording his second shutout of the season in the Wolverines 1-0 win at Alaska last weekend (and bumping his career shutouts to seven, tied for fifth in Michigan program history) the redshirt senior has a .937 save percentage in the series against MSU.

Chris Brown- With Michigan's leading scorer freshman Phil DiGiuseppe out of action this weekend for the Canadian World Junior Camp, Brown is next in line to fill his shoes. The Junior forward has four goals on the season ranks second to DiGiuseppe.

David Wohlberg- Currently the Wolverines leading point-getter against the Spartans (with 14 in 15 contests played) you're sure to see Wohlberg making moves on the ice this weekend.

MSU players to watch: Torey Krug- The junior captain along with linemate Brett Shelgren are a defensive dynamic duo, making it hard for any shots to get through. The pair combine for 75 blocked shots on the season and Krug's 4-7-11 line ranks fourth in the CCHA among defenseman in scoring.

Lee Reimer- Reimer currently sits second in the CCHA in both points (20) and assists (13) and is able to make moves and not only set-up plays but score too.

Brett Darnell- Darnell netted his first collegiate goal against Bowling Green last weekend and looked awesome out there. A four-point weekend last weekend earned the freshman CCHA Rookie of the Week honors and I wouldn't be surprised to see him tally a few more points again this weekend.