The University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team (6–13–3, 3–8–1–1 Big Ten) will play host to conference foe Michigan State (11–10–1, 5–7–0–1) this weekend at the Kohl Center in Madison. The Badgers were swept by the Spartans in their previous series in East Lansing.

Wisconsin is coming in off of a disappointing series against Ohio State last weekend. The Badgers led late in both games but unfortunately dropped Saturday night’s game off of three Buckeye third-period goals. On Sunday, it was more of the same.

After Jesper Peltonen scored the first goal of his Wisconsin career to give the Badgers a late lead, Ohio State quickly tied the game and ended up winning in a shootout. Wisconsin had two fantastic chances to capitalize on the momentum they had built winning the Holiday Faceoff the week prior, but two blown leads left them disappointed, as they have been most of the year.

Michigan State is also fresh off of a frustrating weekend against a conference rival. The Green and White were beaten badly in two games against Minnesota, getting outscored 10-4 against a strong Gopher team.

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Know Your Foe

In the previous series between these two teams, Michigan State was carried to victory on the back of their senior netminder, Drew Deridder. In the two games, Deridder combined for 88 saves and just four goals allowed. He took over both games and was the main reason the Spartans were able to come away with the huge sweep.

In his five starts since that weekend, Deridder has come back to Earth. He alternated wins and losses in each game and allowed multiple goals in all but one of these contests.

Deridder remains one of the better goalies in the Big Ten, and his play in net dictates Michigan State’s success. If he is playing well, this is a hard club to beat — as they proved last time they played Wisconsin.

Offensively, the Spartans are driven by fifth-year Mitchell Lewandowski and sophomore Jeremy Davidson. Lewandowski has been a thorn in the side of head coach Tony Granato since he stepped on campus in East Lansing. In the first series, the Clarkston, Michigan native had a goal and two assists against the Badgers. But Lewandowski’s status for this weekend is unclear since he has not played since Dec. 30. His presence is much needed in a comparatively less-talented Michigan State roster that is a measly 1-6 without him.

Davidson is Michigan State’s leading goal-scorer with nine tallies on the season. He scored three goals and notched an assist in the two previous games with Wisconsin earlier in the year. His goal scoring is paramount to the Spartans’ success, especially if they are without Lewandowski for another weekend.

Michigan State relies on senior captain Dennis Cesana to patrol their blue line. All signs pointed to the Providence, Rhode Island native leaving Michigan State after last year’s disappointing season, but he stuck around and has played exceptionally well this year. He has five goals and five assists on the season, making him one of the best defensemen in the Big Ten with the puck on his stick.

Cesana’s partner, Christian Krygier, is another experienced defenseman for the Green and White. Krygier is a former New York Islanders draft pick that has thrived in the stay-at-home defenseman role alongside the more offensive-minded Cesana.

Christian’s brother, Cole Kyrgier, also plays on Michigan State’s blueline. He is a former draft pick of the Florida Panthers. Like his brother, Cole plays a more defensive-oriented style, but his three goals and seven points on the year show that he has a bit more offensive touch than his brother.

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What to Watch For

Cameron Rowe – Rowe came into this season as the clear-cut number one goalie for Wisconsin. But after an extremely shaky start, he has completely lost that job to Minnesota transfer Jared Moe. Moe has been fantastic as of late for Wisconsin, starting every game since Nov. 27 for the Badgers.

But I would love to see Rowe make an appearance this weekend. He is extremely talented despite the shaky start, if he could get going like he did last season, Rowe is a weapon in net for the Badgers. While I think it is unlikely, there remains a chance that we could see the sophomore netminder this weekend.

Corson Ceulemans It seems as though Tony Granato’s prized freshman is finally starting to find his game at Wisconsin. Ceulemans has been the Badgers’ best player for the last two months and it has shown on the stat sheet. He has eight goals in his last six games played, and he leads the Badgers with 14 points on the season. Ceulemans was named the Hockey Commissioner Association’s Rookie of the Month for December — the first big honor of the future star’s Wisconsin career.

I would love to see him keep it going against a Michigan State team that has been susceptible to offensive defensemen this season. Expect a big weekend out of the Badgers’ top player.

Prediction

Wisconsin has been playing much better hockey lately. While they didn’t get the results they wanted last weekend against Ohio State, they proved that they can hang with some of the top-tier Big Ten teams. While the offense continues to struggle, they have been better than they were at the beginning of the year.

The Badgers are close to breaking through, and I believe that this is the weekend that they could do it. Michigan State is among the bottom-dwellers of the Big Ten and talent-wise is a team that Wisconsin should take advantage of.

With the Spartans sweeping Wisconsin earlier in the year, the Badgers will be looking for revenge on home ice. I think the Badgers will secure an emphatic sweep of their own this weekend and continue to turn the tide going into the later stages of the season.

Game one: 3-1 Wisconsin

Game two: 2-1 Wisconsin