In the week before No. 9 Michigan plays No. 5 Michigan State, members of the Michigan hockey team wouldn”t be caught dead wearing anything green or white. While the rivalry may be classified as in-state, it is not difficult to understand the animosity between the two teams.
Both teams are usually in the top 10 in the nation, compete for the same pool of recruits and annually trade ownership of first place in the CCHA.
Since the 1996-97 season, Michigan and Michigan State have faced each other in the CCHA Championship game twice, and they appear to be on a collision course again this year as both teams are currently tied for first place.
“I don”t think it matters where you are from, you are taught here (at Michigan) to hate Michigan State,” said Jason Ryznar, a native of Alaska. “That is just the way it is.”
While several of the players are friends, former teammates or relatives (as is the case with Michigan junior J.J. Swistak and Michigan State freshman Steve Swistak), the Wolverines make it perfectly clear that all friendships go out the window on the ice.
“Anytime we give Michigan State a feeling of satisfaction of any sort is a disappointment for us even if we come out with a tie,” sophomore Andy Burnes said. “We want to beat Michigan State every time we play them, and that is the bottom line. We want them to know that Michigan is better than (they are).”
But in head-to-head matchups, Michigan has not been the better of the two teams on the scoreboard recently. The last time the Michigan hockey team came away with a win against Michigan State was Jan. 27 of last year, in a game that required an Andy Hilbert game-winning goal in overtime.
Since that game, the Spartans are undefeated in five contests between the two teams with a 3-0-2 record.
But the future could be looking up for the Wolverines, who are on a five-game winning streak and are 5-1-1 since tying the Spartans at Yost a month ago.
“We have a lot of energy coming off of two great weekends, (and are) playing good defensive hockey,” Burnes said. “We have a lot of momentum and a lot of things going for us right now.”
The Spartans, on the other hand, have struggled of late. Michigan State is 1-1-2 in its last four games, with the loss coming at home against eighth-place Notre Dame. The Spartans, who have a 1.7 goals against average this season, have given up 11 goals in their last four games.
One of the brightest aspects for Michigan has been its special teams play. The Wolverines have killed 55 consecutive powerplay chances and hold a 89.2 efficiency rate. Tomorrow, Michigan will need to shut down a Michigan State powerplay unit that converts on 24 percent of its chances.