“Anytime you get a bye in the playoffs, you’re facing a team that’s pretty confident because they’ve just won a series and feel good about themselves, and rightly so,” MU coach Enrico Blasi said. “We’ve seen it before where the 11th seed has gone all the way to Joe Louis. Our focus has got to be on our preparation.”
Miami is 22-9-5 and ranked third nationally. The Spartans are 13-23-3 and have had a very short week after finishing in Alaska last Sunday night.
“The trip’s very demanding,” said MSU coach Tom Anastos, whose squad was also in Alaska on Feb. 22-23. “Our preparation has been more towards getting rest and being fresh in our minds than being on the ice preparing for a really good team.”
These two teams met at Cady Arena in mid-November. Friday was a 2-2 tie (and Miami shootout win), and Saturday was a 2-0 triumph by the RedHawks.
“They’ve got good speed up front, their D-corps is pretty active, and their goaltending is really, really good,” Blasi said. “My guess is we’ll see both of them.”
Those two goalies are junior Will Yanakeff (.901 save percentage, 3.13 goals-allowed average) and freshman Jake Hildebrand (.929, 2.33). Both played against Alaska.
Michigan State’s top scorer is sophomore forward Matt Berry (14 goals, 15 assists). Anastos said he’s playing as many as eight freshmen on any given night.
“Being as youthful as we are, one of the challenges for the season has been finding that level of desperation,” Anastos said. “Well, now you have no choice but to play desperate. I thought we played with some of that desperation at Alaska, which allowed us to win the series.”
Blasi wouldn’t tip his hand in regard to Miami’s goalie situation with freshmen Ryan McKay (.957, 1.17) and Jay Williams (.926, 1.89). The RedHawks are healthy, while Anastos said the Spartans may be without junior forward Lee Reimer (four goals, 13 assists) this weekend because of a lower-body injury.
The MU-MSU winner will advance to the CCHA semifinals at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit next weekend. If the RedHawks advance, they will play the lowest remaining seed.