U MEN’S HOCKEY SERIES PREVIEW: NO. 15 GOPHERS VS. MICHIGAN STATE

8:12 p.m. Thursday and 8:12 p.m. Friday at Mariucci Arena

TV/live stream: BTN and BTN2Go both nights; 107.1-FM on Thursday and 1500-AM on Friday.

 

Minnesota (17-10-3, 8-3-3 Big Ten): The Gophers know they control their destiny in the Big Ten race entering the three remaining regular-season series. Each of the top four teams split last weekend, keeping the standings stuck with the Gophers and Michigan tied for first place and Michigan State and Penn State just two points behind. The Gophers, however don’t need help from anyone to defend their title, they just need to win and are hoping that a home-ice advantage in four of the last six games will help them. They continue to get production throughout the lineup with the seniors contributing in a big way. Four of their five goals against Penn State last weekend were scored by seniors. The Gophers opened Big Ten play with a win and tie that ended in a shootout loss at Michigan State in early December.

 

Michigan State (13-13-2, 7-5-2-2): The Spartans are riding the success of another standout season from goaltender Jake Hildebrand. The junior leads a strong defense that is giving up an average of just 2.25 goals per game, tied for 12th in the nation. They are one of the best shot-blocking teams in the country and have Hildebrand’s .929 save percentage to rely on. He is first in the Big Ten with a 2.18 goals-against average. The solid defense also carries over into special teams. The Spartans have the ninth-best penalty kill in college hockey; it’s at 87.5 percent (84-for-96). Michigan State has been just as hot as the Gophers over the last month with a 6-2 record. The surge has propelled the Spartans into the Big Ten title race.

JASON GONZALEZ