Good to have you back, Nation. Time to once again give you our weekly updates on the seven Division I hockey programs around the state of Michigan.
Now this week, both Northern Michigan (4-2, 2-0 WCHA) and Western Michigan (3-3-1) are off so they will be excluded from this week's preview. The Wildcats are coming off a split in a de facto “road” series against No. 5 Wisconsin, while the Broncos also turned in a 1-1 record, in a home-and-home series with Michigan State.
Let's dive into the remaining five programs for this week.
FERRIS STATE BULLDOGS
Ferris State (2-4, 0-2 WCHA) earned a split on the road at Mercyhurst last weekend, a considerable improvement after being swept at home by conference in-state foe Northern Michigan the week before.
Forward Dominic Lutz found the back of the net for the first time this season, tallying a pair of goals in the team's 3-2 win on Friday against the Lakers. The sophomore and Livonia-native Lutz had just two points all of last season in 16 games played for Ferris.
Ferris continues a six-game, three-weekend road trip this Friday (10/27) and Saturday (10/28) when they travel to Bemidji State. The Beavers are coming off a split at home against No. 20 Air Force. These two teams met just one last season, also in Bemidji, with each picking up a victory.
LAKE SUPERIOR STATE LAKERS at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
The Lakers are coming off an 0-1-1 effort against top-ranked Denver on the road. It's been a tough stretch to start the year for LSSU, playing two in-state league foes in Northern and No. 15 Michigan Tech (whom we will get to shortly) before their series this past weekend with the Pioneers. But before they return home to Sault St. Marie, they make a quick stop in East Lansing.
The Spartans, meanwhile, earned a win at home in their home-and-home tilt with Western last weekend. New head coach Danton Cole has had to rely on a trio of underclassmen for production early on. Sophomores Patrick Khodorenko and Taro Hirose, and freshman Mitchell Lewandowski each have tallied six points in the team's first four games.
Michigan State will surely be looking for some payback this Friday and Saturday. These two hooked up in the U.P. last season, with the Lakers sweeping the two games and outscoring the Spartans 13-4.
Michigan (3-1) turned in a very strong showing in their home opener over the weekend, sweeping the Catamounts of Vermont by a score of 7-3 in the two games.
Freshman Josh Norris and sophomore Jake Slaker each turned in three points against Vermont, a pair of goals along with an assist. And albeit a small sample size, Jack LaFontaine is winning the platoon battle of sophomore netminders over fellow goalie Hayden Levigne. LaFontaine has allowed two goals in his 119 minutes of work, versus five past Lavigne in only one extra minute logged.
Michigan now drops the puck on conference play this weekend when they go back on the road to visit No. 15 Penn State (3-3, 1-1 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions played rather pedestrian for their standards last week, splitting with American International at home.
Interestingly, Michigan swept the lone season series played in Ann Arbor last year, but Penn State downed the Wolverines in the Big Ten opener. It's been a fun, competitve series since PSU arrived to Division I and joined the Big Ten, with Michigan holding a slim 10-9 edge all-time.
MICHIGAN TECH HUSKIES
No. 16 Michigan Tech (4-2-1, 2-1-1 WCHA) stubbed their toe a bit last weekend when they suffered a loss to previously winless Alabama-Huntsville in the latter game of the weekend series. The Huskies, however, did salvage a split overall against the Chargers
Tech has found themselves in some high-scoring affairs early on. Their 3.25 goals per game are second only to aforementioned Huntsville in the WCHA. Conversely, they have allowed the second-most amount of goals (3.25) per game; only those same Chargers have yielded a bit more to opponents.
It should shape up for a good one between MTU and No. 12 Minnesota State (3-2, 1-1 WCHA) in Mankato this weekend. These two played each other seven times last season… seven. The Mavericks went 2-0-1 in the regular season meetings, but the Huskies won the WCHA Playoff Semifinals en route to a conference crown and bid into the NCAA Tournament.