This weekend, Michigan and Michigan State will be playing this weekend. To prepare for the weekend games I, Casey Campbell, spoke with Michigan Hockey Coach Mel Pearson and Michigan State Hockey Coach Danton Cole to prepare for the games.
Michigan comes into this game after an exhibition win over the U-18 Development team 7-3. Coach Pearson and his team learned a lot after getting swept by Ohio State during Thanksgiving weekend. “Our team learned how important defense is because sometimes pucks aren’t going to go into the net,” Pearson said. “We ran into a team with a good goaltender and a good team that opened our eyes. We learned a good lesson that we need to play defense”. Despite getting swept by Ohio State, Michigan is changing up the lines but will keep the Run DMC Line together. “They are playing too well,” Pearson said. “As much as you want to balance out the lines, you can’t mess with a good thing and they have been on fire the last few weeks,” Pearson remarked.
Pearson also said Michigan’s first line of Dexter Dancs, Tony Calderone and Cooper Marody, compare to Michigan State’s first line of Mitch Lewandowski, Toro Hirosi and Patrick Khodorenko. “There are some similarities there. Both teams depend on that line to score so I do see some similarities between both lines,” Pearson commented. When Pearson came to Michigan it was ideal and would be the only place he would leave Michigan Tech for. “I spent 23 years here at Michigan and have won national championships at Michigan. All 3 of my kids went to Michigan and it would be the only school that I would have left Michigan Tech for and here I am,” Pearson commented. Pearson has been a part of some of the greatest moments in this rivalry. “The two outdoor games really stand out to me,” Pearson said. “The cold war at Michigan State set the tempo for all of the outdoor games we see today. Then there was the Big Chill at the Big House. A 5-0 win for Michigan. That crowd and the atmosphere for that game was incredible,” Pearson continued. Pearson said the biggest thing that Michigan has worked on in practice is team defense to get ready for the weekend series. “We have to understand our assignments and understand our systems and continue to get better at that. Also we need to pay more attention to detail on the defensive side of the puck and we need to play with more speed and energy,” Pearson stated.
Michigan State comes into this game after getting swept bt Notre Dame and Head coach Danton Cole is ready for this rivalry series with Michigan for the first time as a Head Coach. “It’s always fun playing Michigan and will be fun to play them this weekend,” Cole said. Cole was asked what his greatest memory was of the Michigan and Michigan State rivalry in college hockey. “I just remember going down to Yost and playing those games there,” Cole commented. “It’s a fun place to play and so is playing at Munn. It’s Michigan State and Michigan and all of the games are pretty intense,” Cole continued. Even though they got swept by Notre Dame, Cole was still impressed with his team. “I thought they competed very well and when you compete with a team like Notre Dame you have be at your game plan. If you’re not, they can take advantage of that. We had to do that with a bunch of young guys and I thought they hung in there with that. We had some chances and we could not get it done. I was not disappointed in how our guys played,” Cole remarked. Like Michigan’s run DMC line, Michigan State has a line of its own that has been producing some goals. The KHL line of Mitch Lewandowski, Toro Hirosi and Patrick Khodorenko have been producing some points as well for the Spartans. “They have clicked together quickly and do some damage. I think that feeds the rest of team to go out and have some success. I think when that first line has success, it feeds off the rest of the team,” Cole said.
Goaltending wise it’s been John Lethemon that has taken the role of the starting goaltender. “John has kind of grabbed the ball and has done very well for us between the pipes. Ed Minney has been working very hard and will be getting a chance soon,” Cole stated. Cole also talked about Michigan and what makes Michigan so talented on the ice. “They can really get up and down the ice and also have some lines that can do some damage,” Cole remarked. “They are a tough team and will be very tough to handle this weekend,” Cole said. Michigan and Michigan State will play at Michigan one time this season, Michigan State two times, and the other time will be the Duel in the D at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. No matter where the rivalry is, Cole says it is definitely an advantage to play on home ice. “In this rivalry, it really doesn’t matter where you play it. Both teams are usually battling and it is decided out on the ice,” Cole stated.
Michigan and Michigan State will play at Yost Ice Arena December 7th at 7:30 PM. They will also play at Munn Ice Arena on December 8th at 7:05 PM.