Michigan State hockey captures first-ever Big Ten Championship

Wisconsin forward Cruz Lucius (51) is shoved by Michigan St. defensemen Patrick Geary (2) and Matt Basgall (9).
Wisconsin forward Cruz Lucius (51) is shoved by Michigan St. defensemen Patrick Geary (2) and Matt Basgall (9). / Jovanny Hernandez / Milwaukee Journal

In a highly anticipated weekend matchup with Wisconsin, Michigan State hockey secured the Big Ten regular season championship outright with a 5-2 win last Friday over the Badgers.

Going into the weekend, these were the top two teams in the Big Ten and have been since conference play began. Not only was there a regular season title on the line, but seeding for the Big Ten Tournament was also at stake.

The Spartans (22-9-3, 16-5-2 B1G) would go down early in game one and fell behind less than one minute in. Not an ideal start, but they would take the lead going into the second, getting goals from Artyom Levshunov and Jeremy Davidson. A Wisconsin goal in the second evened things up going into the final 60 minutes.

With around seven minutes left in the game, Reed Lebster buried the game-winning goal for Michigan State, and they would also add two empty netters in the final minutes from Davidson and Tiernan Shoudy to help the Spartans secure a championship.

Despite being heavily outshot, Michigan State made the most of their opportunities on the offensive end, and got another great performance from Trey Augustine, who was a brick wall stopping 44 shots. It was just another performance that we've grown accustomed to seeing from him all year, and from this Spartan team as a whole.

Though they did lose game two 4-1, Michigan State did what it needed to do to secure a championship, beating a sold team on the road in order to do so. It goes without saying that winning a championship of any kind this early in the Adam Nightingale era is nothing short of impressive. Compared to where this program has been the past decade, it's a giant leap forward considering this is only year two under Nightingale, who's breathed new life into a program that desperately needed it.

But this team isn't done. This is a team that can definitely do some damage not only in the Big Ten Tournament, but also the NCAA tournament. They've all but locked up a berth in the NCAAs even if they don't receive the automatic bid by winning the B1G tournament. They'll have an opening-round bye and will host a semifinal game on March 16. A win there and they would host the championship game at Munn a week later on March 23.

Tickets for the Big Ten semifinal go on sale this upcoming Friday, March 8, at 10 a.m. Michigan State will take on the lowest remaining seed to advance past the quarterfinal round, which takes place March 8-10.