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Defending the Iron D

Michigan State looks to defend its Duel in the D title against Michigan in a final matchup at Joe Louis Arena

by Josh Berenter @JBerenter / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT - On Friday night, the most-played rivalry in college hockey will complete another iconic chapter.

The 313th meeting between Michigan and Michigan State will be the last time the in-state rivals clash at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wolverines and Spartans have met 56 times since Joe Louis Arena opened in 1979, including at least once per season since 1991. Michigan leads the series at The Joe, 31-20-5, and owns the edge in the all-time series against Michigan State, 160-132-20.

Friday's matchup, now known as the Duel in the D, will be the fourth meeting this season between the bitter rivals.

The first matchup this season took place in the third-place game of the 52nd annual Great Lakes Invitational at Joe Louis Arena where the Wolverines came away with a 5-4 overtime victory over the Spartans.

The GLI overtime game was the second-straight matchup at Joe Louis Arena that the rivals needed extra time to decide a victor, and the third overtime matchup in the last five meetings overall.

Michigan and Michigan State last faced off in a home-and-home series that saw the Spartans earn a 3-0 shutout victory on Jan. 20 at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor, followed by a 2-2 tie the next day at Munn Ice Arena in East Lansing. The Wolverines, though, earned the shootout victory in the Jan. 21 matchup and an extra point in the Big Ten standings.

Michigan comes into the 2017 Duel in the D after a 1-1 weekend series against Ohio State at Yost Ice Arena where the Wolverines won a 5-4 decision last Friday, but surrendered a two-goal lead in a 6-5 loss to the Buckeyes on Saturday.

The Wolverines' roster features nine NHL draft picks, including junior defenseman Joseph Cecconi, who was a member of the gold-medal U.S. National Team at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The Wolverines' offense is powered by freshman forward Jake Slaker, who leads the team in points with five goals and eight assists in 24 games.

Junior forward Tony Calderone leads the Wolverines in goals with 10, including two tallies in Michigan's GLI victory over Michigan State in December.

Although they've suffered a disappointing season so far, at 9-13-2 (2-7-1 Big Ten), Michigan head coach Red Berenson said his team is looking forward to facing off against Michigan State and relishes the opportunity to have one last go-round at The Joe.

"It's another opportunity for us to play at Joe Louis Arena this year and it's a special year there with it being the final season," Berenson said. "It's going to be an important game for us, as it always is against Michigan State. It's always exciting playing against them in maybe the final game of this rivalry at The Joe."

Michigan State is coming off a hard-fought weekend series against Wisconsin in which the Spartans dropped a 6-3 decision to the Badgers on Friday and suffered a tough 4-3 overtime loss on Saturday. The Spartans, who have 15 underclassmen on their roster, have also had a letdown season, coming into the Duel in the D at 5-17-2 (1-8-1 Big Ten).

The bright spot for Michigan State, though, is that its lone conference win this season came against Michigan, and the Spartans are the owners of the Iron D Trophy as the defending Duel in the D champions.

Michigan State claimed the trophy in its debut last season with a 3-2 overtime victory over Michigan on Feb. 5, 2016 in front of a sold-out crowd at The Joe.

Forward Joe Cox, who's now one of Michigan State's senior captains, scored two goals in last season's Duel in the D upset over Michigan, which was ranked No. 5 in the country at the time.

Leading the way for Michigan State this season is sophomore forward Mason Appleton, who has nine goals and 11 assists in 24 games.

Despite the disappointing season, Michigan State head coach Tom Anastos said the Spartans still have a lot to play for, and they're honored to defend the Iron D Trophy during the Farewell Season at The Joe.

"This is a game we look forward to every year," Anastos said. "The rivalry, sellout crowd and Iron D trophy make for a one-of-a-kind college hockey atmosphere. We're excited to play for the Iron D trophy at one last Duel in the D at The Joe and are grateful to the Red Wings and Ilitches for their continued support of college hockey."

Tickets for the Duel in the D are still available at the Joe Louis Arena Box Office, on Ticketmaster or by visiting OlympiaEntertainment.com.

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