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Iron D trophy on the line

by Dana Wakiji / Detroit Red Wings
Michigan's Tyler Motte has scored in seven straight games and leads the country with 22 goals. (Photo courtesy University of Michigan)

DETROIT -- If the Michigan State Spartans want to win the new Iron D trophy in Friday night's Duel in the D at Joe Louis Arena, they will have to find a way to slow down the Michigan Wolverines' offense.

That's a lot easier said than done this season.

The Wolverines lead the Big Ten with 115 goals overall and 63 in conference play.

Michigan is averaging 5.00 goals a game, more than any other team in the country.

Penn State has 102 goals overall but only 33 in the Big Ten.

It's no wonder that Michigan is first with a 7-1-2 record in the Big Ten and 16-3-4 overall.

Michigan State has dealt with several injuries this season and is sixth with a 2-8-0 record in conference and 6-18-2 overall.

Friday's Duel in the D will mark the 54th time Michigan State and Michigan have played each other at Joe Louis Arena but the first time that the new Iron D trophy is awarded.

"They've got that new trophy on the line Friday night," Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said in his weekly news conference on MSU's website. "It's different. I like it. It brings a little Detroit flavor and a unique flair so I like the concept they conceived. We're anxious to add that to the rivalry."

The trophy displays a forged iron 'D' in the middle to represent the city of Detroit and the skyline wraps around the base, with an image of the new Detroit Events Center in the center. There is a cup at the top with hockey sticks, a red glass puck and the Michigan and Michigan State logos on each side.

The Wolverines were 2-1 against the Spartans at the Joe last year.

The two will face off at East Lansing's Munn Ice Arena Saturday night, marking meetings 308 and 309 this weekend.

It is the most-played rivalry in college hockey.

"I think the thing with playing a rivalry like Michigan State is you just throw the record and the rankings out the window," Michigan freshman forward Kyle Connor said on the Inside Michigan Hockey Coach's show. "It's always going to be a tough game and you got to bring it every single night."

Connor has been doing just that, claiming Hockey Commissioners' Association National Division I Rookie of the Month honors Wednesday.

Connor, who also won the award the previous month, registered a point in every game in January and leads the country in scoring with 20 goals and 22 assists and an average of 1.83 points per game.

Some of Connor's success can be attributed to playing on a line with two other very talented players in junior Tyler Motte and JT Compher, dubbed the CCM line.

The three lead the Big Ten in scoring: Connor with 42 points, Compher with 36 and Motte with 35.

Motte won the Hockey Commissioners' Association's National Division I Player of the Month award after scoring a goal in every game in January.

In the 12 games since the three started playing on a line, Motte has 15 goals and 11 assists; Connor has 15 goals and 15 assists; and Compher has eight goals and 17 assists.

"That line has been dangerous every night and certainly if they get a step on you, and usually it's not all skill," Michigan coach Red Berenson said on the Inside Michigan Hockey Coach's show. "Typically it's a second effort by one of those guys on the line. They beat someone, they win a race, they dive for a loose puck and poke it to their linemate and then they all benefit from it. It's been a hard-working line and they've got something going right now and it's special."

Those three have scored 38 of the Wolverines' 70 goals in those 12 games and are plus-75.

""Obviously this week is an important week in many regards," Anastos said. "Michigan's team's kind of hitting their stride, playing with a lot of confidence, scoring a ton of goals. The one line is on fire. I think their last eight games they're averaging six goals a game. So they got a lot of confidence going right now in that regard."

The last time the two teams met was a home-and-home series Jan. 8 in East Lansing and Jan. 9 in Ann Arbor. Michigan won the first game 9-2 and the second game 6-3.

"This is obviously going to be a big test," Anastos said. "We weren't happy with our performance the last time we played these guys and they're probably playing better than they did then, the way they've been playing and with the level of confidence that they're playing. It'll be a great test. We're going to work real hard this week to prepare for it."

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