In the most anticipated event on campus this weekend, the Michigan State hockey team welcomes the American International Yellow Jackets to Munn Arena. Sure the football team plays some type of rivalry game against Michigan but guys come on this is literally America's team. (And yes I said that in Rob Lowe/Chris Traeger voice). Alright, so all sarcasm aside, this weekend in hockey obviously pales in comparison to the importance of the football game. However, this series is still monumental for this young squad as it's the best chance they have had for a sweep thus far. After all, this is an AIC program that hasn't won over 10 games in a season since 2002-03, employs only 1 full time assistant coach and plays in a league with a 12 scholarship limit.
To earn the sweep the Spartans must show improvement on their special teams, The Spartans have the 2nd worst power play in the country, going only 1-21 on the man advantage for an abysmal 4.76%. The only team with a worse power play is Harvard who has gone 0-4 on their chances. Unfortunately for the Spartans, the penalty kill has also been awful thus far with a 70% kill rate, good for 53rd out of 59 teams. There must be visible signs of improvement shown this weekend against an AIC team that last season had a kill rate of 79.3% and has given up three power play goals in two games this season.
American International Yellow Jackets
Website: AIC Yellow Jackets Hockey
Time/TV: Friday 7 PM and Sunday 1 PM at Munn Ice Arena. Both games will be televised by Comcast. Also available on BTN2Go.com.
Coach: With the retirement of Jack Parker from Boston University, AIC coach Gary Wright became the longest tenured coach at a Division 1 school. Wright is in his 30th year at AIC and possesses a 294-528-65 record in his time in Springfield, Mass. Wright guided the program through its transition from NCAA Division 2 to Division 1 in 1998.
Players to Watch: Forward Jon Puskar from Grosse Ile, MI is the Yellow Jackets returning scorer from last season as he notched 24 pts (12G, 12A). Sophomore Chris Porter had 20 points as a freshman last year and has a goal and an assist this season.
It will be interesting to see who the Yellow Jackets decide start as goaltender against the Spartans. Coach Wright left Senior Ryan Kerpan in net the entire Providence game, while he got torched for 10 goals on 46 shots. Freshman Ty Reichanbach got the next start against Sacred Heart and earned a 4-1 victory. Sacred Heart was picked to finish last in the AHA, just behind American International so Reichenbach's victory may not be overly impressive. However, at the same time, Sacred Heart did defeat UMass-Lowell in their season opener, the same Lowell team that dispatched the Spartans 4-1 last Friday night.
Series Prediction: I predict a Spartans sweep with Jake Hildebrand in net Friday and Will Yanakeff Sunday. I'll say the Spartans win 4-0 Friday and 3-1 Sunday afternoon.
10 19 13 MIH vs American international Highlights (via Providence Friars Hockey)
Bonus Video: Literally the most extensive video of Chris Tra