First off, sorry for the delay in getting this post up, between a recent job interview and traveling to Chicago for the holidays, I haven't had a chance to recap the recent series against Western Michigan. Then again, recapping the recent series feels like getting my wisdom teeth pulled all over again.
We are 10 games into a 35-game season and here is what we know. The Spartans are, for the 2nd season in a row, one of the worst scoring teams nationally. They rank 55th in offense with 1.90 goals per game, 57th on the power play at 8.41% and have scored only 19 goals on the season. The leading scorer in the country, Ryan Haggerty from Rensselaer, has 15 goals on the season. This team has actually found a way to regress, from the 2.07 goals per game scored last season, a season that ended with a last place finish in the CCHA.
In Friday night's 2-0 loss to the Broncos, it was hard to remember one good scoring chance the Spartans created. In the 3rd period on two power plays the Spartans failed to gain entry into the offensive zone, let alone have scoring chances. On the second Bronco goal, a Spartan forward was easily muscled off the puck in the offensive zone, the defenseman made a horrible decision to pinch at the blue line creating a 2 on 1. Jake Chelios fell down skating backwards and the Broncos easily deposited their second goal of the evening. This play felt like a microcosm of the whole season. Offensive ineptitude by a forward leading to a defenseman playing out of position trying to force offense and a goaltender left out to dry.
Saturday night wasn't any better as the Broncos won 4-1 in Kalamazoo, scoring two power play goals with the Spartans scoring a 3rd period goal down 4-0 to avoid the weekend shutout. The Spartans finished 0-9 on the power play after having a full week off to work on special teams. To say this past weekends results were disappointing is an understatement. Get ready for a long season unless this team can find a scoring touch they haven't found for the first third of the season.
Princeton Tigers 3-8 overall (2-6 ECAC Hockey)
Time/TV: 7:00 PM Friday night and 1:00 PM Sunday afternoon. Both games are at Munn Arena and will be broadcast by Comcast.
Coach: Bob Prier is in his 3rd season at Princeton and holds a 22-40-12 career record as a coach. Prier played his collegiate hockey for St. Lawrence University (Alma Mater of Ron Mason) and was an assistant with SLU for 9 seasons.
Players to Watch: Andrew Ammon is the leading scorer for the Tigers with six goals on the season. The senior from Virginia scored the game winning goal last Saturday as the Tigers upset Quinnipiac 4-3. Quinnipiac was last season's national runner-up and had been unbeaten in 13 games. Tucker Brockett has 11 points in 11 games for the Tigers highest point total this season. I would expect to see both Tigers goalies in senior Sean Bonar and freshman Colton Phinney. Both goaltenders have a save percentage below .900 and goals against averages above 3.00. I would say this is encouraging for this weekend, but with this Spartans team let's take a wait and see approach.
Series Prediction: This series will feature 2 offenses that rank in the bottom third of the NCAA. So this series will not bring back memories of the 1980's Edmonton Oilers. This series is big for the Spartans before opening B1G play next weekend against Minnesota. Time is running out to improve a moribund power play and to gain any confidence before conference play. This should be a team that you feel confident in a sweep and at worse a split against. However, with the way the Spartans have played thus far there is no reason to believe a sweep will come easy. I'll say that if the Spartans score a power play goal in each game and manage to kill all their shorthanded opportunities they get the weekend sweep. With the way this penalty kill is playing I see that being extremely difficult. I'll say Princeton 3-1 Friday and a 2-2 tie Sunday. Also if you are a student bring a friend and get into the games for only $5!!
Around the B1G: The B1G season will begin for Ohio State, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The Buckeyes are playing at Yost Friday and will host the Wolverines on Monday. Minnesota will host Wisconsin on Friday and Saturday. Penn State, like the Spartans, will host an out of conference series with Union.