A dominant top two lines and strong goaltending from Jake Hildebrand led to the second series sweep of the season for the Spartan hockey team. The Spartans bested Princeton University in a weekend set 4-1 on Friday night and 8-2 Sunday afternoon. The Spartans' 12 goals on the weekend is equal to the 12 goals scored in the first 6 games of November.
Princeton is a team that came into the weekend series giving up 4 goals per game, so it's not like the Spartans achieved this feat against a top level defense. That doesn't mean that this past weekend isn't encouraging for a team looking for an offense, any offense. Even with the top three scorers from last season sitting out as healthy scratches, this Spartans team put together it's best games since a 7-goal outburst against Michigan last season. The first line of Ryan Keller, Greg Wolfe and Lee Reimer was physical all weekend and created turnovers that led to quick goals. The second line (all freshman) of Mackenzie MacEachern, Thomas Ebbing and Villiam Haag was dominant and exciting. The talent that Tom Anastos has brought to campus is beginning to contribute and hopefully develop into real threats for this team.
The 4-1 final score on Friday night was not indicative of how the game went. Princeton was very much in the game the whole way, and if not for a great effort from Jake Hildebrand could have received a better result. After Joe Cox scored less than four minutes into the contest the Tigers held the Spartans off the board until midway through the second period. During that stretch Princeton had many great scoring chances that Hildebrand was able to fight off. Then, after a defensive breakdown in the Tigers zone, Greg Wolfe fed a wide open Ryan Keller in the slot, for what would end up being the game winning goal. The third period brought the first goal all season scored by a defenseman when Jake Chelios scored from the blue line. After Mackenzie MacEachern scored a 5 on 3 power play goal the Tigers scored a late goal to bring us to the 4-1 final score.
Spartans beat Princeton 4-1 (via MSUSpartanAthletics)
While the Friday score was deceiving, Sunday's game was actual pure dominance on display by MSU. Michigan State outshot Princeton 40-24, scored three power play goals and raced out to a 5-0 lead 27 minutes into the contest. This was by far the most impressive game played by the Spartans all season and couldn't come at a better time, the last week before conference play.
Just like Friday the Spartans scored first, this time on a one time slap shot by Jake Chelios on the power play. The goal was aided by a great screen of the Princeton goaltender by Lee Reimer. Greg Wolfe and Villiam Haag added even strength goals to stretch the Spartans lead to 3-0 after one period. One development this weekend for the Spartans was offensive contributions from their defensemen. The Spartan defensemen had 10 points on the weekend and that included an assist on the 4th goal Sunday. Travis Walsh had his shot tipped by Thomas Ebbing for the freshman's first career goal. Haag and RJ Boyd added power play goals with a Princeton shorthanded goal sprinkled in, to bring us to a 6-1 score after two periods.
Greg Wolfe scored his 3rd goal of the weekend and Joe Cox got his 2nd of the weekend to extend the Spartans lead to 8-2. Princeton added a goal in the last minute of the period to bring the final tally to 8-2 Spartans.
Spartans Sweep Princeton with 8-2 Win. (via MSUSpartanAthletics)
- The biggest development for this team moving forward this season and beyond was freshman scoring. The freshman class produced 6 out of the 12 goals this weekend and had 12 points. Not to mention the play of the MacEachern-Ebbing-Haag line was excellent on Sunday. Princeton had trouble clearing the zone against a line full of freshman and they were on the ice for two power play goals Sunday.
- Speaking of the play of the second line, the Spartans also got a great weekend from their first line. Keller-Reimer-Wolfe brought a great edge to their game all weekend. They played physical in the offensive zone, created multiple turnovers (some leading directly to goals) and contributed three goals on the weekend. I'd be very surprised if these aren't the top two lines to begin next weekend's series agasinst Minnesota. Anastos has done a lot of line shuffling this season and has found at least two great combinations here.
- Speaking of line shuffling, there were some surprising healthy scratches this weekend. Tanner Sorenson, Matt DeBlouw, Matt Berry and JT Stenglein all sat out both games this weekend. Berry last years leading scorer, played in his first action last weekend against Western Michigan. Sorenson was suspended for the first 4 games of this season and seems to be having a rough start. Anastos' comments seemed to point to efforts in practice leading to these decisions and the play of the top two lines this weekend can't make it any easier for these guys to earn their spots back.
- The Spartans have finally cracked above the 10% mark on the power play as they moved from 8% to 13.56%. This is a development to continue to watch as this could be a one weekend improvement against a weak opponent. However, it is an encouraging sign for the Spartans as power play goals will be vital to the Spartans finishing out of the basement of the B1G.
Next Up The Spartans welcome #1 Minnesota into Munn Ice Arena for their B1G season opening series. The Golden Gophers are averaging 4.14 goals per game and will be a tremendous test for Michigan State. The Honeycrisp Trophy will be on the line for each game.