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Thanksgiving in New Jersey: Princeton Hockey Preview

The Spartans travel to New Jersey for a pair of games against the Princeton Tigers

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

After a quick foray into B1G Conference play, a split with the Ohio State Buckeyes, the Spartans return to out of conference play this weekend. The Spartans will be in Princeton, New Jersey to take on the Princeton Tigers, a team they swept at home last season 4-1, 8-2. The Tigers are rebuilding under first year head coach Ron Fogarty, who spent the past seven seasons building Adrian College from a club program to a division three powerhouse. Fogarty has his work cut out for him, as the Tigers went 6-26 last season and have yet to score more than 2 goals in a single game this season. The Tigers currently sit a 1-6-1 on the season with their only victory being a 2-1 game against fellow ECAC opponent Cornell.

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Princeton Tigers 1-6-1 (1-5-0 ECAC)

Time: 7:00 PM Friday and Saturday

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

Princeton Tigers Stats Match-Up (National Rank) Michigan State Spartans
1.00 (59) Goals Scored/Game 2.18 (40)
3.75 (54) Goals Against/Game 2.45 (27)
4-of-35 11.43% (43) Power Play Percentage 5-of-45 11.11% (44)
34-of-43 79.1% (42) Penalty Kill Percentage 36-of-40 90.0% (10)
Aaron Ave (Sr) 2G 1A 3Pts Leading Scorer Matt Berry (Sr) 6G, 4A 10pts

Colton Phinney (So) 1-5-1 3.50 GAA,

.909 save %

Expected Goaltenders

Jake Hildebrand (Jr)  4-7 2.39 GAA

.917 save %

Aaron Ave, a senior defenseman from Chandler, Arizona, is actually the leading scorer with just three points on the season. By comparison the 40th ranked Spartan offense has eight players with three points or more. So Jake Hildebrand has to be licking his chops at facing this Princeton team. Junior Jonathan Liau (Burbank, CA) is the leading returning goal scorer from last season's team and may be someone to watch this weekend. The Youngstown Phantom product is one of the few USHL alums on the Princeton roster and has playmaking ability.The leading returning goal scorer Ryan Siiro (Bloomington, MN) scored five goals last season as a freshman. In net sophomore Colton Phinney (Chatham, N.J.) has been given the bulk of the starts after splitting time with a senior last season. Phinney had very similar statistics last season to what he has done so far this year. Phinney sees a lot of action and was in net for the Tigers only win, making 40 saves against Cornell. Phinney was the goaltender in the 4-1 loss to Michigan State last season.

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3 Keys to Spartan Success

  1. Find self motivation- It's a road trip on a holiday weekend playing at Hobey Baker Rink which holds just 2,100 seats. With Thanksgiving break going on and already low student turnouts at Princeton this will likely look more like a high school crowd than a division one crowd. So a key for the Spartans will be to find internal motivation and not get caught sleeping on a Princeton roster trying to impress a new coach.
  2. Take away hope early- The Tigers are dead last in the country in scoring. Coming from behind is not a feasible option for this offense so the Spartans getting out to a lead early is likely to take the wind out of the sails for Princeton.
  3. Avoid unnecessary penalties- The Tigers have scored half of their eight goals on the power play. The last thing the Spartans want to do is allow the Tigers to build confidence while playing with a man up.

I nailed last weekends predictions, even getting the Thursday night score exactly. I don't like that I'm breaking my rule of predicting a sweep before the Spartans have proven it, but Princeton is just that bad. I'll take MSU to sweep 3-0, 5-1.

Around the B1G
Every team is in action this weekend. Penn State plays just once, hosting Cornell Saturday. Minnesota is taking an east coast trip playing at Boston College Friday and Northeastern Saturday. Michigan is hosting RPI, while Wisconsin hosts Ferris State. Ohio State is playing in the Shilelagh Tournament hosted by Notre Dame, playing Western Michigan in the semi-finals Friday while Notre Dame will take on Union in the other semi-final.