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Spartan Hockey Preview: New Hampshire Wildcats

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The Spartans hit the road for Durham, New Hampshire with a chance to get a road sweep

Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE

Sometimes being a college hockey player just isn't fair. After a series where they deserved much better than a sweep from their play, the Michigan State Spartans' hockey team will hit the road this weekend to play a series against the University of New Hampshire. So while College Gameday takes over campus, and their fellow student athletes are playing in the biggest football game of the season Saturday, the hockey boys will be in Durham, NH to play another series in the B1G/Hockey East Challenge. As someone who lived 40 minutes from the campus of UNH in Manchester, New Hampshire, I can tell you College Gameday isn't coming there anytime soon, that is unless Chip Kelly makes a prodigal return home, simliar to our own Chris Vannini.

This weekend the Spartans have a chance to pull the B1G ahead of Hockey East in the challenge, as HEA leads right now 6-5-1. The Wildcats split a road series at Michigan earlier this season but are coming off a terrible weekend, where they were swept by UMass-Lowell 2-0, 8-2. The Wildcats are 2-4 on the season and working in a new goaltender Adam Clark, after expected starter Casey DeSmith was arrested in the offseason for domestic abuse and suspended indefinitely. Clark, a freshman from Sherwood Park, Alberta, has played all but seven minutes in net this season and has a below average save percentage of .887. If the Spartans can outshoot the Wildcats the way they did Ferris State last weekend, more goals are likely and they will be in line for a great chance at a series sweep.

New Hampshire Wildcats 2-4 (0-2 Hockey East)

Time/TV: 7:30 P.M.Friday and 7:00 Saturday, Fox College Sports-Pacifc Friday, FCS-Atlantic Saturday

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

New Hampshire Wildcats Stats Match-Up (National Rank) Michigan State Spartans
2.50 (34) Goals Scored/Game 2.17 (43)
3.00 (39) Goals Against/Game 2.00 (11)
1-of-17 5.88% (55) Power Play Percentage 2-of-28 7.14% (51)
26-of-28 92.9% (8) Penalty Kill Percentage 23-of-25 92.0% (9)
Grayson Downing (Sr.) 2G, 2A Leading Scorer Matt Berry (Sr.) 5G, 2A
Adam Clark (Fr) 2.74 GAA, .887 sv% Expected Goaltenders Jake Hildebrand (Jr) 2.03 GAA, .921 sv %

 

Yet again, the Spartans find themselves in a series where their opponent also struggles to score goals consistently. The Wildcats have 16 players with at least one point, but their leading scorer has only 4 points thus far. It has been feast or famine for the Wildcats, scoring 11 of their seasons' 15 goals in just two games. That can be bad news facing a Spartan defense that has surrendered just five goals in four games and has a goaltender coming off being B1G Conference First Star.  The Wildcats are also a young team, consistently dressing seven freshman so far in the season.

On offense the Wildcats' leading goal scorer is Maxim Gaudreault, a junior from Annapolis, Maryland. The forward who played his junior hockey for the Sioux City Musketeers (USHL) has three goals in six games, after scoring just five in his first two seasons in Durham. Also at forward,  Ottawa Senators' 4th round draft pick Shane Eiserman, is a talented freshman who has scored two goals this season. Eiserman spent time with the US National Development Under-18 team, playing with Spartan goaltender Edwin Minney. Eiserman is a big forward who uses his size well. On defense Brett Pesce, a Carolina Hurricanes 3rd round pick (2013), provides some offensive spark from the blue line, registering 21 points a season ago. The scouting report on Pesce is that he has tremendous offensive talent but he does only weigh 175 pounds on a 6'3" frame, so physical play in the Wildcats' defensive zone can lead to problems.

3 Keys to Spartan Success

 

  1. Gap Control- The Wildcats' Whittemore Center Arena is an Olympic sized ice sheet. So there will be extra room for the forwards to go wide on rushes up the ice, so the Spartan defenseman need to maintain a close gap to not allow the forwards too much room to operate. This shouldn't be as difficult for the Spartans, now playing in the B1G, where Minnesota and Wisconsin have larger ice sheets.
  2. Get A Lead- New Hampshire is coming off a pretty disastrous weekend, including an 8-2 drubbing at UMass-Lowell Saturday night. The same place where Michigan State outplayed Lowell for two periods and lost a tight 2-1 game. Getting a lead and making the freshman Clark sweat in net will be a key for the Spartans this weekend.
  3. Hildebrand Gonna Hildebrand- Jake Hildebrand is absolutely rolling after a worrisome first weekend of the season. Five goals in four games is amazing, especially when you see Boston University and UMass-Lowell (combined 3 goals against Hildebrand) putting up top 12 offensive numbers. Hildebrand provides the Spartans a strong advantage over the Wildcats' goaltender and needs to be on his game to provide his team the chance to get a road sweep.
Prediction
I hate making predictions, but it seems like after three weeks of play it's time I start making these. I'll keep track of them all season and would love to get some reader interaction in the comments as well! The record doesn't show the improvement this team has made from last season and they are playing better offensively. However, they need to prove something on the road before I'll pick them to sweep. I'll say UNH wins on Friday night 2-1 and the Spartans get to the freshman goaltender Saturday and win 5-2.

Around the B1G
Hey! Wisconsin is playing hockey again! After two weeks off, the 0-4 Badgers host old WCHA rival North Dakota for a weekend series. The Fighting Sioux sit #2 in the USCHO.com poll behind #1 Minnesota, who host Notre Dame for a Friday-Sunday series. That series will have Gopher coach Don Lucia, coaching against his son Mario, who skates for the Irish. Friday's game will be on BTN while Sunday's afternoon game will be on ESPNU. Michigan and Penn State are off this weekend, so the final B1G series is Ohio State hosting former CCHA opponent Nebraska-Omaha.

I'm hoping we can use this space as a "Game Thread" if you're watching or following along on radio. Be sure to stop by Saturday while you are hanging out in the football thread to get some score updates and be sure to follow me on Twitter @Jeremy_Dewar for MSU Hockey updates. Go Green!