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Hockey Preview: Clarkson Golden Knights

The Spartan hockey team will play one more game before taking a holiday break

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The Spartan hockey team will take the ice one more time before the holiday break and the annual Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit. The Spartans stand at 5-9-1, with last weekend being a mixed bag of results, following up an embarrassing 5-0 loss to 6th ranked Minnesota with a shootout victory over the Gophers. The Spartans were 5-9-2 at the holiday break last season but looking beyond the record this team has progressed from where it was last season, especially in goal output. However, programs are judged on wins and if Tom Anastos wants to avoid a mighty warm seat, wins in the second half of the season must become consistent, especially in a down Big Ten.

The Spartans will have a great opportunity Sunday to notch another win towards their total, as they welcome the 6-7-4 Clarkson Golden Knights to Munn Arena. The Golden Knights play their hockey in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference and stand 3rd in the league standings behind Harvard and Quinnipiac. The Golden Knights also have a coach in their fourth season, as former Ohio State assistant Casey Jones is 46-54-17 in four years in Potsdam, New York. The Golden Knights started slow but have won three of their last five games including a win over 14th ranked Quinnipiac and common opponent Princeton.

Clarkson Golden Knights 6-7-4 (4-1-2 ECAC)

Time/TV: 5:00 PM, Fox Sports Detroit

Online Stream: BTN2Go

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

History: Clarkson leads 7-6-1. Last Meeting was a Spartan sweep in 2009 6-1, 4-3. The Spartans won their first ever national title in 1966, defeating Clarkson 6-1.

Famous Clarkson Hockey Alumni: Willie Mitchell played two seasons for Clarkson with 55 points in 68 games. The Florida Panthers defenseman won two Stanley Cup Championships while with the Los Angeles Kings.

Michigan State Spartans Stats Match-Up (National Rank) Clarkson Golden Knights
2.13 (44) Goals Scored/Game 1.82 (53)
2.67 (32) Goals Against/Game 2.00 (11)
7-of-61 11.48% (46) Power Play Percentage 5-of-51 9.80% (51)
46-of-56 82.1% (35) Penalty Kill Percentage 50-of-56 89.3% (9)
Matt Berry (Sr) 7G, 6A 13Pts Leading Scorer Joe Zarbo (Sr) 6G, 4A 10Pts

Jake Hildebrand (Jr) 5-9-1

2.61 GAA, .906 save %

Expected Goaltenders

Steve Perry (So) 6-6-1

1.93 GAA, .912 save %

Clarkson as the stats show is a team that struggles offensively, but can win games by playing strong defense themselves. In net Steve Perry (Ligonier, PA) has been great in his two seasons in Potsdam. The sophomore goaltender has improved upon a 2.05 goals against average last season and dropped that average down below two this year. While that seems like a great number it is still only good enough for 12th among goaltenders with ten or more starts. This is illustrative of how scoring has been low across all of college hockey and is not just a struggle for the lower ranked teams.

On defense James de Haas (Mississauga, ONT) has three goals and six assists and is a leader for the Golden Knights along the blue line. The sophomore is a person of interest for Spartan fans as he was a 6th round draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2012. Beyond possessing amazing hair, de Haas is known for having great size and being a strong skater for the college game. At forward Joe Zarbo (Grand Island, NY) is the leading goal scorer and point producer for Clarkson. Zarbo has already matched his six goals from last season, in 20 less games, and has just one power play tally, meaning he is a threat at even strength as well.

3 Keys to Spartan Success

  1. Rebound for the Penalty Kill- The Spartan PK took a huge ego hit against Minnesota last weekend. The team killed only four of nine opportunities and dropped from 9th in the country to 35th. The Clarkson offense presents a good chance to get the PK back on track.
  2. Feed Mackenzie MacEachern- Make no bones about it, while Matt Berry had a hot start and built a lead in the team points race, MacEachern has been the Spartans' best player for at least the last month. The Spartans will need him to be strong in what promises to be a low scoring affair.
  3. Shots, Shots, Shots- The shot totals have looked much better for the Spartans this season, compared to last. That points to stronger possession and being more competitive. Against Minnesota last Saturday the Spartans outshot the Gophers by 21 and if it weren't for penalty kill issues. The Spartans played their best, complete game against the Gophers Saturday and if they can bring that effort Sunday better results should be there.
After predicting a Gopher sweep last weekend, I stand at 5-4 on the season. For this game I think Clarkson is better than their record shows, however they haven't played a lot of really talented teams. They did lose twice in overtime to 6th ranked Colgate and do possess that victory over Quinnipiac. Playing at home will give the Spartans an edge and I am banking on them rolling still from that great effort on Saturday against Minnesota. I'll say Spartans win 3-1 with the benefit of an empty net goal.

Around the B1G
The only other Big Ten team in action is Michigan playing a single non conference game at Boston College on Saturday night.

This preview will double as a game thread for this week's televised game for those interested. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Jeremy_Dewar for live tweets during Sunday's game. Go Green!