This weekend the Michigan State Spartans hockey team will open up league play in the 3rd season of the Big Ten, travelling to Happy Valley to take on 19th ranked Penn State. The Spartans are coming off of being swept by North Dakota at home this past weekend and they are winless in their last five games. Penn State (8-2-3) have not lost in six games, taking advantage of soft competition the last few weeks to get on a roll heading into league play.
The Nittany Lions are led up front by freshman Chase Berger (St. Louis, MO) and senior Curtis Loik (North Vancouver, B.C.) who each have 14 points on the season. Berger leads the team with nine goals and second on the team in goals is a fellow freshman Andrew Sturtz (Buffalo, NY) who has six goals on the season. Penn State ranks first nationally in Corsi For at 61.9% while taking the 3rd most shot attempts in the country. This has been the blueprint the last few seasons under coach Guy Gadowsky, the Nittany Lions shoot everything towards the net and have begun to add the level of talent to make those shots go in more often. Michigan State will have to take advantage of their chances in the offensive zone as it is likely that Penn State will win the puck possession battle as they have most of the season.
|Michigan State Spartans||Stats Match-Up (National Rank)||#19 Penn State Nittany Lions|
|3.00 (19)||Goals Scored/Game||4.15 (4)|
|3.15 (43)||Goals Against/Game||2.38 (18)|
|10-of-60 16.67% (34)||Power Play Percentage||17-of-56 30.36% (2)|
|42-of-47 89.4% (9)||Penalty Kill Percentage||31-of-38 81.6% (31)|
Jake Hildebrand (Sr)
4-7-1 2.95 GAA, .900 save %
Eamon McAdam (Jr)
6-1 2.15 GAA, .929 save %
With Penn State having such strong possession numbers Michigan State will need to see Jake Hildebrand return to form this weekend. Hildebrand's 2.95 goals against average looks even more frightening when you take into account that he has two shutouts on the season. In the ten other games that HIldebrand has started that were not shutouts the three goals surrendered last Friday against North Dakota is his best effort. Hildebrand did surrender just two goals to Michigan Tech in his previous start but that was two goals on six shots, leading to Hildebrand being benched. Hildy has been the best part of Michigan State hockey the past two seasons and if this team is to make a run towards the NCAA tournament it will need vintage Jake in between the pipes.
It hasn't been all Hildebrand's fault this season thus far as the Spartans' defenseman have worn down the past few weeks. The Spartans have been playing with just five defenseman the past few games and if Chris Knudson is still out with injury this weekend will be difficult for the defenseman. Penn State with all the shots they take will force the defenseman to skate a lot in their own zone, not to mention that there is a quick turnaround from a 7:00 P.M. game Friday to 3:00 Saturday. Hopefully, the endurance that coach Tom Anastos complimented in the preseason shows through for the Spartans this weekend.
Friday Dec. 4 7:00 PM
Saturday Dec.5 3:00 PM
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Spartan Sports Network
It is hard to know just how good this Penn State team is this season. They seem to be similar to last season's squad that has great offensive numbers in the non-conference but like last season it is bolstered by a less than difficult schedule. Penn State has played just one ranked opponent all season, defeating 5-3 and losing to the Irish in the same weekend 7-4. A schedule with wins over Canisius (a fellow Terry Pegula helped program), Vermont, American International, Niagara and Alaska-Anchorage is one that definitely allows for confidence to be built. Michigan State meanwhile has already played the number 2, 4, 9 and 17 teams in the country in a Tom Izzo inspired non-conference slate. This weekend is where the Spartans hope that playing all those top teams has them ready to play the less talented league opponents they will line up against.
I will say that Michigan State earns a series split this weekend against Penn State. I predicted as much as a guest onBehind the Mask podcast with Jason Ruff and Jacob Herbert so I will stick to my guns here. Let's go Penn State winning Saturday with fresher legs at home 3-1 after the Spartans win 4-0 on Friday.
Around the B1G
- #12 Michigan (7-2-2) will play host to the Wisconsin Badgers (3-5-4).
- Minnesota (4-7) will host the Ohio State Buckeyes (3-9).