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Hockey Preview B1G Tournament: Ohio State Buckeyes

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The Spartans and Buckeyes meet in the Twin Cities tonight

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Note from Jeremy: Real life (wedding planning, master's project deadlines, and a job search for my fiancee and I) has meant that I have been unable to do series wrap-ups the past few weeks. I apologize about the lack of updates and hope to have some more free time soon.

Tonight the Michigan State Spartans will battle the Ohio State Buckeyes to begin the  B1G Tournament in St. Paul, Minnesota. Ohio State has recovered from a disastrous start to their season, 3-11 before Christmas, by using a great Holiday tournament  springboard a 10-6-4 2nd half of the season. Last weekend the Buckeyes beat the Spartans in a goal frenzy Friday 6-5 in overtime before the teams skated to a 1-1 tie Saturday.

The Spartans finished the regular season 10-22-4, enduring a disastrous middle part of the season before stabling out a little bit in February and March. Tonight could mark the last time that Spartan fans will get to see Jake Hildebrand in net, the hockey equivalent of seeing Drew Stanton go through his career on the football field. It has been a great career marred by questionable coaching and letdowns from his supporting cast, but Hildebrand is a good enough goalie to put this team on his back and make a run at his first career NCAA appearance.

Game Info

Time

8:30 PM

TV

Big Ten Network

Streaming on BTN2Go

Radio Spartan Sports Network

The Buckeyes feature a talented offense led by Nick Schilkey with 19 goals and 41 points but they also feature five other players who have scored at least 10 goals. The Spartans defense responded well last week after getting shredded Friday night and they will need to be up to the task this evening to extend the season. Look for the Joe Cox line to be crucial for the Spartans to hold off the Buckeyes top line and Jake Hildebrand will have to be the Hildy of old for the Spartans.

Taking a look at the stats

Michigan State Spartans (10-20-3) Stat (National Rank) Ohio State Buckeyes (13-17-4)
2.50 (37) Team Offense 3.59 (9)
3.33 (49) Team Defense 3.47 (53)
20-of-140 14.29% (45) Power Play % 29-of-133 21.80% (9)
112-of-130 86.2% (6) Penalty Kill % 101-of-122 82.8% (26)
47% (43) Corsi For 48.1% (40)
45.7% (44) Corsi For Close 47.1% (41)
5 NHL Draft Picks 4

Last weekend the Spartans did an amazing job of staying out of the penalty box keeping the dangerous Buckeyes away from a man advantage. That will be crucial in tonight's game as Ohio State is in the top ten nationally for their power play percentage. Mackenzie MacEachern has four goals in the past five games and he will need to set the tone for the Spartans offensively if they will make any type of run at the Big Ten Title. The advanced stats show why these teams are so low in the national rankings as they each rank in the bottom 1/3 of the country in Corsi percentages.

3 Keys for Spartan Success

  1. Withstand an early rush- If the Spartans want to win this game they will need to dictate the pace and slowly take control. Ohio State likes to score goals in bunches, and the Spartans will need to wait for their chances to counter strike against the weak Buckeyes' goaltending.
  2. Jake Hildebrand- We will miss you Jake a ton and I hope you go out in the right way.
  3. Luck- The Spartans are the only team in the league to never win a B1G Tournament game and that has to change on St. Patrick's Day wearing green right? Right guys?? Oh this has been a long season to cover y'all.
Prediction
Ohio State wins the game 5-2 with an empty net goal and Tom Anastos is still retained as head coach.