Thursday, January 24, 2013

Know Thy Enemy: Penn State

CCHA All-Decade Team Honors Three Spartans

Three Honored on CCHA All-Decade Team

Three former Spartans were named to the CCHA All-Decade Team. D-Men Brad Fast and John Michael Liles were named to the second and first team respectively. Then there is Ryan Miller, who basically made it impossible for another goalie to win the Hobey thanks to his unbelievable year in 2000 - 2001 when he posted a 31-5-4 record with a 1.32 GAA and a .950 save percentage. Miller was named to the *gasp* first team. Seriously.... 1.32 GAA and a .950 save %, and you thought Hildebrand's 2.01 GAA and .937 save % was good.

Know Thy Enemy: B1G Edition - Penn State

For one weekend, the Spartans step out of CCHA play to welcome in the newest D-I member and fellow Big Ten member Penn State. Michigan State comes into the weekend after dropping a pair of games against Ferris State and a mid-week exhibition contest against the US Development Program. Offense continues to be a major issue for Michigan State, and they continue to have more questions than answers. This is a weekend that I've personally been looking forward to since I saw it on the schedule. I've made it no secret that I love the idea of a Big Ten hockey conference, and now we're there. We are.... The Big Ten.

Penn State comes into the weekend with a 9-12-0 overall record. They defeated Vermont last Saturday by a 4-2 score. As far as common opponents go, Penn State split a weekend series with the US Development Program winning 5-2 and losing 3-0. Penn State defeated Ohio State over the holidays at the Three Rivers Classic 5-4.

This is the first of many future contests for the Big Ten members, as the Big Ten conference begins play next season. Penn State is 4-7 on the road this season.

Both games are scheduled to start at 7:05 pm. Saturday's contest can be seen on the Big Ten Network.

Some of the Penn State names on the roster might sound familiar. While Michigan State can claim Chris Chelios and Peter Bondra their own through their sons Dean & Jake Chelios and David Bondra. Penn State has some nice father players as well on their team as well with Tommy Olczyk  (Eddie Olczyk - member of the 1994 Stanley Cup Winning NY Rangers & a current NHL TV analyst) and Nate Jensen (David Jensen - 1984 US Olympic Hockey Team, Former Minnesota North Stars player). That begs the question of who would win a game of two on two.

Penn State Leading Scorers

Casey Bailey   11 goals, 19 points
David Glen      11 goals, 19 points
Max Gardiner    2 goals, 14 points
Connor Varley   4 goals, 11 points
Taylor Holstrom  5 goals, 9 points
Nate Jensen       2 goals, 9 points

Penn State Goaltenders

Matthew Skoff    5-6-0, 2.74 GAA, .911 save %
PJ Musico 4-5-0, 3.00 GAA, .899 save %

PSU PP:   8 for 84  (9.5%)
PSU PK   76 for 91  (83.5%)

Looks like the first period could be key.... Penn State is 8-0 when leading after one this year, but 0-10 when trailing. Michigan State is 1-7-3 this year when trailing after one, and 0-8-3 when giving up the first goal. MSU only has 13 first period goals (six of which have come against Michigan).

Michigan State is 1-6 this year against fellow Big Ten rivals. The lone win was back in November against Michigan, a 7-2 victory.

Overall Thoughts

This is a series that Michigan State can't simply show up and expect to win. Penn State will make them work hard for everything this weekend - even if the Nittany Lions have had their ups and downs. Michigan State has yet to win two games in a row this season, and with no Matt Berry playing on Friday - it doesn't seem like the offense is primed to explode for a lot of goals.

With that said, this isn't Minnesota or Notre Dame coming into town either - and Michigan State needs to be able to show some pride and defend home ice. It's a chance to get back on track and start some positive momentum for the finishing stretch (which begins with Michigan next weekend). You never know what is possible if a team gets some positive vibes going. One win might turn into two, which then turns into three, and so on.....

And it isn't like MSU is out of anything in terms of  the CCHA goes. While a CCHA title (or really top five finish) is out of the question, they could still string some wins together and move up high enough to get home ice (only 3 points out of 9th right now). They play the teams directly in front of them - so there is still a lot to play for. And all it takes is one bounce, one goal, and one win to turn things around.

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