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Hockey Preview: Penn State Hosts Michigan State in Weekend Series

Conference play starts this weekend as the Spartans roll into town.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Who: Michigan State University
When: Friday 7 p.m. EST, Saturday 3 p.m. EST
Where: Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, PA
TV: None
Stream: Free Audio Video Via Btn2go Plus($)
Live Stats:

Big Ten conference play is finally back in Pegula Ice Arena this weekend, as the Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2-3) host Michigan State (4-7-2) on this first weekend in December. Penn State is coming off of a 4-0 shutout win over the Vermont Catamounts in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff, and is off to the best start in program history. They'll face a Spartans team that is much weaker last year's squad. The Lions haven't had much success over the past few seasons versus MSU, as Michigan State holds a 6-2-2 record over the Nittany Lions in their first 10 meetings.

Penn State is also riding the wave of an undefeated streak that stretches all the way back to October 30. This run has put Guy Gadowsky's squad in 19th place in the latest USCHO rankings, marking the highest spot that the team has ever achieved. On the other side, Michigan State hasn't won since Nov. 7 and is in the midst of a five game slide, so it's safe to assume that a fired up Spartan side will come to Happy Valley looking to turn their fortunes around against a tough Penn State team.

Getting To Know MSU

The Spartans are limping into Pegula tied with Minnesota for the conference's third-worst record (note: the Big Ten has had a rough year so far outside of Penn State and Michigan). November hasn't been kind to the Spartans, who gained only two wins last month against New Hampshire. Since then, Michigan State has scored 14 goals in the last five games, with just two coming against fourth-ranked North Dakota in a series last weekend.

Michigan State's top scorers are both locked at 13 points with seven goals and six assists on the year so far. Junior Mackenzie MacEachern is a name familiar to Nittany Lions, as last season he scored all three goals in the team's last meeting en route to a Spartan 3-2 victory. Junior JT Stenglein also sits atop the Spartans leaderboard with the same statistics as MacEachern.

But it's a freshman that's making the most noise. Mason Appleton is tied with MacEachern and Stenglein with 13 points, though 10 of his have come off of assists. The freshman had a five-game point streak heading into last weekend that was broken by the stingy defense of North Dakota.

Penn State is also familiar with goaltender Jake Hildebrand's work, who this year has put up a 2.95 goals against average and an even .900 save percentage. While his statistics have dropped to career lows, Hildebrand is No. 14 in the country with minutes played at 731:51 and tied for eighth in the country with two shutouts to his name in 2015. His backup is sophomore goaltender Ed Minney, who has played in only one game this year holds a 2.08 goals against and a .944 save percentage.

The Spartans do have a top-20 offense with 3.00 goals per game, though their defense allows just a bit more at 3.15 goals per game. Their power play is producing at a 16.67 percent clip, though their penalty killing is fantastic at 89.4 percent, good enough for ninth-best in the NCAA. A high-octane power play like Penn State might not be able to generate as many chances as they have in the past against a good penalty killing team like Michigan State. The Spartans also draw more penalties than they take, with their opponents at 5.8 minutes a night compared to their 4.5.


  • You might have heard about the proposed Big Ten plan to lower age restrictions on college hockey players. Guy Gadowsky talked about it in his weekly press conference and The Daily Collegian gave a good rundown of what he said.
  • The team is holding their annual Teddy Bear Toss on the Saturday game that benefits THON. It's worked out wonderfully in the past, so keep it up!
  • Eamon McAdam was named Big Ten's top star of the week for his shutout performance against Vermont. Well deserved honors for his first career shutout!
  • One more fun fact: Penn State had a crazy good November.