Weekend Hockey Preview: Clarkson

What better way to kick off winter break than with some college hockey? This Sunday, Michigan State (5-9-1) (1-2-1) will host the Clarkson Golden Knights (6-7-4) (4-1-2) at Munn Ice Arena.

It will also be the night of the annual Teddy Bear Toss, where teddy bears are thrown onto the ice following MSU’s first goal and will be donated to children’s charities in the Lansing area.

The History

Clarkson is a rather unusual opponent for the Spartans to face, nowadays at least. But back in the days when MSU played at Demonstration Hall, they were almost yearly regulars from 1953-1968.

The Golden Knights lead the overall series with Michigan State, 7-6-1. However, six of those seven wins came before Amo Bessone’s NCAA championship victory in 1966 (which the Spartans won by beating a heavily favored Clarkson squad 6-1).

This will only be Clarkson’s third trip to Munn Ice Arena, and based off the record they would rather play back at Dem Hall. The Knights were swept 6-1 and 4-3 when they last visited East Lansing back in 2009.

Know Thy Enemy

This year, Clarkson is a very physical and tough hockey team that is third in the ECAC (behind Harvard and Quinnipiac). They have won three games out of their last five and have limited their opponents to two goals or fewer in seven of their last nine games.

The only measuring tool against MSU is a common opponent in Princeton. Clarkson shredded the Tigers 4-0 back in late November, while the Spartans split two games with Princeton over Thanksgiving break.

By the Numbers

The numbers indicate the likelihood of a tight, low scoring game on Sunday night. The Spartans average more goals per game than Clarkson (2.13 to 1.82) but the Golden Knights only allow an average of two goals per game, in comparison to MSU’s 2.67.

Both teams’ power plays have been struggling this year, but Michigan State holds a slight edge (.115 to .098).

One key factor that may play into MSU’s advantage is the fact that they are at home while Clarkson will have to travel all the way from New York so close to winter break. If the Spartans play like they did last Saturday against Minnesota, then they should be just fine.

Jason Ruff is the host of Behind the Mask for Impact Sports

Photo: Brian Bobal/Impact Sports