#1 St. Cloud State University Huskies (12-2-1 | 7-2-1 NCHC) vs Princeton University Tigers (6-7-1 | 3-5-1 ECAC)
Live Stats: Princeton Athletics
Live Stream: IvyLeagueNetwork$
Radio: 96.7 FM
Tickets: Princeton Athletics
Where: Hobey Baker Rink – Princeton, NJ
When: Friday, December 29 – 6:00 PM CT | Saturday, December 30 – 6:00 PM CT
St. Cloud, MN- Approximately 29 miles from maximum security prison East Jersey State Prison (formerly Rahway State Prison) you arrive at rural city of Princeton, NJ home of world renowned Ivy League University’s Princeton University. It’s the fourth oldest university in the United States and home of this weeks opponent, the Princeton University Tigers currently tied for 8th in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Association. Home ice is Hobey Baker Memorial Rink, currently the second oldest rink in the NCAA behind Matthews Arena at Northeastern University. The Huskies will end calendar year 2017 with a two-game series with the Tigers.
Last Time Out:
The Tigers traveled to Arizona on December 8/9 to face the ASU Sun Devils and ended up with a weekend split. On Friday, the game was all Princeton as the Tigers scored twice in period one including the GWG by Eric Robinson in a 4-0 shutout. The Tigers outshot ASU 36-20 and goaltender Rylan Ferland earned the shutout win. In the rematch, it was a different story as the lead changed hands twice before ASU got the GWG in overtime by David Norris. Ryan Kuffner scored twice in the loss and adding three goals on the weekend. Ben Halford took the loss in goal for Princeton stopping 32 of 36 SOG.
The Huskies meanwhile, battled league rival North Dakota earning 4 league points on the weekend in a 2-2 overtime tie on Friday and a 3-1 win in the Saturday rematch. On Friday, the Huskies squandered six man-advantage opportunities including two 5X3 power plays allowing North Dakota to escape with a tie. In this game, the Huskies third-ranked power play was shut down by UND’s eighth-ranked penalty kill and that was the difference in the game. Easton Brodzinski and Ryan Poehling netted goals for the Huskies and Jeff Smith turned aside 30 of 32 SOG in the OT tie. On Saturday, the Huskies played a nearly flawless game defeating #5 ranked North Dakota 3-1 and in the process moved back into first-place in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. The Huskies scored three consecutive goals in period two and first-year goaltender David Hrenak stopped 34/35 UND shots on goal to pick up his 5th win of the season. Mikey Eyssimont scored twice including the game winner as SCSU finished conference play for calendar year 2017.
Last Time They Met:
The Huskies have an all-time record of 3-1-0 vs Princeton and a 16-3-1 all-time record vs Ivy League squads since joining the Division I ranks in 1987. SCSU last played Princeton on 10/29/04 on an eastern swing which included a game with Yale University. The Huskies won that contest by a 7-2 score. SCSU swept a two-game series with Princeton at the HBNHC on October 31 and November 1, 2003 by scores of 3-1 and 2-1 (OT). In their first ever meeting Princeton earned a 4-3 win on 12/2/87.
Scouting the Princeton University Tigers:
Currently in his fourth year as head coach, Ron Fogerty is finding the sledding at the Division One level to be much more difficult than coaching at the Division III level. Fogarty was hired in 2014-15 after a highly successful run at Division III Adrian where he compiled a 167-23-1 record. Since being hired at Princeton, the Colgate alum has yet to secure a winning season with a 30-69-10 (.321) overall record with the Tigers.
Inconsistency is the biggest issue for the Tigers. Quite frankly, it’s been hard to predict which team will show up for a given game. The team that laid six goals on Dartmouth in the first period on December 1st or the squad that was defeated by 4-10-1 Arizona State on December 9th. A series split with Bemidji State and a one-goal loss to #5 Cornell show that the potential is there.
Offense was not a concern heading into the 2017-18 season with a full complement of returning offense from last season. Junior, Ryan Kuffner was a 19 goal scorer last season and junior, Max Veronneau added 11 goals. Jackson Cressey was a point a game scorer as a freshman. All three have picked up where they left off with Kuffner 9-7-16, Veronneau 9-9-18 and Cressey currently 4-10-14. Add in senior, David Hallisey 9-5-14 and you have a group of forwards that can find the back of the net.
Defensively, the concern was to improve the plus/minus of the defensive unit and they’ve done that with a combined +10 out of the group. The unit is led by junior Josh Teves, 1-11-12 +8 and sophomore, Derek Topatigh 0-4-4 +3. First-year defenseman Matthew Thom has been a good addition defensively and is currently +7.
Goaltending was a huge question mark entering the season with little playing time for the two returning goaltenders. First-year goaltender Ryan Ferland has stepped forward and beat out two upperclassmen for the starting role and has compiled some solid numbers with a .915 SV% and 2.86 GAA.
Statistically, offense has not been an issue with the Tigers currently ranked 5th nationally scoring 3.50 goals per game. Defensively, they are ranked 38th allowing 3.07 GPG. The power play has been successful currently ranked 12th at 23.40%. The penalty kill is 30th at 81.63% and the Tigers are 46th in penalties per game averaging 10.43.
Scouting the SCSU Huskies:
The Huskies will be missing three key ingredients from their lineup this series. Foremost, coach Motzko is again skippering the USA World Junior team and will be in Buffalo, NY handling those duties. Sophomore forward, Ryan Poehling is a member of Team USA squad and first-year goaltender David Hrenak is a member of Team Slovakia. Both will be unavailable this weekend.
The Huskies well-balanced scoring attack with 19 of the 22 rostered players (excluding goaltenders) having scored at least one goal has them perched on top of the national chart for offense. It’s this depth that makes the Huskies interchangeable offense (31 different line combinations used this season) difficult to deal with particularly late in the game as the line depth tends to wear teams down. This is evidenced by SCSU outscoring their opponents 28 to 13 in the third period and having a perfect 8-0-0 record when leading after two periods. The most effective forward line combination thus far has been Ryan Poehling paired with Mikey Eyssimont and first-year forward Kevin Fitzgerald. This line has combined for 15 points.
Junior defenseman Jimmy Schuldt is having a Will Butcher type season and continues to lead the Huskies offense with 19 points and seven multi-point games. He also has 2 GWG and 3 PPG and +22. Schuldt leads all NCAA blueliners with a scoring average of 1.27 points per game. First-year forward Kevon Fitzgerald is in the midst of a five-game points streak. At the forward position, Robby Jackson continues his productive ways and has moved into second in team scoring with 7 goals and 10 assists for 17 points including 2 power play goals. Ryan Poehling is third in team scoring with 5-11-16 and he has a +8 rating. Jackson has taken over the team lead in goal scoring with 7 goals. Benson, Eyssimont and Schuldt are tied for power play goals with three each. First-year forward Easton Brodzinski is beginning to show his scoring touch with five goals. First-year forward Kevin Fitzgerald has been outstanding both offensively and defensively and leads the rookies in scoring with 4-7-11 and a +8 rating.
Defensively, again, the Huskies are led by team captain Jimmy Schuldt and his outstanding play on both ends of the rink. Schuldt has propped up the defensive units plus/minus with his impressive +22 while the unit as a whole is +54. Will Borgen has certainly ratcheted up his game with 8 points and a +6 rating and provides a physical element that causes the opponent to lose focus on the game. First-year defenseman Luke Jaycox is fully entrenched in the defensive unit and has been one of their most consistent and reliable players and is +6. Jon Lizotte is 2-6-8 and has an outstanding plus.minus of +16.
Outstanding play by junior goaltender Jeff Smith continues. Both his physical and mental preparedness this season is paying off with outstanding numbers. He is currently ranked 9th nationally in save percentage at 92.7% and 14th in goals against at 2.13. Smith is currently 7-1-1. However, Smith is being pushed by first-year goaltender, David Hrenak who has been a competitive back up with a 5-1-0 record, .959 SV% (2nd nationally) and a 1.82 GAA (4th nationally). He also has two shutouts in his five wins. There is no lack of confidence by the team in inserting him into the lineup.
Nationally, the Huskies statistics are as follows:
Offense: 4.27 GPG (1st)
Defense: 2.07 GPG (4th)
Power Play: 25.71% (6th)
Penalty Kill: 82.76% (20th)
Penalty Minutes: 11.27 (39th)
These are one of those dangerous series where if the Huskies sleep-walk into the weekend they could be ambushed by this deceptive Princeton squad currently ranked 49th in the Pairwise. Merely ask the Bemidji State Beavers who earned a 5-3 win in game one and were then defeated in the rematch 4-1 being outshot 40-27. Princeton has some forwards who can bury the puck and they are deadly on the power play currently 12th in the country. With David Hrenak currently in the World Junior Tournament its assumed that Jeff Smith will get the call for both games.
With Smith playing to his usual standard and the Huskies rolling their lines with their advantage in team depth, the Huskies should be favored this weekend. Coaching duties will fall into the capable hands of Mike Gibbons and Garrett Raboin.
Last year at this time the Huskies were ill-prepared in the Dessert Classic getting upset by Connecticut 4-3 and edging Arizona State 4-2. Let’s hope the Huskies are prepared better mentally for this non-conference series with Princeton.