This past weekend, the Queens University Golden Gaels had the unfortunate task of taking on Michigan State and Michigan a week before the two powers clash in front of 72,000 fans in Spartan Stadium.
The Golden Gaels were used like a crash-test dummy by the Spartans and Wolverines on consecutive days, losing Saturday to Michigan State 14-2 and yesterday to Michigan 9-0.
With the “Cold War” getting closer by the minute, it would be easy for the Spartans and Wolverines to use the other team”s performance against Queens as a tool for preparing for Saturday”s game. Michigan coach Red Berenson didn”t pay much attention.
“I just went home,” Berenson said when asked if he saw the Michigan State game on Saturday. “I got a good night”s sleep last night.”
One coach who was forced to pay close attention to both games was Queens coach Chris MacDonald, whose team was outshot 51-15 against Michigan State and 66-10 by Michigan.
“(Michigan State) is a big team, they”re strong,” MacDonald said. “I think Michigan has great speed. What I”m thinking is that I”d love to have a ticket to that game next weekend.”
The first thing MacDonald noticed about the Spartans was their goaltender, last season”s Hobey Baker winner Ryan Miller.
“He”s a pro. I don”t know how much longer he”s going to be in college,” MacDonald said. “Once you get past their defense who are all returning players and are very mobile, and you get a chance to shoot, there”s this guy. I would be shocked if he doesn”t play in the NHL next year. He”s that good.”
The Golden Gaels lacked offensive punch all weekend long, but did manage two goals against Miller, who played all 60 minutes. Scoring two goals on Miller and the Spartan defense was something that didn”t happen very often last season.
“I think the defense at Michigan State is more mobile and has a little more speed,” MacDonald said. “They like to jump up into the play a little more. Although we lost big, we still had some chances that we created because their defense was getting up ice, getting a little greedy. They seemed to have a cowboy mentality they liked to gamble, run up, see what they can do on offense.”
Michigan”s defense never allowed the Queens offensive attack to get off the ground. MacDonald felt the Wolverines came out with a more conservative approach at the blue line than the Spartans.
“Michigan strikes me as a team that likes to stay at home and move the puck,” MacDonald said. “When it comes down to playoff time and you want to keep your goals-against down, I like Michigan”s defense.”
Michigan State was able to convert on four out of eight powerplay opportunities against the Golden Gaels. The Spartans also held Queens scoreless when they were under-manned. The Wolverines also were able to tally four powerplay goals, two coming off the stick of freshman Eric Nystrom.
“I think both teams have great special teams,” MacDonald said. “I don”t see a major difference between their powerplays. I wouldn”t want to be the referee calling a penalty late in the game against either of those two clubs, because it”s probably going to make the difference.”