Hockey Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan

Story posted January 28, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Alissa Devine

After splitting last weekend’s series against Ohio State, Penn State (16-5-3, 6-2-0-0 Big Ten) will face Michigan (14-3-4, 5-1-2-1 Big Ten) for a Thursday night white out game at Pegula Ice Arena.

Sporting white attire in the roar zone is a continuing tradition in Happy Valley when welcoming the Michigan Wolverines into the Pegula Ice Arena.

As Big Ten play continues and the stakes get higher, Penn State looks to come off of their 5-1 Saturday loss against the Buckeyes.

The 15th-ranked Nittany Lions return to host No. 6 Wolverines in a critical home ice faceoff before travelling to Madison Square garden. The two teams will be featured in an inaugural Big Ten Super Saturday doubleheader with men’s basketball. 

The home game Thursday in Penn State’s own Pegula Ice Arena, will set the tone for Saturday’s game in the Big Apple. In addition, The Nittany Lions will faceoff against their first top 10 opponent this year in Happy Valley for a thrilling game this Thursday night.

Despite the home advantage on Thursday, the Wolverines will be a tough battle for Penn State’s Nittany Lions, as they enter Pegula Ice Arena on a six-game unbeaten streak. On top of that, Michigan State hasn’t dropped an away game since Nov. 20 against No. 11 Boston University.

Both, the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines are elite goal-scoring teams with solid defense and goaltenders to back them up. Playing Saturday’s game in Madison Square Garden makes it a more significant game, but also the fact that both of these teams score goals when it counts and lead the nation under several categories statistically.

Michigan State leads the nation in goals per game at 4.86, while Penn State is close behind ranked fifth and tallying 3.96 goals per game, but holding their opponents to only 2.7 goals per game. The Nittany Lions have also excelled in past years and again this year leading the nation in shots on net per game (43.96), which may give them an offensive advantage this weekend.

With regards to special teams, Penn State has struggled on the power play as of late, but has been especially proficient short-handed with 10 short-handed goals through 24 games and again leading the nation in another category. Being able to capitalize one man down will be key for the weekend’s series, especially because of the fact that Michigan’s penalty kill isn’t anything spectacular.

Not only have the Nittany Lions dominated under short-handed circumstances, they have also prevailed in overtime play this season, being one of four teams with three overtime winning goals. Therefore, the Nittany Lions would have the edge going into over time this weekend, especially on home ice. However, hockey can be a funny game sometimes and any bounce of the puck can give a team the OT win. 

Penn State should watch out for Michigan’s offensive duo of freshman Kyle Connor and junior Tyler Mott who have a team-high of 18 goals, surpassing Penn State’s leading scorer Andrew Sturtz with only 12 goals. Penn State will look to hold Connor and Mott under more defensive attention to reduce Michigan’s scoring opportunities. Playmaker JT Compher, who has 25 assists, will also be a main target in Blue and Gold for Penn State’s defense.

On the other end, Michigan has a lot of players to focus their attention on, including David Goodwin who has had a lot of past success over the Wolverines. David Goodwin has had the most points against Michigan with 10 in eight appearances, with Eric Sheid right behind him at 8 points.

In addition to the players who have had a lot of success against Michigan in the past, the Wolverines should also keep an eye on Penn State’s young talent. The freshman for the Blue and White have been the difference makers for Penn State as of late, making the big plays you usually don’t see from inexperienced freshman.

Suspensions on Michigan’s side might also benefit the Nittany Lions in addition to home ice advantage Thursday. The Wolverines will have to play without Cutler Martin and Dexter Dancs who are both suspended for Thursday’s game due to an altercation at the conclusion of the Michigan-Ohio State game on Jan. 17. However, Dancs will be back for Saturday’s game at the Garden.

Keep an eye out for Penn State’s young guns and David Goodwin, as the puck drops in Pegula Ice Arena this Thursday against a tough Michigan opponent at 7 p.m.

Alissa Devine is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email alissadevine96@gmail.com.