Hockey Preview: Wisconsin
Eric Ohlson, Anthony Spada and Travis Sutton look at this weekend's Big Ten hockey matchup between the Nittany Lions and the Badgers.
It’s shaping up to be an emotional weekend as No. 11 Penn State plays its final home series of the season with No. 16 Wisconsin coming to town. The games will be played on Friday at 7 p.m. and on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena. It will be a huge series, not only for the Nittany Lion seniors who have done so much for this program, but also for the team’s possibility to move into second in the Big Ten.
The Badgers (11-5-0-0 Big Ten) are two games up on the Nittany Lions (9-6-1-0 Big Ten) in the conference standings at the moment. If Penn State manages to even split the series with Wisconsin this weekend Penn State will have the advantage, having won three of the four games between the two teams. Penn State also has the higher overall record at 20-8-2 compared to Wisconsin’s 18-11-1. If Penn State can win out against a struggling Michigan team next week and Wisconsin lose even one game of their upcoming series against No. 13 Ohio State, Penn State will take over second in the conference.
Penn State is coming off of a two game road sweep of Michigan State, a series in which they only trailed for 13 seconds total. The Nittany Lions have regained their mojo from the beginning of the season, winning handily, 4-2 and 4-1 respectively, last weekend.
The Nittany Lions and the Badgers played each other only three weeks ago in Madison. It was a series that Penn State would love to recreate as it resulted in a sweep of Wisconsin, 6-3 and 5-2. That series ended Penn State’s five-game losing streak and Wisconsin’s five game winning streak.
Wisconsin heads to Pennsylvania after splitting their series against the No.5 Minnesota Golden Gophers last week, a team that Penn State was swept by in both series this season. Wisconsin is having the best year the program has seen in a long time, having not had a winning record since the 2013-14 season. Since Penn State swept them, the Badgers have won three of their last four games.
On Saturday, Penn State will honor seniors David Goodwin, Dylan Richard, Zach Saar, Ricky DeRosa and David Thompson for their contributions to the still young Division I program.
In his final home games of his college career, senior Captain David Goodwin will be the player to watch for Penn State. He is currently on his career-best 10-game point streak, having scored in the first game and assisted Nate Sucese in the second game of the Michigan State series last weekend. Goodwin’s streak is tied for the longest point streak at Penn State, which was set earlier this season by Denis Smirnov. Last time he faced the Badgers, Goodwin collected four points across the two games and scored twice in the first game of the series. Surely he will put on yet another show for his last series in Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State will have to watch out for sophomore forward Luke Kunin who leads Wisconsin with 20 goals and 15 assists on the year. Kunin’s goal tally is good enough for second in the Big Ten.
Throughout the series, expect to see an exciting battle from the two top scoring rookies in the Big Ten: Denis Smirnov for the Blue and White and Trent Frederic for the Cardinal and White. Smirnov leads the Big Ten in rookie scoring with 17 goals and 40 points with Frederic looking to catch up with 15 goals and 32 points.
With such good scorers on these two teams it could come down to which defense outplays the other. Penn State has only allowed 2.67 goals per game and have won all 14 games in which they allow two or fewer goals this season. Wisconsin trails with a 3.23 goals allowed per game average but lead in penalty kill percentage (.869 to .836).
Between the irons for Penn State has mainly been freshman Peyton Jones, who currently has 628 saves on the season for a save percentage of .901 and 18 wins. If Jones saves 28 more shots, he will break Penn State’s single-season record.
Wisconsin has a two-goalie system in place, splitting time between freshman Jack Berry and sophomore Matt Jurusik. Both have nine wins on the season but Berry has the higher save percentage and goals against average at .900 and 2.59 respectively.
Penn State has so much motivating it this weekend, as does Wisconsin. Who will come out victorious? Who will take second in the Big Ten? After a long season, it could all come down to this weekend’s series.
Tommy Butler is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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