Penn State Men’s Hockey Series Preview: Wisconsin

Story posted February 20, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Kyle Cannillo

The Nittany Lions look to keep their slim NCAA tournament chances alive as they host Wisconsin this weekend in Pegula Ice Arena. Andre Magaro, Jordan Mansberger and Derek Heid get you set for everything you need to know for this weekend's action:

Penn State will return to Hockey Valley to take on Wisconsin this Friday and Saturday. While the Nittany Lions have maybe the most talented team in program history, their tournament chances are dwindling. With the Badgers coming to town this weekend, Penn State must get the job done in both nights to keep their season alive.

Penn State currently sits at 18th in the national PairWise poll with four games remaining. The way the tournament is structured, each conference is given an automatic bid; this hurts the Nittany Lions tremendously.  The winner of the Atlantic Hockey Conference would take a spot away from Penn State even if they managed to get within the the top 16. With that being said, Penn State must move up three spots in two weeks to insure themselves even the slightest chance of making it.

Once again, Michigan State spoils the Nittany Lion’s plans. Last weekend, Jones made just nine saves on 13 shots over the first 28:25 before being relieved by freshman Oskar Autio.

While the Nittany Lions defeated the Spartans the next day 5-3, Penn State will return home with a disappointing split and some terrible news.

Penn State’s Hobey Baker candidate and prolific offensive threat Evan Barratt was injured in game one of the series and did not play in game two. There is no timetable for his return and his availability against Wisconsin in doubtful. The injury has now vaulted linemate Alex Limoges as the Nittany Lion’s leading scorer. Head coach Guy Gadowsky will have to jungle his lines and find the chemistry soon.

Wisconsin has some tough news of its own, with its leading scorer and 22nd overall pick of the 2018 NHL draft, K’Andre Miller, doubtful to return to the Badgers this weekend.

The Badgers have been underperforming offensively all season. With Miller being out, Wisconsin's top scorer is now Seamus Malone, who has 20 points in 30 games. To put that in perspective, the Nittany Lions have eight skaters with more than 20 points in the same amount of games.

Despite that, this same Wisconsin team split with the Nittany Lion in their first meeting, including a game ending 8-5 in favor of the Badgers. That game will most likely go down as the Nittany Lion’s worst loss of the season.

Wisconsin has won just twice in its last 12 games, a stretch that has solidified them last place in the Big Ten. Most recently, however, they split with Notre Dame on the road.

The NCAA’s second-worst penalty kill belongs to Wisconsin as they have been killing just 72 percent of powerplay’s. Combine that with Penn State’s top five ranked powerplay and the Badgers could be in for a long weekend.  

On paper, Penn State should dominate this series. On ice, it will be extremely competitive. All season long, Penn State has kept underdogs in close games and has let them jump out to early leads. With just two weeks until post season hockey, Penn State has just one Big Ten sweep. If Penn State wants to keep their NCAA tournament chances alive, a sweep this weekend is a must. “Will they sweep?” is a different question.

With that being said, we predict another split. This will nearly mathematically end Penn State’s tournament hopes unless they can win the Big Ten.

 

 

Kyle Cannillo is a freshman at Penn State studying broadcast journalism. To contact please email kcannillo1@gmail.com.