Penn State vs. Michigan Series Preview
A familiar foe is next on the docket for Penn State, heading down a must-win path for the blue and white. The Nittany Lions trek to Ann Arbor to play No. 4 Michigan.
The Wolverines got the upper hand when these teams last met, sweeping Penn State at Pegula Ice Arena. Surprisingly, Michigan has not swept a Big Ten opponent since these teams went toe-to-toe.
It has been 25 months since Penn State found itself in Yost Arena to play against Michigan. Senior defenseman Clayton Phillips addressed his thoughts on returning to Yost and putting the Notre Dame series behind him.
“It is not hard,” Phillips said. “It is a pretty crazy environment there and is easy to get up for.”
Three Nittany Lions were spotlighted on the Hobey Baker nominee list earlier in the week. Phillips and junior forwards Kevin Wall and Connor MacEachern were a part of the initial 77 player list.
Michigan bolsters a 9-5-1 record on home ice this season. The blue and white are 5-4-0 away from the confines of Pegula.
Currently, Michigan is second in the conference standings behind Minnesota as Penn State patrols the basement but could surpass Wisconsin this weekend.
The Wolverines possess four skaters over the 20-point mark on the season. Brendan Brisson and Matty Beniers are the pure shooters on this team that buried the Nittany Lions back in the middle stages of November.
Following a two-goal performance against Notre Dame, sophomore defender Jimmy Dowd Jr. is eager to get back on the ice and move on from the last series.
“We have to put it behind us,” Dowd Jr. said. “Put it behind us but learn from it. We can’t completely forget about it.”
MacEachern will be unavailable for the Nittany Lions this weekend. The status of Ryan Kirwan is unknown, but having him re-inserted in the lineup in MacEachern’s spot would benefit the blowout Penn State faces on the game-impacting line.
Kirwan is tied with Dowd Jr. for fourth on Penn State with 14 points during the regular season.
For Penn State to be successful, it must start with solid defense and have that turned into a proficient attacking scheme. The Nittany Lions are continuing to search for and rely on depth scoring to keep the opposition on its heels.
As the leading goalscorer, Wall will be expected to continue to play his gritty brand of hockey to find the necessary scoring plays to assist the Nittany Lions to potentially find victory.
The emotional rollercoaster the Nittany Lions have been riding is concerning as they enter this series. Penn State could start hot early in these games, but Michigan can use longevity and more profound talent to prevail.
Prediction: Michigan sweeps
Evan Popalis is a fourth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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