Series Grades: Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Michigan State
Second halves of series have been a problem this season for No. 5 Penn State, but against No. 17 Michigan State the second halves of games became the problem.
The Nittany Lions squandered two-goal leads in both games leading to an overtime loss in game one and a shootout loss in game two.
Here’s a look at how each of the blue and white positional groups fared during their first series loss of the season.
The forwards did what they needed to do: shoot the puck. The Nittany Lions shot 83 times in two games, giving them a weekend average that was slightly above their season average of 40 shots per game.
Dylan St. Cyr was able to stop all but six of those shots as the blue and white failed to string together high-quality chances. Kevin Wall continued his senior year success with his 12th goal of the season and was joined by Tyler Paquette, Ture Linden and Danny Dzhaniyev on the scoresheet.
Connor MacEachern recorded Penn State’s shootout goal in game two, but it was too little as the forwards in blue and white needed to be perfect with Michigan State going 3-for-3.
For a group that has won faceoffs at a 54.3% clip this season, the Nittany Lions could not gain too much of an upper hand as they held a slim 71-to-68 advantage over the weekend.
It was not the young defensive group's worst performance of the season, that came in the second game of the first series against Michigan State, but they certainly did not start the new year on the right foot.
Even with an extra defenseman dressed as Guy Gadowsky opted to use Jimmy Dowd Jr. as the extra skater for both games, the defense group looked a step behind at times.
The Nittany Lions took leads in both games and the defensive pairings played a little bit looser leading to high-quality opportunities for the Spartans. Jagger Joshua, who had a hat trick in the finale, and the rest of the Spartans capitalized on those opportunities in front of Liam Souliere and erased the Nittany Lion leads.
Jarod Crespo and Simon Mack both contributed on the offensive end as Crespo recorded his first collegiate goal in game one and Mack recorded his second collegiate goal in game two.
One day after being named to the Mike Richter Award Watch List for the best goaltender in NCAA Division I men’s hockey, Liam Souliere had his worst series of the season.
While his team did not do him many favors, Souliere yielded seven goals during the two-game series, which is the most he allowed in a series this season. His previous high in terms of goals against in a series was six, which came in the first series against Michigan State and again versus Notre Dame.
The Ontario native made 63 saves over the weekend, but when the Nittany Lions needed saves the most during the game two shootout, Souliere could not come up with one. The Spartans snuck all three shootout attempts past the junior netminder to secure an extra point in the Big Ten standings.
It had been two weeks since Penn State had last seen game action, yet even with the extra time off the Nittany Lions did not look ready to go against a team that had lost its previous five games and seven of its last eight.
Part of the problem are the season-long struggles on special teams that were evident in East Lansing. The blue and white had six power play opportunities in game one and capitalized twice, both of which were on the 5-on-3 advantage. The struggles of the 5-on-4 continued in game two when Penn State went 1-for-5.
The penalty kill looked the part on Friday night going 5-for-5, but in the finale on Saturday that sure-handed unit from the night before allowed Michigan State to convert twice in four tries.
Gadowsky and company will need to have this team better prepared as they will look to rebound when they welcome Notre Dame into Pegula Ice Arena next weekend.
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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