Spartans and Nittany Lions Prepare to Battle It Out as the Two Top Teams in the Big Ten

Story posted November 17, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Joshua Bartosik

Another pivotal test lies ahead for the No. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions as they prepare to take on the No. 17 Michigan State Spartans.

The Nittany Lions are coming off yet another split with the No. 1 team in the nation, making them the only team in NCAA history to beat the top-ranked team twice in one season.

The previous series against No. 2 Minnesota saw the return of Chase McLane, who has missed the last several months with a lower-body injury. His presence was felt almost immediately, as he drilled Logan Cooley into the boards and broke the glass.

“He’s tough. He plays a very honest game,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He’s that kind of guy.”

“It felt pretty good, a lot of preparation came into it,” McLane said. “I felt like I jumped in there pretty well.”

McLane’s return adds more depth to an already extremely deep forward core, along with going 7-for-11 in the faceoff dots against the Golden Gophers.

“We’ve been good on the left-hand side with Lamppa and [MacEachern] specifically,” Gadowsky said. “But our percentage on the right-hand side hasn’t been as good and Chase has really helped with that.”

Despite having such a historic early run in the season, including a program-best 10-2-0 start, the season is simply just that: early.

“It’s a long season, it’s early, I think there’s a long way to go,” Gadowsky said. “But what we’ve learned as a coaching staff is that the work the guys have put in is very beneficial.”

“We recognize that feeling in the locker room, that we can compete with the best,” senior forward Connor MacEachern said. “But at the same time, it’s still early and that’s a process.”

While the start of the season has been special, the special teams for the blue and white have been anything but.

Penn State’s power play sits at an abysmal 11.8%, including going 1-for-21 in its last six contests. The penalty kill has been slightly better, but not by much, hovering at 77.8%.

Special teams will play a vital role in this series once again, as the Spartans have the eighth-best penalty kill in the nation and the best in the Big Ten.

Michigan State has turned heads all season, going from dead last in the Big Ten last year to holding the top spot after their sweep over the No. 12 Ohio State Buckeyes.

First-year head coach Adam Nightingale has turned the Spartans from a bottom-feeder into a true Big Ten contender in the blink of an eye, in large part due to the performances of Daniel Russell and Dylan St. Cyr.

As a freshman, Russell has been just the spark needed to ignite the green and white, with 15 points in 12 games. Yet the talk of the town has been the man between the pipes.

St. Cyr, the former Notre Dame and Quinnipiac netminder, has had a resurgence in net for the Spartans.

He won Big Ten First Star of the Week after stopping 88-of-89 shots against the Wisconsin Badgers, and only gave up 5 goals on 65 shots in Michigan State’s sweep over the Buckeyes.

St. Cyr’s elite play is one of the key reasons the Spartans only give up 2.3 goals per game, along with their sound defensive structure.

The Nittany Lions have an elite goaltender of their own, however. Junior Liam Souliere has stepped into the spotlight in his first year as the true starter for the blue and white after the departure of Oskar Autio.

Souliere has been lights out for Penn State, with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .932 save percentage. He’s coming off a similar series to St. Cyr, stopping 59-of-64 possible shots in the Nittany Lions’ split against Minnesota.

In a matchup between the best and second-best teams in the Big Ten, it could have massive implications for how the rest of the conference plays out, no matter how early into the season it is.

“If anybody takes anybody in this league lightly, it’s a big mistake,” Gadowsky said. “It’s up to us to play at our highest level.”

Joshua Bartosik is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email