Game Preview: No. 9 Penn State vs. Princeton
No. 9 Penn State (11-5-1, 3-4-1) travel to the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia for the 2018 College Hockey Faceoff to face the reeling Princeton Tigers (3-8-1, 3-4-1 ECAC) on Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Expectations were high for the Princeton Tigers coming into the 2018-19 season. Last year, the Tigers finished 19-13-4, won the ECAC conference tournament, and qualified for the NCAA Tournament. Forwards Max Véronneau and Ryan Kuffner returned for their senior seasons, after last year where they both incredibly totaled over 50 points. However, so far, the Tigers have struggled to find any kind of identity over the last several games.
The Tigers started this season off well with a 3-1-1 record, but since then, it has all gone downhill with the team currently on a seven-game losing streak. Most recently, the Tigers played No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils at home for a series, and were unable to win a game.
In the first game, Princeton found themselves down early when they trailed 2-0 by the end of the first period. The Tigers couldn’t generate any offense whatsoever and they fell to the Sun Devils 4-0.
In the second game, the Tigers found themselves in the same scenario, down 2-0 after the first period. However, Véronneau and Kuffner were able to tie the game up with goals in the second period, but it wasn’t enough. After a scoreless third period, senior Jake Clifford got the game-winner for the Sun Devils in overtime, and the Tigers now have dug themselves in a hole.
Meanwhile in Hockey Valley, the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions had a Big Ten series showdown with No. 6 Notre Dame last weekend. In game one, Penn State was able to outshoot the Fighting Irish 48 to 24, but it wasn’t enough in the 5-4 loss. Goaltender Chris Funkey got pulled out of the game, after allowing two quick goals early in the second period, and the Fighting Irish were able to hold on.
In the second game, the Nittany Lions looked like a completely different team. After being down 1-0 early in the first period, Penn State went on to score nine unanswered goals in a dominating 9-1 win. Evan Barratt (1G, 3A), Chase Berger (1G, 3A) and Alex Limoges (2G, 1A) all had big games. PSU’s dynamic offense hopes to continue their explosive attack against Princeton on Saturday. The Nittany Lions have played great offensively all season, and although the defense and goaltending have been up and down all year, this team will be in the race for the Big Ten all year long.
Princeton and Penn State meet for the second time this season. Penn State won the first meeting 4-2 at Pegula Ice Arena on Oct. 26. For Princeton to have a chance in this game, they have to keep up with Penn State’s high-powered offense. The Tigers desperately need a win, so look for Véronneau and Kuffner to play a factor. On the other hand, Penn State will score goals, but the question still lies in their defense and goaltending. In the 9-1 win last Saturday, Guy Gadowsky gave the starting goalie nod to Peyton Jones and it worked out, so look for him to do the same in this game.
The Tigers are the more desperate team, but the Nittany Lions should have too much firepower on offense for them in this one.
Prediction: Penn State 5, Princeton 3
Matthew McClure is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.