Hockey Preview: Mercyhurst
George Stockburger, Travis Sutton and Brian McLaughlin break down this weekend's matchup between Penn State and Mercyhurst.
After a strong opening weekend against No. 16 St. Lawrence, Penn State men’s hockey will travel to Erie to face off against the Mercyhurst Lakers.
Penn State played a solid opening game to begin its season, upsetting the Saints 4-2. However, the second game did not go so smoothly for the boys in blue and white as true freshman Peyton Jones gave up three goals in the opening five minutes of action and the Nittany Lions fell 6-3.
That brings us to Penn State’s gaping weakness coming into this season. For starters, the team is very young. While this freshman class may be the most heralded group in the history of Penn State recruiting (not just hockey), that does not mean they don’t need experience. Even 6-7, 212-pound monster Nikita Pavlychev will need time to develop. There are 10 freshmen on a roster of 27 players, which is a stunning 37% of the team. Even more impressive is the fact that this is twice the amount of seniors on the team.
While inexperienced, this young lineup fits perfectly into the mold that Guy Gadowski wants his team to play with; speed all over the ice and lots of shots. In the Lions’ first two games against St. Lawrence they took a total of 85 shots on goal. The Saints took just 56 shots on goal. This difference is exactly what Gadowski hopes to see out of his players and should lead to a high-scoring team.
This offensive scheme will be put to the test against Mercyhurst who returns junior Goalie Brandon Wildung. Wildung split time in the net last year with senior Adam Carlson and now looks to take control of the primary role in between the pipes. Wildung tallied 632 saves last year and tallied over 1000 minutes in the goal. Also returning for the Lakers are leading point scorer Derek Barach and leading goal scorer Jonathan Charbonneau. Penn State will look to leading returner on defense Kevin Kerr to slow down this strong attack from the Lakers.
When we turn to the Penn State offense, it returns a good mix of experience and new faces to form a powerful attack. As aforementioned, this is a team that looks to outshoot its opponent night in and night out. They are led by senior forward David Goodwin, who was also the leading point scorer last season. Also returning are Andrew Sturtz and Chase Berger, who look to step up in the goals department this year. Another thing to watch for is an all-freshman line headed by center Nikita Pavlychev, who looks to park his large frame in front of the net, causing eyesight problems for goalies and hoping to scoop up any wayward rebounds.
With a win this weekend, the Nittany Lions could be looking at their first ranking of this young season as they currently sit just outside the top 20. At the end of the day, Penn State should come away with the victory against Mercyhurst behind its powerful attack.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.