MHKY: Penn State vs. Minnesota Preview
The regular season comes to a close this weekend as the No. 18 Penn State Nittany Lions host the No. 8 Minnesota Golden Gophers in a two-game series. Puck drops at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday.
The Nittany Lions enter the weekend at 14-13-5 (7-10-5-2 Big Ten) at what they hope is the end of a long winless streak. Over their last nine games dating back to January 13 they’ve lost eight including two shoot-out losses. They ended the skid with a 3-2 win at Michigan State last weekend.
Before the skid started, Penn State was ranked 13th in the country and was fighting for position near the top of the Big Ten standings. Now they are tied for fifth place in the conference.
The Golden Gophers are 19-13-2 (10-10-2-1 Big Ten) on the year and have been more consistent of late, going 6-1-1 over the last eight games. With one win this weekend they could clinch their ranking in the Big Ten.
Minnesota holds the series advantage in both the all-time record and during games played in Pegula Ice Arena. The Golden Gophers have defeated the Nittany Lions 14 times in 19 matches and six out of eight in Pegula.
Despite the results of past games, Penn State still holds the advantage on paper. The Nittany Lions score nearly a full goal more per game on average than the Golden Gophers (3.56-2.68) and have a higher power-play percentage at .205 compared to .139.
Though Minnesota’s offense averages over a goal fewer than last year, the team makes up for it in defense. The Golden Gophers have given up 22 fewer goals and have nearly a full goal advantage on the Nittany Lions (2.32-3.16). They also have five shutouts on the season compared to Penn State’s two.
The man between the posts for Minnesota, Mat Robson, has been a key to the recent string of wins as he has put up a 7-2-1 record on the season. He only allows 1.53 goals per game and saves 94.5 percent of shots, placing him in second and third in the nation in those statistics respectively.
Penn State junior Andrew Sturtz will be called upon to put the pressure on Robson. His 11 career points (four goals, seven assists) against Robson leads current Nittany Lions. Sturtz also leads the team in points with 37 on 13 goals and 24 assists.
For the Golden Gophers, they’ll rely on Rem Pitlick (26 points on 11 goals and 15 assists) to keep the score in their favor. Though their offense hasn’t been as strong as past years, the Gophers have consistency in Pitlick, Brent Gates Jr. and Tyler Sheehy that Penn State will have to worry about. Gates Jr. has 25 points on the year (11 goals, 14 assists) and Sheehy has 24 points (12 goals, 12 assists).
Penn State will hope that it’s shoot-first attacking plan can power it to victory this weekend and prevent it from falling further from the top ranks in college hockey while Minnesota focuses on putting just enough pucks in the back of the net while relying on it’s defense to keep Penn State off balance.
Tommy Butler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.