Penn State Hockey Weekend Preview
Alissa Devine, Marty Kassalen, Brian Donnelly, and Eric Ohlson preview this weekend's series between Penn State and the Wisconsin Badgers.
The No. 15 Penn State Nittany Lions (13-4-3, 3-1-0-0 B1G) look to continue to dominate at Pegula Ice Arena as they host the Wisconsin Badgers (4-8-6, 1-3-2-1 B1G) for a Big Ten showdown this Friday and Saturday.
The Nittany Lions have won the past four contests against the Badgers, the longest win streak against any opponent in Division I program history. While Penn State has benefitted handsomely from home ice advantage throughout the past two seasons with a record of 22-5-4, Wisconsin has a record of 2-2 while playing at the Peg.
In 20 games this season, Penn State has topped all major statistical categories from the 2014-2015 season, which was a record-breaking year itself.
The key to success for the Nittany Lions has been its explosive offense that averages 4.15 goals per game, a stat that is tied for fourth in NCAA Division I play. The impressive offensive numbers stem from the team’s ability to generate shots on net, as they lead the nation in shots per game with 44.10.
One story line all year for Penn State is their success on the power play. Their power play ranks sixth nationally with a percentage of .262, but the Badgers have the sixth best penalty kill in the country that has successfully killed 60 of 68 penalties this season including eight of nine last weekend against Ohio State. On the other side of the puck, Wisconsin only has a power play percentage of .200 while PSU has scored seven shorthanded goals, a stat that leads the country.
If Wisconsin is going to outlast Penn State, they will need junior forward Grant Besse to get back to his old ways. Besse finally ended his seven-game goal drought after finding the back of the net last Saturday. The Badgers can only hope Besse is beginning to find his stride again after being the teams leading goal scorer and point getter last season.
In addition to Besse, the Badgers freshman forward Luke Kunin leads the team with seven goals and poses quite a threat in opposing zones.
Wisconsin has already tied its win total from last season and a big reason for that is the team’s ability to stay in the game. They have scored six goals in the final minute of play this season and five of those games have led to either a tie or a win.
They also have found success in overtime going 1-0-11 in their last 12 OT contests without recording an OT loss.
Freshman goaltender Matt Jurusik has started 15 consecutive games, but will have his hands full with some of the star freshman on the Penn State side. Between forwards Chase Berger, Andrew Sturtz and Alec Marsh, the trio has scored 24 goals so far this season in their first year with the team.
While the Lions look much more equipped by the looks of the stats and depth charts, this weekend has high implications for both teams and could prove to be extremely important when shaking out the final standings in the Big Ten.
Puck drop for the first game of the series is scheduled for 6:30pm on Friday. Be sure to tune in right here on ComRadio.
Mike D’Avella is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.