Penn State vs. Michigan State: Men’s Hockey Series Preview
Following a 3-1 road trip in the state of Minnesota, Penn State returns home to battle the Spartans of Michigan State. A slumping penalty kill against the University of Minnesota deterred the chance at a perfect mark on the trip.
The Nittany Lions have won back-to-back games for the first time since having a four-game win streak snapped on Nov. 5 in Columbus. On the year, Penn State sits at 9-6 (1-5) heading into the first weekend of December.
After hitting a speed bump against Ohio State and Michigan, the rubber has hit the road as of late for the Nittany Lions.
“I think because of those experiences, we were able to play much more of a complete game on the road in Minnesota and all four games,” said coach Guy Gadowsky.
Sophomore forward Tyler Paquette was named Big Ten Second Star of the Week following his efforts against St. Thomas in a Tuesday and Wednesday series before Thanksgiving.
Paquette attributed a multi-goal performance in the series opener, a 5-1 Penn State victory. The following night, the Collegeville, Pennsylvania, native hit twine with the eventual game-winning tally in a 4-1 victory for the blue and white.
Oskar Autio has been steady in goal for the Nittany Lions this season. Autio has attributed massive saves and sees his overall stats at a 2.52 goal against average mixed with a .903 save percentage in net.
Penn State has its heart set on proving that it can compete against the talent in the Big Ten conference.
“We played some of our best hockey against conference opponents,” said Gadowsky. “We have not played all the way through those games though.”
The Spartans post an 8-5-1 (3-3) record entering Happy Valley for the series. The team that calls East Lansing home currently rides a four-game win streak, following a three-game skid.
Michigan State rides a red-hot goaltender in Drew DeRidder. The senior netminder has started 10 of the 14 games for the Spartans this season. DeRidder possesses a 2.08 goals-against average accompanied by a .943 save percentage.
The offense at even strength tends to sputter for the Michigan State squad. The Spartans rank second-to-last in the conference in scoring. Michigan State’s scoring defense sits right in the middle of the Big Ten.
The player to watch out for the Spartans is fifth-year forward Mitchell Lewandowski. He leads the team in points with 13 in total, while only playing nine games this season. The Clarkston, Michigan native has separated himself from his teammates in the plus-minus department with a plus-11 rating.
Penn State poses the more lethal offense in this series, but the matchup is going to be the Nittany Lion forwards finding their way in front of the net and creating problems for DeRidder.
Playing smart hockey and staying out of the penalty box is key for the blue and white. While Michigan State struggles to produce offensively, its power play has been head-scratchingly decent.
The series will open up Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena with a 7 pm puck drop. Saturday’s contest will conclude the two-game set, including a 5 pm start time.
Prediction: Series split
Evan Popalis is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.