Penn State vs. Minnesota Men’s Hockey Series Preview
After getting swept in its first two Big Ten series, Penn State (6-5, 0-4-0) will look to get in the win column for the first time since Oct. 30 as they head to Minneapolis to battle No. 7 Minnesota (7-5, 4-2-0) at 3M Arena at Mariucci.
Despite the rocky start, coach Guy Gadowsky remains optimistic that it will all come together soon, but it’s still a work in progress.
“I think we learned a lot. I hope we learned a lot,” Gadowsky said. “We learned some good and learned some bad. So for both of those reasons, I think we'll be better off.”
Through four conference games, the Nittany Lions have been outscored 20-6, but still rank inside the Top-20 in goals per game with 3.27.
Kevin Wall, Connor MacEachern and Ben Copeland are three Penn State forwards that have contributed quite a bit offensively through 11 games, as Wall specifically is averaging one point per game.
Copeland, an Edina, Minnesota native, which is about a 20-minute drive from Minnesota’s campus, has chipped in eight points and is excited to play in front of family and friends.
“My sister goes to Minnesota, so obviously they're gonna have lots of family there,” Copeland said.
Defenseman Clayton Phillips, who transferred to Penn State before the 2019-2020 season from Minnesota, has had great success against his former club.
In six games against the Gophers, including four at Mariucci, the Edina, Minnesota resident has three points and has played fundamentally sound against his hometown team.
The goaltending situation for Gadowsky’s team has been a back-and-forth affair so far as both Oskar Autio and Liam Soulière have gotten significant action through 11 games.
Autio, a senior, has a record of 4-3 in seven games played with a goals-against average of 2.58 and a save percentage of .900.
Soulière, a sophomore, has played in four games, notching a 2-2 record with a goals-against average of 3.75 and a save percentage of .887.
Minnesota entered the 2021-2022 campaign with high hopes and aspirations after a Big Ten Tournament championship, scheduling a tough out of conference schedule with the likes of St. Cloud State and Minnesota Duluth.
Bob Motzko’s club has started off Big Ten play on the right foot, but it could be better considering the lackluster play of defending Richter Award winner Jack LaFontaine.
The Carolina Hurricanes prospect has played in all 12 games, registering a 7-5 record with a goals-against average of 2.61 and a save percentage of .898.
Offensively, the Gophers have three players with over 10-points and have been the main players on the attack.
Blake McLaughlin, Bryce Brodzinski and Ben Meyers, the three “B’s” have combined for 33 of the team’s 102 points. Brodzinski leads the goals category with six and McLaughlin leads in assists and points with 10 and 13, respectively.
Defensively, two highly touted prospects in Ryan Johnson and Brock Faber have had strong starts to the season with a combined 13 points, 11 of them being assists.
Penn State and Minnesota have had some tightly contested battles over the years. As of late, however, the Nittany Lions have posted a 12-4-1 record over the Gophers in the last 17 meetings.
Expect both sides to come out of the gate flying as tensions are typically high whenever the two sides meet.
Minnesota has struggled covering the middle of the ice through this early portion of the season and Penn State will have to execute on that end and pepper LaFontaine with shots.
Christopher Hess is a fifth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.