Series Grades: Michigan State
To start the second half of the season, the 11th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions welcomed the Michigan State Spartans to Pegula Ice Arena for an all-important Big Ten series this weekend. Penn State continued to play very well offensively in both games, but defensively, there is still a problem with this team in the final 20 minutes, and they were only able to come away with a split. The Nittany Lions got up 3-0 midway through the second period and were able to hold on 4-2 for the win in game one. In game two, the Nittany Lions were down 3-1 after the first period, but battled back to tie it up 3-3 at the end of two. However, the Spartans scored three goals in the third period and took game two, 6-4. Here are my game grades for Penn State this weekend:
One of the top offenses in College Hockey continued to roll this weekend with eight goals. It was a big weekend for junior forward Brandon Biro and senior forward Chase Berger who both combined for four total points.
In game one, Penn State came out firing and scored three unanswered goals from the likes of Kevin Kerr, Nikita Pavlychev and Nate Sucese. Liam Folkes got in on the action in the third period when he scored his 10th goal of the season. Penn State outshot the Spartans 39-27, and controlled most of the game after getting off to the early lead.
In Saturday’s contest, the offense continued to play well. Although the Spartans got up 3-1 after the first period, Penn State battled back with two goals from Berger in the second period. Nate Sucese scored in the third period but it wasn’t enough in the loss.
Michigan State did a good job on some of Penn State’s star players like Evan Barrett and Alex Limoges, but it was nice to see other guys step up and be successful on offense.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions continue to struggle, especially in the third period. Michigan State scored eight goals this weekend, six of them in Saturday’s game. In Friday’s 4-2 win, the defense played pretty well, but allowed the Spartans back into the game in the second period. The Nittany Lions did have five penalties, but luckily the Spartans only could take advantage of one of those opportunities.
Saturday’s game is why Penn State gets a tough grade on defense. After being tied 3-3 at the end of the second period, the Nittany Lions third period woes continue. The Spartans scored three goals in the period and were able to hang on for the win. Brennan Sanford and Mitchell Lewandowski put the Spartans on their back and led them in the final minutes. The Penn State defense has to start playing better because, as of right now, they are on the outside looking in in the Big Ten standings right now.
Penn State went with Peyton Jones in both games this weekend, and in game one he played well. Jones had 25 saves on 27 shots for his ninth win of the season. However, in the second game Jones struggled by allowing five goals on 36 shots. He did have 31 saves, but he has to be better in big moments and sometimes bail his team out with big saves. It seems like Jones is going to be the guy for the Nittany Lions moving forward because he has started the last six games.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions looked ready to play out of the gate in Friday’s 4-2 win. Other players stepped up and Gadowsky has to be happy with that. On the other hand, Gadowsky can’t be happy about his team’s performance in the 6-4 loss. It’s a lack of execution in the final 20 minutes, and it’s something they need to fix moving forward if they want to compete for the Big Ten regular season title.
Matthew McClure is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.