Series Preview: Men’s Hockey vs. Michigan State
Host Jeremy Ganes and analysts Jordan Hession and Jacob Cheris break down Penn State's struggles against Michigan and look ahead to the Nittany Lions' upcoming road series with Michigan State.
Coming into the season, many people projected Michigan State to be at the bottom of the Big Ten, but the Spartans have flipped that narrative on its head. Michigan State comes into this series against Penn State currently tied with the Nittany Lions for second in the Big Ten with 25 points.
The importance of this series cannot be understated for either team. Both teams are battling for the top of the Big Ten and any slip up could be costly as the season is winding down.
Penn State needs to find consistent offense if it wants any chance to have a successful weekend. However, Michigan State is one of the stingiest defensive teams in the country.
Michigan State allows only 2.3 goals per game, and its opponents have a shooting percentage of just .071. This is in large part due to the season that goalie John Lethemon is having. The senior net minder has posted a mind-boggling .943 save percentage so far this season.
Michigan State also likes to block shots. It will be important for Penn State to get as many shots towards the net as possible, because Lethemon is going to save a lot of them, and the defense is going to block a lot as well. The more chances Penn State gives itself to score, by shooting as many shots as possible, the better. Penn State’s forte is “shoot, shoot, shoot” which could help in trying to score against Michigan State’s great defense and goaltending.
These two teams matched up earlier this season and split the series at Pegula Ice Arena.
In the first game Penn State shot as much as it could, but Lethemon turned away all 48 shots the Nittany Lions put on net in a 2-0 Michigan State win.
In the second game, Penn State seemed to crack the code, though. They scored six goals on 31 shots in 6-4 win.
Penn State’s offense will need to show up for both games if it wants a chance to split this series in East Lansing. Even if the offense is solid, Michigan State’s defense and goaltending is so good that the Spartans could steal a low scoring win in at least one game.
Peyton Jones is also going to need to step up. Since a scorching hot start to the Jones has been inconsistent. In his last start, he allowed six goals against Michigan. Simply put, he needs to be better than that if Penn State wants a chance to win this weekend.
It is crucial for each team to get at least a split. If either team gets swept it could fall to as low as fourth in the Big Ten, as well as dropping in the Pairwise rankings to a position where the only route to the tournament is by winning the Big Ten tournament.
Both teams know what is on the line this weekend, and both teams will show up and play their best hockey.
Prediction: 1-1 split
Game 1: Michigan State 2, Penn State 1
Game 2: Penn State 4, Michigan 2
Zech Lambert is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.