Series Preview: Michigan
Josh Starr, Joe Murphy and Eric Ohlson preview Penn State's upcoming Big Ten series against the Michigan Wolverines at Pegula Ice Arena.
This weekend, No. 15 Penn State plays host to the rival Michigan Wolverines at Pegula Ice Arena. The Wolverines rank just outside the Top 20, according to USCHO.com.
Penn State comes into this matchup with a record of 3-3 after splitting the series with
American International. Michigan is representing a record of 3-1 after sweeping the University of Vermont.
The Nittany Lions beat American International 7-5 on last Thursday and then lost 3-2 in overtime on Friday. The Wolverines beat Vermont by scores of 4-1 and 3-2.
Penn State is led by forward Denis Smirnov, who has a team-leading four goals and 10 points overall. Smirnov led all freshmen in scoring last year with 47 points and looks to be on pace for another great season.
The Big Ten champions of last year also receive contributions from forward Andrew Sturtz and defensemen Cole Hults. Sturtz and Hults have totaled five points each through six games this season.
Goaltender Peyton Jones has made some highlight reel plays this season, particularly a crazy glove save against Minnesota. Jones has had some ups and downs in this early season, but look for him to get back to being one of the best goalies on hockey this weekend against Michigan.
The Wolverines have a balanced scoring attack as forward Josh Norris is leading the team in scoring with four points through four games. Norris is tied for the team lead with two goals and has attempted the most points on the team.
Michigan forwards Jake Slaker and Will Lockwood have also been great contributors for the Wolverines outside of Norris. Slaker and Lockwood have accumulated three points each this season. Slaker also has a game winning goal against University of Vermont this past Saturday.
The Wolverines have used a two-goaltender system so far this season as both Jack LaFontaine and Hayden Lavigne have each played two games. LaFontaine has only allowed two goals in his two games, while Lavigne has allowed five goals in two games. The goaltenders have been a strength early this season for Michigan.
A matchup to watch in this series should be the special team units for both teams. Penn State has been superb on the man advantage this season, as they are 33 percent on the power play. However, the Wolverines have not allowed a goal on 82 percent of their man down situations.
Michigan’s power play has struggled in this early season as they are only converting on nine percent of their power play opportunities. Penn State is killing opponents power plays 86 percent of the time.
So, whichever team converts more on the man advantage could be a huge difference maker in who wins this series.
Another thing to watch is how Penn State has flourished in the second period, but struggled mightily in the third period. The Nittany Lions have outscored opponents 10-5 in the second period, but have been outscored 8-5 in the third period.
The Wolverines have been dominant in the third period, as they have outscored their opponents 9-2. So, if the game is close late, Michigan could have an edge due to their success in the third period.
This matchup of two rivals should be very entertaining this weekend, but the Nittany Lions should have an edge over Michigan due to offensive firepower and being back at Pegula Ice Arena, which should extremely loud.
Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising/public relations. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.