Series Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan
Penn State came home to Happy Valley empty-handed after a four-game road trip in Minnesota and Wisconsin resulted in four losses.
Now the Nittany Lions (0-4), will have their work cut out for them, as No. 7 Michigan (4-2) comes into Pegula Ice Arena for a midweek clash.
Coach Guy Gadowsky says that the rough start is due in part to a number of issues that need to be addressed, and it starts with him.
“I have done a very poor job of coaching the way I coach with the limitations that we have,” Gadowsky said. “That’s what I’ve got to figure out.”
But amid the 0-4 start, the Nittany Lions have been able to find some bright spots within the line consisting of Kevin Wall, Connor McMenamin and Aarne Talvitie.
That line has combined for seven points through four games, and Wall leads all Penn State players in goals and points with three and four, respectively.
The trio is the only Penn State line with any sort of prior experience playing together as a unit. Gadowsky acknowledged the fact that the lines and defensive pairings are still a massive work in progress.
“You have to develop some synergy,” Gadwosky said. “I don’t think it’s any accident that our best line, the way we play, is with three guys that have already done it.”
The goaltending has also not been up to snuff, as both Oskar Autio and Liam Soulière have been underwhelming thus far.
Autio has a save percentage of .792 and a goals-against average of 5.08, while Soulière has a save percentage of .830 to complement a goals-against average of 4.59.
When you take a look at Mel Pearson’s Michigan team, the Wolverines are virtually the exact opposite of Penn State.
Top to bottom, this Wolverines group has depth and explosive players at nearly every position, as NHL first-round selections rule the roost.
First-rounders Cam York, Brendan Brisson and Johnny Beecher are leading the way for this Michigan squad and will likely crack NHL rosters pretty soon.
York was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in 2019, Beecher was chosen by the Boston Bruins in 2019, and Brisson was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2020 draft just a few months ago. Thomas Bordeleau was also drafted by the San Jose Sharks in the second round of the 2020 draft.
However, it’s a trio of freshmen that will all likely be first-round selections in 2021. Owen Power, Kent Johnson and Matty Beniers are being projected as extremely early first-round picks in the upcoming draft.
Power is expected to go within the first five picks and already has four points on the young season. Johnson leads all Michigan scorers with eight points, and Bordeleau isn’t far behind with seven.
Veteran forward Michael Pastujov has the most goals through six games, lighting the lamp three times.
Michigan also boasts one of the top netminders in the Big Ten with junior Strauss Mann. Mann finished the 2019-2020 season as one of the hottest goalies in the nation, and he’s picked up right where he left off. In six games, he has a goals-against average of 1.33 to go with a .939 save percentage and a shutout.
The Wolverines come into this series dealing with a bit of adversity after being dealt a rare sweep at the hands of Notre Dame this past weekend.
Penn State is catching Michigan at the right time, as there may be some potential that the Wolverines are licking their wounds after losing a pair of one-goal games.
Both sides will look to come out of the gate with something to prove in a crucial Big Ten series between one of the perennial giants and the third-youngest program in the nation.
Michigan’s depth and explosive nature will allow them to give Penn State headaches en route to a midweek sweep in an arena where they have had great success.
Prediction: Michigan sweeps 2-0
Game 1: Michigan 5, Penn State 1
Game 2: Michigan 4, Penn State 2
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.