Series Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan State
After playing the Spartans just two weeks ago, Penn State welcomes Michigan State to town to start its six-game home stretch. The Nittany Lions and the Spartans have had mediocre starts to 2021, both splitting their last two series.
When these two met 14 days ago, Penn State took the opening game by a narrow score of 1-0. Michigan State responded big with a 5-1 victory.
Since then, the Nittany Lions split on the road with Ohio State, and the Spartans did the same with in-state rival Michigan.
Michigan State is sitting at 5-5-2 headed into this contest as one of the most inconsistent teams in the entire county. In Game 1 vs. Michigan, the Spartans were obliterated 9-0. Just when you thought the wheels had fallen off, the next day, they used a great defensive performance to down Michigan 3-2.
When evaluating Michigan State, it’s hard not to point to goalie Drew DeRidder. In the 9-0 loss last weekend, DeRidder was not the starter and only appeared in relief to stop the bleeding.
Statically, DeRidder is still one of the best goalies in the nation with a .940 save percentage. That was evident two weeks ago when he held Penn State to just two goals on 64 shots for the series.
In years past, Michigan State has relied on production from its top players. With the departures of Taro Hirose and Patrick Khodorenko, the Spartans are now getting offense by committee.
Through 12 games, no player is playing at a point-per-game pace. Josh Nodler leads the way with eight points. Remarkably, Michigan State has four players who are tied with seven points.
Penn State, on the other hand, is getting a standout season from Hurricanes’ sixth-rounder Kevin Wall. The sophomore is blowing out his freshman numbers and is tied for the team lead in points with 11. He had just two goals and seven points all of last season on a team that was top five in the nation in goals per game.
Alex Limoges also has 11 points for the Nittany Lions, four of which are goals in the last five games.
When it comes to Penn State’s goaltending this season, it’s safe to say that the netminders will be guilty until proven innocent. This weekend’s projected starter Oskar Autio has been suspect to say the least with just a .878 SV%. There is no other better option, as backup Liam Souliere has been even worse. Autio did show encouragement against Ohio State in Game 2, though, as the junior blinked just twice on 30 save opportunities.
Any wins that Michigan State earns in this series will likely come from a standout goaltending performance from DeRidder, while any wins that Penn State picks up will likely see a bevy of scoring.
Game 1: Penn State 4, Michigan State 2
Game 2: Michigan State 3, Penn State 1
Kyle Cannillo is a journalism major at Penn State. To contact him, please email email@example.com.