Series Preview: Penn State vs. Minnesota
Host Matt Noah and analysts Jacob Cheris and Josh Portney preview Penn State’s first road series against Minnesota:
The No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions take on the No. 24 Minnesota Golden Gophers for the first time this season. Penn State plays their first road series of the year, and the Golden Gophers open up a three game series homestand. Penn State is coming off of a series split against the Michigan State Spartans, and the Gophers are also coming off a split against the Michigan Wolverines.
The Golden Gophers missed their second straight NCAA tournament last year, and are still trying to find an identity. Minnesota head coach Bob Motzko is entering his second season as the bench boss and his main goal during the offseason was to find a solid goaltender as this was an issue last season. Freshman goaltender Jared Moe has finally filled that number one spot. Moe has a 2.15 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. Those are good numbers for a freshman goalie as he is still developing. Moe was drafted in the 6th round by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2018 NHL draft. Minnesota completely revamped their team this year, as most of their former players graduated, bringing in eleven freshmen and two other goalies. This makes them the youngest team in the country. The Gophers are third in the Big 10 with a 1-1-2-2 record against Big 10 teams, and are 4-4-2 on the year.
Minnesota has not gotten a lot of production from their freshmen. They’ve combined for a total of 23 points. Not only that, they have struggled defensively letting up about 30 shots per game. Sophomore forward Sammy Walker leads the team in goals (5) and in points (8). However, he has 25 penalty minutes after he took a major penalty against Colorado College. The Gophers themselves are still trying to find an identity and find chemistry with each other with the amount of rookies on the roster.
Penn State may have to adjust to the larger ice at 3M Arena at Mariucci, but it’s the same game and the same goal. For one particular player this game has been on the radar ever since he put on blue and white. Junior defenseman Clayton Phillips transferred to Penn State from Minnesota and this is the first time he will play against his former team. Phillips scored his first goal as a Nittany Lion against Michigan State and is quarterbacking the first power play unit with his elite skating ability. Penn State has focused its game on playing without the puck. They have been playing a heavy forecheck game and establishing heavy net front presence, leading to more scoring chances.
The big problem for the Nittany Lions has been taking unnecessary penalties. Penn State takes about 5.67 penalties per game and this has gotten them into tight situations. Teams have almost come back because of these careless penalties. Their penalty kill has been strong, along with their power play, however teams never want to get into any sort of penalty trouble.
Penn State needs to take advantage of this young Minnesota group and put them on their heels early. It all begins this weekend on Nov. 18 in Minnesota.
Predictions: Penn State sweeps 2-0
Game 1: Penn State 4, Minnesota 2
Game 2: Penn State 3, Minnesota 1
Jacob Cheris is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.