MHKY: Penn State vs Denver Preview
Josh Starr, Joe Skinner and Tom Johnston talk about the road to the Frozen Four.
It’s Déjà vu all over again.
For the second time in their young program history, the Penn State Nittany Lions will be heading to the NCAA Tournament for a chance to compete for a national championship.
The Nittany Lions are hosting the Midwest regional in Allentown this weekend and will be taking on a familiar team in the first round.
Penn State, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional, will be taking on the No. 2 seed defending national champs, the Denver Pioneers. This is the 29th tournament appearance for the team from the Mile-High City.
The Blue and White of Old Mount Nittany played Denver after a 10-3 onslaught of Union in last year’s tournament but ultimately fell short by a score of 6-3.
Penn State enters this game with an 18-14-5 record and lost in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals by a score of 3-2 to eventual tournament champion Notre Dame.
The Pioneers will visit Allentown with a record of 22-9-8 and they defeated No. 1 overall seed St. Cloud State 4-1 in the NCHC Championship.
The Nittany Lion offense has scored 137 goals in 37 games which is good for an average of 3.7 goals per contest. The team has also surrendered 115 goals in 37 games for an average of 3.1 goals given up per game.
Andrew Sturtz is easily the most prolific player on the Penn State squad. The sensational junior has tallied 14 goals and 26 assists for a total of 40 points, which is the highest total on the team.
Denis Smirnov, Nate Sucese, Liam Folkes and Evan Barratt are also extremely dangerous with the puck. Each player has exceeded 10 goals and they are all underclassmen.
Smirnov, a fan favorite, leads the team with 15 goals this season and was drafted by the Colorado Avalanche in last year’s NHL Draft.
In net, Peyton Jones has been on the big stage before and is ready for another opportunity in the spotlight. The sophomore net-minder is making his second NCAA Tournament appearance.
In 37 games, Jones has saved 946 shots, given up 98 goals, allowing an average of 2.98 goals per game and holding a save percentage of .906.
For the Denver Pioneers, their program is no stranger to NCAA Tournaments and Frozen Fours. Denver’s offense averages over goals per game while surrendering just over two goals per game.
The Pioneers have arguably one of the most dangerous players in the country and a potential Hobey Baker Award winner in Henrik Borgström.
Borgström has scored 22 goals and racked up 28 assists for a total of 50 points, which is good for fifth in the country.
The Denver offense is extremely dangerous with two other players besides Borgström scoring more than 40 points this season.
Dylan Gambrell and Troy Terry have scored 42 points and 44 points respectively while accounting for a combined 26 goals and 60 assists.
Borgström, Gambrell and Terry are all NHL prospects with Borgström being a pick for the Florida Panthers, Gambrell being selected by San Jose Sharks and Troy Terry being drafted by the Anaheim Ducks.
Jared Lukosevicus also had himself a strong season. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Lukosevicus has scored 19 goals along with 13 assists.
Freshman defenseman Ian Mitchell has also tallied 24 assists.
In net, Tanner Jaillet has been shutting the door on his opponents as of late.
Jaillet has seen action in 37 of the team’s 39 games and has allowed 67 goals, saving 880 shots, giving up an average of 1.85 goals per game, and holding a save percentage of .929.
The Nittany Lions will definitely have revenge on their minds as they look to take another big step in building their young program.
Allentown is approximately a three-hour drive from State College so expect to see a lot of Penn State Blue and White throughout the weekend.
If Penn State wants to win this game, they will have to clamp down and play as clean of a game as possible. Denver is a traditional blue-blood and is out to defend their national championship.
For Denver, if they can limit Penn State’s explosive offense and score early, they will have a good chance of winning.
Penn State and Denver will be televised on Saturday at 7 p.m on ESPN3 live from the PPL Center, which is the home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The winner of this game will then take on the winner of Ohio State and Princeton for a chance to go to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Buckle up everyone, tournament hockey is about to begin!
Christopher Hess is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in history. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.