Penn State Men’s Hockey Series Grades: No. 4 Michigan

Story posted January 17, 2022 in Sports, CommRadio by Jacob Cheris

After getting swept by No. 4 Michigan, Penn State finds itself having dropped its last four contests. The Nittany Lions now have a 3-11-0 in Big Ten play, and sit dead last in the standings. Here are the series grades for the weekend.

Offense: C

Penn State had a tough time getting its offense going in the opening contest. The Blue and White struggled to execute clean passes and get into the offensive zone. They had a couple of really good chances to score, but the Michigan defense did a good job of getting its sticks in lanes.

The Nittany Lions were coming into the weekend without Connor MacEachern. MacEachern was injured late in the third period against the No. 13 Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Penn State had a total of 77 shots on goal in this series. The Nittany Lions struggled to get to the front of the net, which led to easy saves for Michigan goaltender Erik Portillo.

One player that is starting to blossom is Tyler Paquette. Paquette’s line, consisting of Chase McLane and Tyler Gratton, was terrific on the forecheck. Paquette in particular caused a lot of turnovers, one of which resulted in his goal in Game 1. The second-year forward has eight goals on the season.

Defense: C

The defense was good at times. But it was not enough to contain Michigan’s offense. Towards the end of the third period in Game 1, the Penn State blue line broke up lots of odd-man rushes.

It was much more sound on Saturday. There were some breakdowns throughout the game, but Michigan was not able to capitalize on them.

In the first two periods of Saturday’s contest, Penn State held Michigan’s big guns in check. That was until Matty Beniers, the second overall pick in the 2021 NHL draft, scored on a tip. That was the start of the Wolverines’ comeback. Just 59 seconds into the third period, Beniers found an open Luke Hughes to tie the game.

Goaltending: A

Oskar Autio did everything he possibly could in both games. He was excellent, having 61 saves in the series. Outside one costly error in Game 2, he was stellar. The Nittany Lions need him to stay strong down the stretch.

Despite his outstanding performance, Autio is now 9-10-0 on the season.

Coaching: C

Coach Guy Gadowsky talks a lot about how this inexperienced Nittany Lion group is still on a learning curve. That curve is trending upwards with each game.

However, special teams struggled in this series big time. It has been a theme all year for Gadowskys’ squad and it is something that has to be addressed immediately.

Penn State was 0-7 on the power play, which included two five-minute majors and a short-handed goal, and 4-6 on the penalty kill. Special teams need to be clicking at this point in the season. They are not for Penn State.

Penn State comes home for a four-game homestand against the Wisconsin Badgers and then the No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes.

Jacob Cheris is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jacobcheris19@gmail.com