Penn State Resumes Phase II of Schedule, Challenges Michigan State

Story posted December 31, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Kyle Cannillo

Looking for more. Penn State will carry its momentum into Phase II of its hockey schedule, as the Nittany Lions travel to East Lansing this weekend to take on the Michigan State Spartans.

By the time puck drops on Sunday, it will have been three weeks since Penn State last played a game. Before the holiday freeze, Penn State enjoyed two consecutive overtime victories over Arizona State and had looked to be turning things around.

Coming into this weekend, Penn State sits last in the Big Ten standings, earning a single win in its six conference games. However, with the powerhouse programs in the rearview mirror, Penn State is poised to start rattling off wins.

Grad transfer Tim Doherty has been fantastic for the Nittany Lions as of late. He tallied five points in his last three games. The Nittany Lions won all three of those contests, averaging 5.66 goals per game.

Like Penn State, the Spartans lost a lot of offensive production from last season and were pegged to finish sixth in the annual Big Ten preseason coaches poll. They are without the services of Patrick Khodorenko, who led the green and white in all offensive categories a year ago.

This season, Bemidji State transfer Charlie Combs is leading the way with six points in eight games. Despite a height of only 5 feet 6 inches, the senior forward is the spark the Spartans need to compete. 

Penn State and Michigan State play two very different brands of hockey. Penn State likes to be fast, attacking and supportive, while Michigan State plays a more structured and methodical style.

Opposite playing styles mean opposite results. Michigan State netminder Drew DeRidder has been one of the best players in the entire country. While his record is 3-3-2, his eye popping 1.96 goals-against average and .940 save percentage put him in elite company. His most recent performance earned him Big Ten First Star of the Week.

Conversely, Penn State can’t keep the puck out of its own net. Both goalies Oskar Autio and Liam Soulière are bottom 10 in the country in save percentage. Penn State as a team is second to last in the nation in goals against per game.

Michigan State is coming off an impressive series versus Notre Dame, earning a 4-3 win and a 1-1 tie. Calgary Flames fifth-round pick Josh Nodler had two assists in the win to add to his team-high six assists. He is still looking for his first goal.

Last season in their four meetings, each squad earned two wins a piece. Connor McMenamin was the hero in the fourth and final game, scoring the overtime winner. It turned out to be a critical moment in Penn State’s run to the Big Ten championship.

This season, Penn State and Michigan State will play all four games against each other in under two weeks.

Prediction: Split

Game 1: Michigan State 5, Penn State 2

Game 2: Penn State 6, Michigan State 4

 

Kyle Cannillo is a journalism major at Penn State. To contact him, please email kcannillo1@gmail.com.