Penn State vs. North Dakota Preview

Story posted October 28, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Evan Popalis

Following a dominant two-game stretch against Niagara, Penn State (5-1-0) heads right back to work with a Saturday showdown against North Dakota University (4-2-0).

In a neutral-site affair, the two respective clubs will embark on a journey to the Music City.

One Penn Stater will experience an arena he hopes to one day call his office. Sophomore Chase McLane is a product of the Nashville Predators who play in Bridgestone Arena, the venue for the game.

The Fighting Hawks (4-2-0) are fresh off a series split against No. 7 Quinnipiac. North Dakota is ranked sixth-best in the nation ahead of the upcoming opponent in Penn State.

The Nittany Lions behold the leading goalscorer in this head-to-head with right-winger Kevin Wall. The junior from Penfield, New York, has six goals in six contests and is currently one goal back from pacing Division I hockey. Wall is second in the Big Ten in goals, behind Michigan’s Brendan Brisson.

North Dakota’s leading scorer is Ashton Calder, with four goals and seven points. The junior forward has racked up a pair of two-goal games this year.

Captain defenseman for the Nittany Lions Paul DeNaples currently has an impressive plus-minus through six games. The senior has been on the ice for eight more goals in favor of Penn State than opponents.

If there are any comparisons to put this matchup into perspective, both teams battled Niagara and won by identical margins in both games. 6-2 and 4-0 final scores for the Fighting Hawks and Nittany Lions versus the Purple Eagles brands the feeling of a tight contest.

Statistically speaking, these teams are neck-and-neck. The most significant discrepancy seems to be the number of goals scored when including overall shots on target. This season, Penn State has scored 24 times, and North Dakota has lit the lamp on 22 separate occasions. Yet, the Nittany Lions have tallied 91 more shots on goal than the Fighting Hawks.

North Dakota has a one-goal advantage on the powerplay compared to Penn State at five to four.

A facet of the game that these teams are similar in but one that coaches hate is penalties. The blue and white have chalked up 35 penalties in the young season, with two being game misconducts.

On the other side, the Hawks have had 22 infractions. Both teams have committed more penalties than they have forced.

The most likely goaltending bout will be between Oskar Autio for the Nittany Lions and Zach Driscoll for the Fighting Hawks. Autio has a spectacular .938 save percentage accompanied by a 1.50 goals-against mark. Driscoll surrenders 2.35 goals a contest and has a .907 save percentage.

Penn State will need to be solid defensively and not have sloppy line changes in the middle period to find a victory in Tennessee. The Nittany Lions must battle to get into the dirty areas of the offensive zone to find ways to score.

Prediction: North Dakota wins

Evan Popalis is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email epopalis83@gmail.com.

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Evan Popalis

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Evan Popalis is a third-year from Lititz, Pennsylvania, majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a writer, analyst, and play-by-play commentator for the CommRadio sports department. His writings include weekly NHL betting previews along with power rankings for the NHL and NFL. He appears weekly on the NHL Podcast as a host and analyst reviewing the previous week’s action. If you would like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).