Series Preview: Penn State vs. Arizona State

Story posted December 9, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Kyle Cannillo

Two of college hockey’s newest programs collide. Penn State will see its only out-of-conference opponent on Dec. 11 and 13 as Arizona State comes to town for the first time this year.

In case you missed it, the pandemic has placed Arizona State under remarkable circumstances. The Sun Devils, who are one of college hockey’s only independents, are playing their entire schedule on the road vs Big Ten opponents.

Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky commends Arizona State’s efforts to play this season.

“I respect and admire what they have done,” Gadowsky said. “This is an unprecedented situation and they've risen to the challenge."

Similar to Penn State, the Sun Devils have thrusted onto the scene as a hot destination for college hockey… literally and figuratively. 

"Any game in college hockey is important," Gadowsky said. "Arizona State is a great team that will pose problems. We aren't looking at them any differently."

Arizona State has seen plenty of success in its young program’s history. The Sun Devils qualified for postseason play in 2019 and would have once again made the NCAA tournament in 2020 before the pandemic struck.

This season, they are led by first year Matthew Kopperud who currently sits second in the nation with 11 points in eight games.

Penn State is coming off of a split versus Michigan. The Nittany Lions enjoyed a wild 9-5 victory in Game 2 to give them their first win of the year.

Gadowsky says the win sparked his group. The players had bought in.

“Any time you score nine goals and win it's a great feeling,” Gadowsky said. “It adds to the jump at practice and that has great value."

Penn State is coming off of outstanding performances from freshman Jimmy Dowd Jr. and transfer Bobby Hampton.

“[Dowd] sees the game in a very unique way,” Gadowsky said. “He gets it. He has a very high IQ and he slows the game down to make effective plays.”

Penn State is a team that likes to play fast, attacking and supportive. With plenty of newcomers, Gadowsky admitted it was difficult to teach his team virtually on what he calls “Penn State hockey.”

“It was fun to play that style of hockey,” Hampton said in agreement. He scored twice versus Michigan in Game 2 and was the first star.

“Everyone bought in. In the first five games, there was a lot of systematic stuff we were a little 'eh' on,” Hampton said.

Gadowsky would not name a starting goalie for this weekend’s series. He says he and his staff have been talking about it nearly everyday. Team defense and goaltenders Oskar Autio and Liam Soulière have been a sore spot for Penn State.

The puck drops Friday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. between Arizona State (3-4-1) and Penn State (1-5-0).

Here's a reminder to stay locked in to CommRadio for live coverage of Friday’s matchup.

 

Kyle Cannillo is a junior majoring in journalism. To contact him, please email kcannillo1@gmail.com.