Series Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan
Kyle Cannillo, Francesco de Falco, Nathan Pullen and Derek Heid preview the Penn State vs. Michigan series at Pegula Ice Arena:
No. 5 Penn State looks to stay on top of the Big Ten in a series against No. 16 Michigan, its first conference matchup of the year.
Penn State has been off to an amazing start, impressing both offensively and in goalie play. Michigan’s start has been lackluster with some disappointing losses but having already played in a tough conference series the week before will give the Wolverines an advantage in experience.
Penn State comes into the series with an 8-1 record on the season. The Nittany Lions were handed their only loss by No. 18 Arizona State two weeks ago, and they bounced back with a series sweep against Robert Morris the following weekend.
Penn State has been receiving Big Ten honors all season, and after an impressive showing last week, the weekend was no exception. Nittany Lions' center Nikita Pavlychev put on a show against Robert Morris, totaling seven points and four goals on the weekend.
His performance in the series sweep got him named Big Ten First Star of the Week, and sophomore Alex Limoges earned Big Ten Second Star of the Week off of a two-goal, six-point performance against Robert Morris.
The Michigan Wolverines are coming off of a series with No 6 Notre Dame, which set their record at 5-4 on the season. After a close 2-1-win Friday night, Michigan fell apart Saturday allowing six goals while only scoring two.
Michigan’s six-goal meltdown has been a reoccurring issue, as its goalies Strauss Mann and Hayden Lavigne sit at 58th and 74th in save percentage, respectively. The goals the Wolverines let up Saturday are tied for the most this season.
For the Nittany Lions, goalies Peyton Jones and Chris Funkey rank 27th and 45th in save percentage. Penn State had a meltdown of its own that same night, letting up six against Robert Morris, but got bailed out by an incredible offensive performance of 11 goals.
Wolverines sophomore forward Josh Norris is fifth in the Big Ten and tied for seventh in the NCAA in total points with 13. He has six goals and seven assists on the season.
This will be the 24th all-time meeting between Penn State and Michigan in men’s hockey. Michigan is ahead in the all-time series with a 13-10-0 record. Last year, the teams split wins in one series hosted by Penn State, as the Nittany Lions pulled off a 5-4 overtime win but fell the following night 5-2.
Michigan has shown flashes of solid hockey throughout the season, but its inconsistency in both the goal and on the offensive lines has led to some upsets against teams like Vermont and Lake Superior State.
Penn State has had a much steadier season. Its only loss came in a tight overtime contest, and the offense, which has been the focal point of the team, has consistently proven to be a series threat in the NCAA.
In the early stages of a long stretch of conference play, it will be interesting to see how two rival schools will fair against each other in a series with such season-defining implications.
Francesco de Falco is a freshman majoring in journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.