Game Grades: Michigan
Sixth-ranked Penn State split its away series versus Michigan, dropping the first game 4-1 but ending the series with a 3-1 win. Penn State currently stands with a 12-5 overall record and a 7-3 overall record in the Big Ten, leading the conference with 21 points as both Ohio State and Michigan State trail only by two points.
Lets hand out the series grades for Penn State's weekend performance against Michigan:
In game one, the recent trend of chasing the other team reoccurred. Constantly trailing Michigan from the start to the end, Michigan led 4-0 during the third period.
Forward Alex Limoges would be the lone scorer, as he found the back of the net on a partial breakaway assisted by Evan Bell. It would be too late, however. Michigan's constant forecheck limited any speed Penn State could produce in their attack. Failing to convert on three powerplay opportunities and taking penalties decreased any opportunity for a comeback.
In game two, Penn State came out of the tunnel determined. The Nittany Lions led 2-0 in the first period on a Nate Sucese powerplay goal and an Evan Barratt backhand shot. Luke Morgan would cut into the Penn State's lead early in the second period taking advantage of a defensive zone turnover to make it 2-1. A contested third period between the two teams would end with forward Denis Smirnov's empty-net goal late in the third period.
The defensive unit was completely outplayed in game one, allowing one goal in each period and the empty netter that sealed the 4-1 win for Michigan. Many odd-man rushes, open rebounds, and turnovers made it a stressful night for the defensive unit. Michigan also dominated puck control. On the positive side, Michigan was held to 1-5 on the powerplay.
In game two, it was a different circumstance. The defensive unit supported goalie Peyton Jones by completely shutting down Michigan's powerplay to 0-4, even though Michigan led in shots 43-34. Senior Kris Myllari led the defensive unit with three blocks. Both Cole Hults and Paul DeNaples recorded assists on two of the three goals.
Peyton Jones's woes continued in game one, allowing three goals until his replacement, backup goalie Oskar Autio, came in. Saving 25 shots in 43 minutes of playing time is not a typical outing by the senior goalie. Oskar Autio stopped all seven shots he faced in nearly 14 minutes of playing time, until he was pulled for the extra man.
In game two, Peyton Jones was intent to snap his three-straight losses by going on to stop a season-high of 42 shots. Jones looked more comfortable and confident in the net. He only allowed one goal, a shot by Luke Morgan that went below the right dot. Overall, Jones's second performance elevated the morale of the team and assisted in the win.
Coach Guy Gadowsky and his coaching staff can't be too happy about splitting the series against the worst team in the Big Ten. The team's response to losing the first game, however, is something Gadowsky and his coaching staff should be proud of. It's clear that when the offense isn't firing on all fronts that the defensive unit and goaltending are looked upon to hold the fort. Turnovers and more production from the lower lines will be needed as the season continues.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.