Hockey Preview: Michigan State
Travis Sutton, Will Desautelle and Brian McLaughlin preview Penn State's upcoming matchup against Michigan State.
Penn State had a golden opportunity to solidify their place in the tournament with Minnesota coming in to town. At least a split with the Big Ten leading Golden Gophers would have greatly helped their resume.
The Nittany Lions had a chance to win on Saturday as they led by one with less than a minute to go, but were unable to capitalize as they lost in overtime. Penn State will probably still make the tournament, but opportunities that they had last weekend do not come around very often.
Their upcoming schedule is pretty easy as Penn State travel to lowly Michigan State, who rank at the bottom of the Big Ten. The Spartans have one of the worst winning percentages in college hockey as they have only won six games this season.
Michigan State has one of the worst offenses in the Big Ten as they have only scored 69 goals in 28 games. Their defense isn’t much better as they have given up 106 goals and their goaltending has not been great.
Penn State can exploit the weaknesses in the Michigan State defense as the Nittany Lion attack is one of the most dynamic in the Big Ten. Though they were unable to win against Minnesota, the Nittany Lions were able to score three goals in each of the games on the weekend.
David Goodwin has been red hot for the Nittany Lions as he has had at least a point in each of his past eight games. While he is not really that much of a scorer, his 22 assists are second on the team and he is an adequate setup man.
Denis Smirnov took full advantage of Goodwin this past weekend as he scored two goals in the game on Saturday and had three assists on Friday. He leads the Nittany Lions in points and Smirnov is playing his best hockey for a Nittany Lion team trying to make the tournament.
Andrew Sturtz leads the team in goals with 18, but his production over the weekend was not the greatest as he only scored once over the weekend. His production needs to increase as the Nittany Lions need him to score goals in order to make the tournament.
Currently, the Nittany Lions rank 11th in the PairWise rankings, meaning they are probably in the tournament, but can’t make any mistakes. Penn State has to avoid bad losses the rest of the way and a loss this weekend would definitely fall in that category.
Michigan State currently ranks 50th in the PairWise and have not been a good team at all this season. They are currently last in the Big Ten standings and have only won two games in conference play.
With the losses against Minnesota, Penn State are now fourth in the Big Ten, falling a point behind Ohio State. The Nittany Lions need to sweep the Spartans because finishing fourth in the Big Ten will not look well for the tournament committee.
Penn State has their backs against the wall and are in need of a winning streak to end the season. The streak will start this weekend as the Nittany Lions will sweep the Spartans handily.
Joe Esquivel-Murphy is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and Spanish. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.