Series Preview: Penn State vs. Alaska Fairbanks
Host Matt McClure and analysts Jacob Cheris and Christian Bellissimo preview Penn State's upcoming series against Alaska-Fairbanks:
Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky secured the 300th win of his career last Saturday. This week, he has the opportunity to beat the program that gave him his first job as a collegiate head coach.
After a brief stint coaching in the minor leagues, Gadowsky landed at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He spent five years as head coach of the Nanooks and now he’s set to face them in a two-game bout this weekend. The series will mark the first matchup between these two schools since Penn State entered NCAA Division I in 2012.
The Nittany Lions are coming off of an opening series sweep against Sacred Heart. After a dominant 8-2 win over the Pioneers on Friday, Penn State squeaked out a 5-4 victory the following night.
Sacred Heart stormed back after trailing 4-0 heading into the final period. Penn State was obviously able to prevail, but the late scare from the Pioneers left Gadowsky a bit reserved in the postgame press conference.
“Anytime you get a sweep, you have to feel really good, but obviously we have some work to do and the third period was a great example of why,” Gadowsky said.
One clear positive from the weekend was the performance of junior Cole Hults. The star defenseman tallied three goals in Friday’s matchup, becoming the eighth player in program history to score a hat trick. On Saturday, Hults followed up his historic effort with yet another multi-point outing. After netting the first goal of the night, he set up forward Brandon Biro for the second score of the contest.
Hults’ stellar play was enough for him to be named Big Ten Third Star of the Week on Tuesday. It’s the first time the Wisconsin native has garnered weekly recognition in his three years with the team. Alongside Arizona State's Brinson Pasichnuk, Hults leads all Division I defensemen in points with five.
Leading the charge for Alaska-Fairbanks is another defenseman—this one by the name of Chris Jandric. Jandric scored in both matchups of the Nanooks’ series against Michigan Tech, and the defenseman’s performance was crucial in pulling off a two-game sweep.
It was a nice way for Alaska-Fairbanks to rebound after a tough opening series with the University of Denver. Even though the Nanooks were on the wrong end of a sweep, they were certainly able to put some pressure on the nation’s top team.
In the first game of the series, Alaska-Fairbanks drew first blood with a goal just 16 seconds into the contest. The Nanooks managed to head into the final two minutes tied at three goals apiece, but a late score from Cole Guttman sealed the win for Denver.
Nevertheless, the Nanooks are a team that cannot be overlooked by Gadowsky’s squad. Considering this is Penn State’s last series before opening up Big Ten play, it’s imperative for the Nittany Lions to get their mistakes from last series in check before squaring off against No. 17 Wisconsin in less than two weeks.
The first game of the series between Penn State and Alaska-Fairbanks will get underway at 7 p.m. Thursday, and the second game will begin at the same time on Friday. Both games will be at Pegula Ice Arena.
Prediction: Penn State sweeps Alaska-Fairbanks 2-0
Connor Griffin is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.