Series Preview: Penn State vs Minnesota
Host Andre Magaro alongside analysts Kyle Cannillo, Derek Heid and Jordan Mansberger discuss Penn State's upcoming Big Ten series against Minnesota:
This weekend, the Minnesota Golden Gophers will travel to Hockey Valley to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in what is shaping up to be a season altering series. With Ohio State running away with the top spot in the Big Ten, positions two through seven are all tangled up. Each weekend Big Ten teams continue to split series with each other, leading to a tight race in both the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament.
This weekend is no different.
Minnesota sits 24th in the PairWise Rankings, absolutely needing success in this series to remain competitive in the NCAA tournament. In terms of the Big Ten, they control their own destiny. They currently sit second in the Big Ten standing with 27 points, which is good enough to maintain home ice advantage throughout.
This season has been up and down for the Golden Gophers. They have swept Big Ten foe Notre Dame, have two ties against Ohio State and even have a win versus reigning national champions Minnesota-Duluth.
Contrary to their success, some of their losses have been head scratching. They were swept by Michigan State and suffered a brutal loss to 55th ranked Ferris State on home ice.
It’s no secret that as of late, Penn State has dominated head-to-head against Minnesota. Dating back to the 2016-2017 season, the Nittany Lions have won seven out of the last nine head-to-head matchups, including a four game winning streak in back-to-back weekends at Pegula Ice Arena.
Winning in Hockey Valley for any opponent has been difficult, but the Golden Gophers in particular have really struggled. They look for revenge this weekend.
Special teams will matter in this series more than ever. Both Penn State and Minnesota rank in the top 10 nationally in the powerplay. Taking penalties, especially against Minnesota, will hurt the Nittany Lions. Penn State's penalty kill is one of the NCAA’s worst.
The good news for Penn State is the return of their most prolific forward in Evan Barratt. Despite a cold stretch, Barratt seems to be back to his scoring ways.
In last weekend's matchup against Michigan at Madison Square Garden in New York City, Barratt recorded a goal and two primary assists. He has five points in his last three games. Penn State is going to need him at his best if they want to make a push for the postseason.
Despite Barratt being back to his normal form, Penn State has lacked secondary scoring that had made them so successful early in the season. Players such as Denis Smirnov and Ludvig Larsson have gone quiet. Smirnov’s 14 points in 24 games is by far his lowest production throughout his NCAA career.
This weekend will be a true test for the Nittany Lions. A sweep would put them in great position in both the Big Ten standings and the PairWise Rankings.
If the series resulted in a split, both Penn State and Minnesota would survive another series. A Minnesota sweep, however, would most likely mean Penn State's NCAA tournament hopes would be out of reach.
The stakes are high and the action will be exiting. Both Fridays and Saturdays games will be played at 6 p.m. at Pegula Ice Arena in University Park.
Kyle Cannillo is a freshman at Penn State studying broadcast journalism. To contact him please email email@example.com.