Series Preview: Michigan

Story posted January 19, 2018 in Sports, CommRadio by Tommy Butler

The No.12 Penn State Nittany Lions head to Ann Arbor, Mich. this weekend to take on the No. 20 Michigan Wolverines. For both teams, these two games will be crucial for their Big Ten standing.

The Nittany Lions enter the weekend with a record of 13-8-3 (6-5-3-2 Big Ten). In their last game, a 5-1 loss to No. 6 Ohio State, they saw their 11-game unbeaten streak snapped. Michigan, at 10-10-2 (5-7-2-1 Big Ten), is heading back home after completing the first sweep by a Big Ten team of the Minnesota Golden Gophers in their arena since 2013-14.

Michigan has a one-game advantage over Penn State in their all-time series with an 11-10-0 record. The Wolverines have taken eight of the last 12 meetings, though Penn State went 3-2 in the series last season including a 4-1 victory in the Big Ten Tournament, sending Michigan home.

In Ann Arbor, at Yost Arena, Michigan is 6-2-0 all-time over Penn State including five straight wins. The Wolverines have outscored the Nittany Lions 28-5 over those last five wins.
In the Big Ten Standings heading into the series, Penn State holds the third spot, only two points below Ohio State and five points above Michigan. With a sweep, Michigan would move into third above Penn State, while the Nittany Lions could take over the second spot.

Penn State’s offensive strength will be a force to be reckoned with for Michigan. Not only does Penn State have the top scoring offense in the nation with exactly four goals per game, but the top scoring defensemen as well, averaging 2.96 points per game. Senior defensemen Trevor Hamilton leads the Big Ten and holds the third spot in the nation for defensemen scoring with 22 points on four goals and 18 assists.

Other dangerous players for the Nittany Lions include junior Andrew Sturtz and sophomore Denis Smirnov who have both been nominated for the Hobey Baker Award for the second season in a row.

Sturtz, with 30 points on 11 goals and 19 assists, leads the team as well as holding a tie for third in the Big Ten and placing sixth in the nation. Smirnov has ten goals and nine assists for 19 points despite missing eight games with an illness.

The Wolverines’ Cooper Marody is the leading scorer on the team with 31 points on nine goals and 22 assists, ranking second in the Big Ten and tied for third in the NCAA. Marody, alongside Tony Calderone (15 goals), have helped to push Michigan to second in the conference in scoring, averaging 3.32 goals per game.

Michigan’s biggest weakness is their defense as they come in last in the Big Ten and 45th in college hockey, allowing 3.23 goals per contest. Sophomore goaltender Hayden Lavigne holds a 6-6-2 record as a starter with a .902 save percentage and 2.73 goals against per game.

If Penn State can get past its lack of success traveling to Michigan in recent years its offense should be able to cruise it to victory.

Tommy Butler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email tommybutler1480@gmail.com.