Super Saturday Series Preview: Penn State vs. Michigan

Story posted January 24, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Kyle Cannillo

The Michigan Wolverines will host the Penn State Nittany Lions in a unique Big Ten hockey showdown. On Thursday, the Nittany Lions will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, while on Saturday they will play in the “world’s most famous arena”: Madison Square Garden. This is the fourth annual "Super Saturday: College Hoops & Hockey" doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. Illinois will play Maryland in men's basketball at 12 p.m. ET while Penn State and Michigan will compete in hockey at 7 p.m. ET. Both games will air on BTN.

It is no secret that both these teams did not meet expectations in the first half of this season.

Michigan, coming off its bye week, has just three wins in its last seven matchups. This includes a loss to Merrimack, a shootout loss to Michigan Tech and a tie to rival Michigan State. Offensively, the Wolverines need to be better. Despite having the third most shots in the NCAA, they find themselves 51st in shooting percentage. They will face a Penn State team that makes the most of its chances and ranks fourth in that category.

Good news for Michigan is the return of future NHL superstar and Hobey Baker Award finalist, Quinn Hughes. Hughes was selected seventh overall in the 2018 NHL draft by the Vancouver Canucks and was awarded a silver medal in the IIHF World Junior Championships. He is characterized as an offensive defenseman and has the stats to back it up. In 19 games with the Wolverines, he has recorded 22 points. In addition, he recorded two assists in seven games amongst tougher competition at the world juniors. His skating ability might arguably be the best in all of college hockey. Michigan is going to need him to be at his best this series.

For Penn State, it has been a never ending downward spiral. Ever since they blew a 4-1 lead in the third period to Princeton, they have never looked the same. The injury to New Jersey Devils draft pick and freshman forward Aarne Talvitie has seriously hurt this team's chemistry.

The Nittany Lions are coming off a disappointing series against Ohio State, as they were swept on home ice. In the first game, in the midst of a whiteout, they were outright dominated. In the second game, they arguably outplayed Ohio State in a losing effort. Despite being in the penalty box for 33 minutes, which is over half the game, Penn State scored twice shorthanded to tie the game up at three. From there, they took a five-minute major that essentially put the game out of reach. There was controversy with the officiating team, as they called a goal for Ohio State that many thought was offside. While Penn State was largely at fault for their undisciplined play, one could argue the game was officiated bizarrely. Despite playing most of the game on the penalty kill, they tied Ohio State in shots and outplayed them 5-on-5.

The good news for Penn State is Evan Barratt, the Chicago Blackhawks draft pick and Hobey Baker Award finalist, finally took the monkey off his back. He looked a lot more comfortable in the second game of the series and registered a beautiful shorthanded goal in route to a two-point night. Penn State needs him to be at his best while getting support from his line mates.

The Roar Zone, Penn State’s student section, is sending hundreds of students to Madison Square Garden in support of the Nittany Lions.

Will Penn State finally earn the sweep that has been alluding them for weeks? Is the return of Quinn Hughes going to exploit the struggling Nittany Lions?

Prediction: Split city in New York City. Wolverines win on Thursday, Nittany Lions win on Super Saturday. 

 

    

Kyle Cannillo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email kmc6659@psu.edu.