Preview: No. 9 Penn State Prepares For Single-Game Date with Princeton In Philly

By Sam Watson on December 14, 2018 at 11:25 am
Penn State Hockey
RLR Staff
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Princeton Tigers
3-8-1 (3-4-1 ECAC)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
7:30 p.m. ET – SATURDAY, DEC. 15
Wells Fargo Center
PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA
Game 1: LIVE STREAMGAMETRACKER
Read: Penn State Demolishes Notre Dame

Coming off a series split with Notre Dame that included an electrifying 9-1 win, the Fighting Guy Gadowskys are taking their talents to the City of Brotherly Love for the second game of year against the Princeton Tigers. Penn State beat Princeton 4-2 in the Tigers' season opener back in October. 

Scouting the Tigers

Princeton (3-8-1, 3-4-1 ECAC) has been, well, not good since it lost to Penn State. The Tigers are coming off a very successful season where they exceeded expectations and won the ECAC conference tournament -- earning themselves a spot in the NCAA tournament. 

We thought that this Princeton team would again be good this year. Clearly, we were wrong. The take that Princeton will score a lot, rely heavily on its goaltender, and be in the conversation for a conference championship and tournament berth has fizzled out because the elite offense that Princeton was supposed to have didn't show up. The Tigers have lost to Colgate, Cornell, UMass, Quinnipiac, and Arizona State this season, and their only wins have come against Dartmouth, Harvard, and RPI. Safe to say the Tiger's hopes of making the NCAA tournament again rest entirely on being able to win the ECAC tournament. 

Forwards Outlook

The Tigers have averaged just over one goal per loss this season. Max Verroneau and Ryan Kuffner are were in the conversation for the Hobey Baker (college hockey’s Heisman), after coming off 55 point (17 goals, 38 assists) and 52 point (29 goals, 23 assists) seasons respectively. Together with Jackson Cressey, who finished last season with 38 points, the trio were supposed to be threatening, but they just haven't been. Verroneau has 15 points (three goals, 12 assists), Kuffner has 17 points (nine goals, eight assists), and Cressey has 10 points (three goals, seven assists). Those numbers are decent, but the questions about depth that surrounded the Tigers before the season started have been confirmed. No other Princeton forward has double-digit points through 12 games. 

Defensive Outlook

Princeton hoped that its young defensemen would be able learn on the fly this year, but it looks like the learning curve has been quite steep. Josh Teves is the Tigers’ best returning defenseman, and he's having a good-not-great first half to the year with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and minus-5 plus/minus. Plus/minus is kind of arbitrary, but his numbers still aren't great. Besides Teves, the Tigers are struggling to put up points from the blue line, and they're not fairing any better in their own zone. Derek Topatigh is the only Princeton defenseman to have played all 12 games and have a positive plus/minus. It's a +3, if you were wondering. 

Goaltender Outlook

Ryan Ferland was the goalie that carried Princeton through the ECAC tournament last season. He finished the season with a .912 save percentage and 2.91 GAA. This season, the sophomore goalie has played in all 12 games and has been as good as one could hope on a team that is so bad defensively. Ferland is sitting at a .908 save percentage and 2.96 goals against. It's quite obvious that the defense has been unable to hold up in front of him, and there are other areas that should take the blame for Princeton's poor first half. 

Keys to a Penn State Win

It's pretty simple, really. Repeat every part of the offensive and defensive effort from the Notre Dame series. Minus some shaking goaltending Friday, Penn State played a championship caliber series last weekend. If the Lions can replicate the strong defense, stifling forecheck, and lethal breakouts, Princeton will fold quite easily. Penn State's scoring balance has been a huge part of its success during wins this season, and rolling four lines that can each put up multi-goal games will be more than enough to enter the break on a two-game win streak. 

Predictions

Sam: I have some pretty terrible memories from the last time Penn State played Princeton in Wells Fargo (something about a puck going off the netting and then still being able to be played. I don't want to talk about it), so I'm a little nervous going into this game. But that was then, and this is now. Penn State showed last weekend that it can beat anyone, and I don't expect the Princeton defense to be able to slow down the Lions one little bit. The Lions put up big numbers. Penn State 7, Princeton 2. 

Kaitlyn: Being that this is a single contest against Princeton on neutral ice, plus the fact that Penn State put the beat down on the Tigers earlier in the season, I’m fairly confident in the Lions heading into this matchup. Princeton, playing in a pretty tough ECAC conference, hasn’t won in its last seven games and is averaging just a tad over a goal per game in that stretch. The team will undoubtedly miss Evan Barratt's talents (he'll be busy being a good boy for Team USA at World Juniors), but they have plenty of offensive depth to handle his short absence. Nittany Lions 5, Tigers 2.

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