2-2-0 (2-2 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
5:00 p.m. EST – MONDAY, NOV. 23
5:00 p.m. EST – TUESDAY, NOV. 24
|BTN (TV) | FoxSports | GAMETRACKER|
|Read: A Must-Win Situation|
The schedule makers didn’t do Penn State any favors. Following nine months off, the Lions opened their schedule AT Minnesota – the preseason choice of Big Ten Coaches to win the conference. Two days later, they find themselves visiting Wisconsin. The Badgers were chosen to finish 5th by the coaches, but no trip to Madison is ever easy. Let alone when it’s the back half of four games in six days.
But that's where Penn State now finds itself. Not that the Big Ten schedule will afford any breaks this season thanks to a well-rounded and generally loaded conference, but going on the road to Minneapolis and Madison is a brutal start for a team this young.
If Guy Gadowsky's squad is going to accomplish big things this season, it's going to require a quick turnaround against a tough Wisconsin team, whether it's a fair situation or not.
Last season vs Wisconsin
|Overall Record||Big Ten Record||GF||GA||PP%||PK%||Pairwise Ranking|
Last season, Penn State dominated Wisconsin in Hockey Valley winning both games by scores of 6-1 and 4-2. The Badgers managed to split the pair in Madison. Wisconsin won the opener 4-3 while Penn State took the second game by a score of 3-2.
In going 3-1, Penn State held Wisconsin’s big guns – NHL first-round draft picks Cole Caufield and Dylan Holloway – pretty much in check. Caufield scored the Badgers only goal in game one and only managed one assist in the other three matchups. Holloway did a little better, scoring the game-winner in the third game and putting up a goal and an assist in the finale.
The Badgers return six of their top ten scorers from last season. Caufield returned for his sophomore season after leading the team in scoring with 19-17-36. Gone are second-leading scorer Wyatt Kalynuk who signed with the Chicago Blackhawks and third-leading scorer Alex Turcotte, who signed with the Los Angeles Kings. Also gone are K’Andre Miller (signed with the New York Rangers) and Sean Dhooge (transferred to Arizona State).
Wisconsin has started out the new season with two victories over Notre Dame followed by two losses to Michigan – the second loss in overtime. Somewhat surprisingly, their leading scorer so far is Linus Weissbach with two goals and three assists for five points. Caufield is second with four assists. Holloway has two goals to date.
Penn State managed to score just three goals in their two losses to Minnesota – two by sophomore Kevin Wall. All of Wall’s four career goals have come against the Gophers. The other goal was scored by freshman Christian Sarlo.
Penn State’s top line of Alex Limoges, Tim Doherty and Sam Sternschein was kept off the scoresheet, but they did generate a few opportunities, especially on the power play. The trio will need to finish more opportunities if the Lions are going to have success in Madison.
On the blueline, Wisconsin lost both Kalynuk and Miller to the NHL. But the Badgers never seem to run out of NHL draft picks to put on the ice. This season is no different. Tyler Inamoto (Florida, 5th round), Ty Emberson (Arizona, 3rd round) and Josh Ess (Chicago, 7th round) all return with a combined 290 games worth of experience.
For Penn State, the answer to the offseason question of who would get paired with Paul DeNaples is, so far, Clayton Phillips. The other pairings were Evan Bell / Alex Stevens and Christian Berger / Mason Snell. Adam Pilewicz saw ice time as the extra skater in both games against Minnesota. The group put up a lot of shots on goal, but at times seemed to struggle to hold the puck in the zone. They also struggled at times to clear pucks from in front of their goaltender, leading to Gopher scores. If Penn State expects to get back to its winning ways, the blueliners will need to clean up several little things that hurt them against the Gophers.
Senior Robbie Beydoun has played all 244 minutes for Wisconsin. Given that this is the Badger's third and fourth games over a six-day period, it seems unlikely that will continue. Then again, he’s played well giving up just 2.22 goals per game with a .929 save percentage. A pair of freshmen, Cameron Rowe and Ben Garrity back up Beydoun. Obviously, neither has any statistics to share.
Unlike their next opponent, Penn State split goaltending duties with Oskar Autio getting the nod opening night and Liam Souliere taking the net on Friday afternoon. Coach Gadowsky indicated that he felt four games in six days was too much to ask of either goalie, so each seeing time was not surprising.
Both Autio and Souliere looked capable. Both made several spectacular saves and with just one exception, none of the seven goals against were of the soft variety. Until one or the other becomes the clear cut starter, expect the duo to share the net for the foreseeable future.
Penn State has gotten the better of Wisconsin over the years. In the previous 36 meetings, the Nittany Lions have won 20 while the Badgers have won 13. Three games ended up officially as ties. It’s too early to have a real feel for how good either team is this season. Penn State needs to win at least one game in order to start feeling better about itself. My bold prediction is Penn State does just that – winning one game 3-2 while dropping the other 5-4.
Both games will be televised on the Big Ten Network – Monday’s game at 6:00 PM and Tuesday’s game also at 6:00 PM. As always, follow @RLRblog on Twitter and check back here for coverage of the games.