Hockey Preview: Penn State Hosts Rematch vs. Michigan State

By Michael Green on January 15, 2021 at 11:43 am
Penn State forward Aarne Talvitie (20) celebrates with the Roar Zone after the game against Niagara at Pegula Ice Arena on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. No. 10 Penn State won 8-2.
Linsey Fagan, Roar Lions Roar
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Michigan State Spartans
5-5-2 (4-5-1 B1G)
ROSTER / SCHEDULE
6:00 p.m. ET – FRIDAY, JAN. 15
PEGULA ICE ARENA
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
3:00 p.m. ET – SATURDAY, JAN. 16
PEGULA ICE ARENA
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA
Game 1: BTN+ | GAMETRACKER
Game 2: BTN+ | GAMETRACKER
Read: Penn State's Powerplay Has Been Hot

It's been less than two weeks since Penn State squared off in a pair of games against Michigan State in East Lansing. But the two teams are prepared to meet again in Happy Valley on Friday and Saturday.

Since that last meeting, Penn State split a pair at Ohio State, losing game one 6-3 and winning the second 5-2. The Spartans split a home and home series with Michigan. The Wolverines won game one in Ann Arbor 9-0, while Sparty took game two in East Lansing 3-2.

Last Meeting vs. Michigan State

Game One Summary
Penn State   Michigan State
1 Goals 0
29 Shots on Goal 23
4 Penalty Minutes 2
0 / 0 Power Plays 0 / 1
19 Faceoffs Won 34
12 Shots Blocked 10

In Game One, Penn State got a late first-period goal from Sam Sternschein and that was all it needed. Oskar Autio stopped all 23 shots he faced to pick up the shutout.

It wasn't all good though for the Nittany Lions, though. Penn State only managed to score one goal on its 29 shots. That's less than 3.5%. For comparison, last season's squad scored on 9.3% of the shots it put on goal. 

Another area that needs improvement is faceoffs. Michigan State won 34 of the 53 total faceoffs or about 64%. That's a lot of extra possession given up.

Game Two Summary
Penn State   Michigan State
1 Goals 5
37 Shots on Goal 21
15 Penalty MInutes 19 min
1 / 3 Power Plays 1 / 2
27 Faceoffs Won 30
4 Shots Blocked 14

  

Game Two was all Michigan State from the start. Two goals in the first 5:03 set the tone early while goalie Drew DeRidder continued to frustrate the Lions' offense. Sparty rode his fantastic play to a 5-1 victory.

While the faceoffs were much more even in this one, the Penn State shooters were even worse, scoring on just 2.7% of their shots on goal. Overall, the Nittany Lion offense scored on just a tick over 3% of its shots in the two-game set.

 This time around

This series will be at home. And while the Roar Zone will not be a factor, there is still a lot to be said for the familiarity of playing at home. 

Offense

Penn State struggled to put the puck behind DeRidder in the first two games. The Lions will need to score more than one goal per game if it hopes to sweep the series, or even win one of the two. Being at home should help. So should having played four games in the last two weeks. Guys like Kevin Wall (2), Tim Doherty (2), Alex Limoges (1), and Aarne Talvitie (1) all scored goals against Ohio State last weekend, so perhaps the big guns are just starting to heat up.

Penn State's Leading Scorers
Player games  Goals assists total
Alex Limoges 12 7 4 11
Kevin Wall 12 5 6 11
Tim Doherty 12 5 4 9
Michigan State's Leading Scorers
Player Games  Goals Assists Total
Josh Nodler 12 1 7 8
Charlie Combs 12 4 3 7
Mitchell Lewandowski 12 3 4 7

Defense

While Penn State got the shutout in the first game against Sparty, it struggled mightily in its own zone in Game Two against a team that doesn't score a lot of goals. Barely five minutes into that contest and it was already 2-0 Spartans. Shortly after Limoges finally broke through to pull Penn State within a goal, Clayton Phillips got hit with a five minute major for a hit to the head. Michigan State scored on the ensuing power play to go back up by two goals. The Spartans picked up two more in the third period to make the final 5-1. It's the only time they have scored more than 3 goals in regulation all season.

The series against the Buckeyes was more of the same, only in reverse. Game One against OSU was sloppy, giving up six goals, including early goals in each period. Game Two saw the defense play more disciplined which led to the victory.

Goaltending

It's still not completely clear if head coach Guy Gadowsky has settled on one goaltender to get most of the starts the rest of the way. After shutting out Michigan State, Autio sat on the bench for game two while Liam Soulière got the start. Then after struggling in game one against Ohio State, Autio got the net again in game two.

It would seem that Autio has pulled ahead of Soulière. He has four of Penn State's five wins. His goals-against average is more than a full goal better. And his save percentage is also better. Michigan State struggles to score goals, so this is a golden opportunity to improve all of those statistics.

Penn State's Goaltending
Player Games W L T GAA SV%
Oskar Autio 8 4 4 0 3.25 .878
Liam Souliere 4 1 3 0 4.37 .850
Michigan State's Goaltending
player Games w L T GAA SV%
Drew DeRidder 12 5 5 2 2.03 .940
Pierce Charleson 1 0 0 0 7.43 .829

Bold Prediction

For whatever reason, Penn State seems to struggle against Michigan State. Perhaps it's because MSU forces the Lions to play a more disciplined style or they will take advantage of mistakes. While PSU has been inconsistent this season, it has shown it can play 60 minutes of disciplined hockey in several games. I think Penn State has gotten over the inevitable rust from the holiday break and is just starting to get back on track. I don't think the Lions will score a lot of goals, but I think they will score enough. I predict Penn State will win both games this weekend by scores of 3-1 and 3-2.

Friday's game is scheduled to start at 6:00 PM. Saturday's game is set for a 3:00 PM faceoff. Both games will be available on BTN+. As always, follow @RLRblog on Twitter and check back here for coverage of the games.

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