After opening Big Ten play with a split of No. 7 Minnesota, No. 11 Penn State is back in action this weekend when American International visits Pegula Ice Arena.
This weekend’s series is a Thursday-Friday series due to the White Out football game on Saturday. Game one is Penn State’s home opener, and the team will raise the banner honoring last season’s Big Ten Championship-winning team. Puck drop is at 7 p.m. on both nights.
American International’s season is not off to the best start. The Yellow Jackets are winless through their first five games of the season, recording a 3-3 tie against conference rival Bentley sandwiched between losses to Army (twice), Connecticut, and UMass.
AIC’s lack of offense this season and its defensive struggles have combined to doom the team. The Yellow Jackets have scored ten goals so far this season while conceding 19. They’ve scored more than once in just two of those games, and have only allowed less than three goals once so far.
Defenseman Patrik Demel is the only player on the team operating at a point-per-game rate so far this season; his three goals and five points are good enough for the team lead in each of those categories. Janis Jaks, Demel’s partner on the back end, is second on the team with four points (two goals and two assists) so far this season.
Another notable name on the back end is Andrew DeBrincat. Though DeBrincat has struggled in the early stages of the season (zero points, minus-7 rating), fans may recognize his last name. His brother Alex wass a second-round draft pick of the Chicago Blackhawks. He made the Chicago Blackhawks’ roster this season after starring alongside Connor McDavid with Erie (OHL).
It’s clear that the forward group is struggling to find offense; sophomore forward Martin Mellberg leads all forwards in scoring with three points, but he has yet to find the back of the net himself.
In goal, Zackarias Skog has seen the majority of work, starting four of the first five games for AIC. He is winless this season, recording a 3.96 goals-against average and a .861 save percentage in his four starts. However, he’s one save away from reaching 100 on the season.
A rocky defense and a struggling forward group should have Penn State chomping at the bit heading into this series, but the Yellow Jackets do have the opportunity to shock the college hockey world with an upset at Pegula.
Although they may seem like just another bad team in college hockey, this result should open the Nittany Lions’ eyes and show them this team is capable of producing a surprise.
Emotions will be running high Thursday night ahead of the home opener and Big Ten banner raising, and Penn State’s players will be amped up to return home for the first time this season. The Nittany Lions should handily sweep the Yellow Jackets over these two games to kick off the first of six consecutive home games.