Penn State Hockey Enters Big Ten Play Against A Different Michigan
Although Michigan hockey lost its prolific 2015-16 top line to the NHL, Guy Gadowsky isn’t complacent entering No. 7 Penn State’s Big Ten opener against the No. 20 Wolverines this Thursday. His focus is more concentrated on Michigan’s defense this year, though.
“They are Michigan — but they’re different,” he said. “Last year their offense was just unbelievably explosive. They’re still Michigan so it can still be that way but if you look at the success they’ve had this season…they’re doing it with defense.”
Despite Michigan’s current mediocre 6-5-1 record, Gadowsky’s right. The Wolverines are tied for 7 in the nation with just 2.17 goals allowed per game on average. They’re the only team ahead of Penn State on the penalty kill, with 59-of-64 killed on the season for a 92.2 percentage. Goalie Hayden Lavigne’s posted two shutouts, and goalie Jack LaFontaine is tied for 11 in the nation with a .924 save percentage.
Coach is characteristically cautious, but there’s no denying Penn State has the offensive edge on Michigan. Captain David Goodwin said he and the team feel equally as confident headed into Michigan as they would playing anyone else. Michigan was an offensive powerhouse last year and hasn’t been putting up the same numbers. At the end of last season, three of the nations top four scorers were Wolverines. So far this year, none even crack the top 65.
Goodwin, Andrew Sturtz, and David Thompson all agreed Michigan, and any other team in the league for that matter, is not unbeatable. “We had some bad memories last year playing Michigan, but it’s a new year, new faces,” Goodwin said.
He joked Penn State’s 2015-16 season deficit must’ve been 40-7, and he honestly wasn’t that far off. It was really 33-11. You never know what’s going to happen, but the pre-conference play numbers tell a different story than last year. Penn State’s offense leads the country in goals per game average (4.77). It’ll have to flex that offensive prowess to win against a tough Michigan defense, but loss of key Wolverines will make defense considerably less challenging for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State faces off with Michigan at 6:30 p.m. this Thursday then 7 p.m. Friday. We’ll have an in-depth preview tomorrow.