Know Your Enemy: No. 17 Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Mercyhurst
After last weekend’s split against Big Ten rival Michigan, No. 17 Penn State men’s hockey finishes off a six-game homestand this weekend with two games against Mercyhurst, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Lakers conceded just one goal between both victories, but conceded 12 in their other four games combined. The defense hasn’t been airtight, but it’s shown flashes of shutdown potential, especially in those two victories.
As far as goal scoring is concerned, junior forward Taylor Best leads all forwards with five points in six games. Defenseman Les Lancaster is operating at a point-per-game clip so far this season with six points in six games. Derek Barach and Jack Riley are tied for the team lead in points with five each; the junior and redshirt senior each have two goals and three assists so far for the Lakers.
The goal scoring hasn’t been limited to the team’s top players through sixth games, however. Eight players have scored at least three points so far this year for Mercyhurst.
On the back end, Lancaster and Jeremy Wu have platooned as the Lakers’ top defensive pairing. Though Wu has not matched his partner’s scoring numbers so far this season (one assist in six games played), the duo will play as the team’s top pairing this weekend when Mercyhurst comes to Pegula Ice Arena.
Senior Brandon Wildung has started all six games in goal for the Lakers this season. His record currently sits at 2-2-2, his goals-against average sits at a solid 2.13, and his .933 save percentage is among the best in the Atlantic Hockey conference.
Wildung is coming off of a shutout against conference rivals Bentley last weekend, so barring extenuating circumstances, expect to see him start both games this weekend.
Mercyhurst could cause plenty of problems for Penn State’s defense, which has been inconsistent at best in the early stages of this season.
With eight players scoring at least three points through the Lakers’ six games, it’s clear that Mercyhurst has a host of talent up front, so the Nittany Lion defense can’t focus all of its attention on one line this weekend.
Since becoming a Division I program in 2012, Penn State has only played against Mercyhurst once, a 7-0 away victory last season in a game of firsts for that season’s freshman class.
Nikita Pavlychev, Nate Sucese, and Denis Smirnov each scored their first NCAA goals in the rout, and Peyton Jones recorded his first career shutout and victory for the Nittany Lions. Chase Berger, Trevor Hamilton, and Andrew Sturtz also scored in the victory
It’s impossible for me not to predict a Penn State sweep this weekend. Based on the team’s history against Mercyhurst and the fact that this team must be sick of splitting series (all four of the Nittany Lions’ series have been splits), Guy Gadowsky will have his team fired up and ready to sweep the Lakers.