Know Your Enemy: No. 12 Penn State Hockey Needs Rebound Effort Against No. 20 Michigan
No. 12 Penn State men’s hockey (13-9-3, 6-6-3 Big Ten) dropped a 4-0 decision to No. 20 Michigan Friday night at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Jack Becker, Josh Norris, and Brendan Warren scored for the Wolverines as they picked up a crucial conference win over Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions.
A 4-0 defeat doesn’t look great on paper, but the final score is not indicative of how the game went. The two teams were relatively even in every part of the ice for 50 of the game’s 60 minutes, so how can Penn State turn a decent effort into a bounce-back victory over Mel Pearson and Michigan?
Adjustments: Penn State
Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions played very well defensively through the first two-and-a-half periods of Friday’s game, but could not find a way to beat Michigan goaltender Hayden Lavigne. Penn State outshot Michigan 35-34 on the night and had several grade-A chances on Lavigne’s net.
Lavigne made a massive save on a James Robinson breakaway and he stonewalled Nate Sucese and Cole Hults on several promising scoring chances. He even received some help from the right goal post when it denied Brandon Biro’s wrist shot after a Michigan turnover in the first period.
The only adjustment Penn State needs to make is simple: Finish. The Nittany Lions need to take the top-quality scoring chances that Michigan gives them and find a way to put the biscuit in the basket if they want to have any chance to win. Getting off to a flying start Saturday night will certainly help this cause; a quick goal within the first five or ten minutes into the game could turn game two into a track meet.
Michigan played extremely well during Friday night’s game. Mel Pearson instructed his players to slow the tempo of the game to a crawl to counter the high-flying hockey that Guy Gadowsky loves to play, and they executed this plan to perfection. However, there are some areas of the game that Pearson needs to work on if his team wants to take all six points from this weekend’s series.
First of all, his defense needs to tighten up and prevent the Nittany Lions from having the top-quality chances that they had throughout the evening. Hayden Lavigne was spectacular in goal, but his team’s goaltending has been inconsistent this year. Penn State’s offense is a sleeping bear right now; the unit’s 107 minutes of goal-less hockey will surely wake it up.
Speaking of the sleeping bear, the Wolverines need to be ready for a Penn State onslaught Saturday night. The Nittany Lions are going to throw everything but the kitchen sink on Michigan’s goal in game two of the series. Slowing the tempo of the game down certainly helped Michigan’s defense, but slowing down a frustrated Nittany Lion offense is much easier said than done.
Stat Of The Day
Penn State hockey is best known among college hockey fans for its high-flying offense, but the group of forwards has gone cold over its past two games. The Nittany Lions have not scored in their last 107:07 of play – Nikita Pavlychev scored the team’s last goal during its 5-1 loss to No. 6 Ohio State on January 13.
Will Penn State bounce back and earn a split against Michigan this weekend? It doesn’t look likely, as the Nittany Lions have not recorded a victory at Yost Ice Arena since November 21, 2014, but they can turn this game into a track meet with a quick start.
I think Penn State will get a quick goal and pick up a 6-4 victory in the process, earning a split and its first win at Yost Ice Arena in three seasons to keep its NCAA tournament spot in the Pairwise rankings.