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Know Your Enemy: No. 16 Penn State Hockey vs. No. 17 Clarkson

The leaves are changing, the weather is¬†should start cooling down soon, and pumpkin spice is back on the menu. These facts can only mean two things: It’s fall, and hockey is back.

No. 16 Penn State hockey will host the 17th-ranked Clarkson Golden Knights for its season-opening series at Pegula Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions will begin this season with eight consecutive games on home ice, giving them a prime opportunity to start this season strong.

The General

Clarkson qualified for the NCAA tournament last season after posting a stellar 23-11-6 record. However, Providence shut out the Golden Knights 1-0 in the first round of the tournament, marking a disappointing end to what was otherwise a breakout season for the program.

Like the Nittany Lions, Clarkson also lost its top scorer from the 2017-18 season. Gordon Rempal scored 23 goals and 46 points in 39 games, leading the team in each statistical category by a long way. The Los Angeles Kings signed him to a pro contract, and he started this season in the AHL.

Junior forwards Nico Sturm and Devin Brosseau, however, are back, and scored a combined 69 points last season. The Golden Knights also return undersized forward Jack Jacome, who scored 29 points as a freshman last season.

Clarkson scored a solid 3.05 goals per game throughout the 2017-18 season, ranking it among the top 20 teams in college hockey. However, the team’s offensive production was very top heavy, as only five forwards scored more than 20 points. The offense may take a hit this season, as two of those five forwards signed professional contracts following the season.

The Golden Knights’ defense took an even bigger hit, as its two top defensemen from last year’s squad — Kelly Summers and Terrance Amorosa — are both gone. The duo combined to block 105 shots and posted plus-minus ratings of +19 and +22, respectively.

The Golden Knights’ most reliable returning blueliner is perhaps Aaron Thow, who finished last year with a respectable +10 rating and 46 blocked shots. The defense also lost Tyko Karjalainen to graduation after he appeared in 30 games throughout last season.

Goaltending and defense was the reason Clarkson qualified for the NCAA tournament last year, and Jake Kielly will be back between the pipes this weekend. He finished with a 22-10-6 record, a .929 save percentage, and a 1.85 goals-against average. His save percentage and GAA ranked No. 7 and No. 4 in the country, respectively.

An objectively weaker defense in front of Kielly may present him with lots of challenges, but he proved last year that he can be elite at the collegiate level.

Zeroing In

Clarkson lost plenty of its top scorers entering last season, but actually improved on an 18-16-5 record from the 2016-17 season to qualify for the big dance. Nico Sturm and Devin Brosseau have to continue producing points at a high level for the Golden Knights to have any chance of beating Penn State this weekend.

The losses of Kelly Summers and Terrance Amorosa will certainly hurt the Golden Knights’ overall team defense, but Jake Kielly proved that he can steal games on his own at times last season.

He’ll immediately face a big challenge in Penn State’s high-flying offense.

Last Meeting

The Golden Knights will open their season with a game against Penn State for the second consecutive year. They upset the Nittany Lions 2-1 behind a 38-save performance by Kielly to set the tone for a stellar season.

Prediction

Penn State will have plenty of opportunities to pick up victories on home ice early this season, and I think the team will take at least one of those chances against Clarkson. Give me a 4-1 victory on opening night, but I think Jake Kielly will bounce back and steal the second game to give his team a 3-2 overtime win.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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