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Know Your Enemy: No. 10 Penn State Hockey vs. Niagara

No. 10 Penn State men’s hockey (2-0-0) continues its eight-game homestand with a series against Niagara University this weekend. Puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday and 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Niagara travels to Pegula Ice Arena after a season-opening split against American International College, but finished last season with a dismal 11-22-3 record.

The Nittany Lions kicked off their 2018-19 season last week with a sweep of Clarkson.

The General

The Purple Eagles began the season with an overtime victory on home ice, but couldn’t complete the sweep and fell 3-1 on Saturday night.

Freshman forward Dylan Mills paced Niagara offensively throughout the series, finishing with a team-leading four points in the first two games. Fellow freshman Ludwig Stenlund was the only Purple Eagle to score more than one goal as he made his NCAA debut.

This duo of first-year players should lead Niagara’s offense throughout the season. The Purple Eagles will need Mills and Stenlund to continue contributing in the absence of Niagra’s top forward from last season’s roster. Derian Plouffe graduated after leading the team with 17 goals and 35 points in 35 games, but Tanner Lomsnes — the team’s second leading scorer from last season — is back. He wasn’t in the lineup against AIC, and it’s unclear whether he’ll play this weekend.

Niagara returns its best defenseman from last year’s roster. Noah Delmas had a spectacular sophomore season, scoring 30 points from the blue line to finish second on the team behind Plouffe. He scored his first two points of the new season during Friday night’s victory, but was held off the scoresheet Saturday.

Delmas is an offensive-minded defenseman in every sense of the term; he tallied 100 shots on goal last season, just one less than Plouffe. No other Purple Eagle tallied more than 76 shots last season, so Penn State’s defense will certainly have its hands full when the right-shot defenseman is on the ice.

Like Penn State, Niagara returns its starting goaltender. Brian Wilson finished last season with a 9-19-2 record. Wilson’s .900 save percentage and 2.72 goals-against average in 2017-18 don’t jump off the page, but he made 21 saves in each of his team’s first two games of the season.

Zeroing In

To put it lightly, Niagara isn’t all that good. The Purple Eagles could barely put away a mediocre AIC team, their top scorer from last season is gone, and their stats against the Yellow Jackets don’t exactly inspire confidence.

The team mustered just 15 shots on goal throughout Saturday night’s 3-1 loss and 29 the night before. AIC was also dominant in the faceoff dot throughout the weekend, winning 80 of 133 draws.

Ludvig Larsson — Penn State’s newest ace on draws — should have a field day in the faceoff circle this weekend after posting a 72.2 win rate against a talented Clarkson team.   

Penn State’s biggest concern should be avoiding a letdown after such a strong start to the season. AIC — a conference rival of Niagara’s — came to Pegula and stole a game in overtime last season, but don’t expect Niagara to pull off an upset like that this weekend.

Last Meeting

Niagara last came to Pegula Ice Arena in the early stages of the 2016-17 season and was swept thanks to two consecutive 5-1 victories. That sweep was part of a 14-1-1 stretch that propelled the Nittany Lions to the top of the college hockey rankings.

Prediction

Penn State shouldn’t take the Purple Eagles too lightly, but I expect the Nittany Lions to stay unbeaten this season with 6-2 and 4-1 victories.

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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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