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Know Your Enemy: No. 15 Penn State Hockey vs. Michigan

No. 15 Penn State men’s hockey (13-9-2, 5-8-1 Big Ten) will play two games against Michigan in the next three days.

The Nittany Lions and Wolverines will battle at Yost Ice Arena at 7:30 p.m. Thursday before traveling to Madison Square Garden in New York City for a 7 p.m. puck drop Saturday. The second game of the series is part of the conference’s Super Saturday and will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

The Team

Michigan (8-9-6, 4-5-4 Big Ten) is in serious danger of missing the NCAA tournament through 23 games played.

The Wolverines have had an up-and-down 2018-19 season so far, and they’re coming off their bye week after splitting against No. 3 Ohio State. The team has won two of its four contests since the start of the new year, but those victories came against the Buckeyes and No. 11 Notre Dame in an outdoor game at Notre Dame Stadium.

Head coach Mel Pearson’s team has struggled defensively this season, checking in at No. 39 in the country by allowing 3.09 goals per game. The offense is middle-of-the-pack with 2.91 goals scored per game, but it’s missing one of the better centers in college hockey.


Michigan lost a key member of its forward group due to an injury suffered at the World Junior Championship.

Josh Norris — still the team’s co-leader in goals (10) despite missing the last six games — won’t return for the remainder of the year due to an undisclosed injury suffered at the tournament.

Junior Nick Pastujov has stepped up to the top line in Norris’ absence along with wings Will Lockwood and Jack Becker. Pastujov also has 10 goals to his name this season, while Lockwood is third on the team with 18 points.

The Wolverines are relatively deep up front with six forwards posting at least 10 points so far this season, but could still see some more production out of their bottom-six forwards. The third and fourth lines have combined for just 20 points.


Top defenseman Quinn Hughes is Michigan’s heartbeat and one of the best players in college hockey.

Hughes, a top 10 draft pick by the Vancouver Canucks, leads the Wolverines with 22 points despite missing four games while playing in the World Junior Championship. He’s an elite skater and passer who can make established players look like pylons with the puck on his stick.

Senior captain Joseph Cecconi has spent most of this season as Hughes’ defensive partner, and he’s thriving after a stellar 2017-18 season with 17 points in 23 games. Outside of the top pairing, Michigan’s defense is experienced, but not necessarily elite, which is why it’s had trouble keeping the puck out of the net.

Hayden Lavigne and Strauss Mann have each made 12 appearances in goal and won four games this season. Neither goaltender has been great, but Lavigne’s .892 save percentage and 2.78 goals-against average are slightly better than Mann’s .890 and 3.05 marks in the same categories.


These two teams played to a high-scoring split in November, but I think this weekend will go a bit differently.

On paper, Michigan’s suspect goaltending and average-at-best defense beyond the top pair should fall victim to Penn State’s elite attack. However, the Nittany Lions haven’t won at Yost Ice Arena since 2014, and they’ve never won a game at Madison Square Garden.

Michigan will win 5-3 at Yost on Thursday, and I think the two teams will play to a 4-4 tie at the World’s Most Famous Arena before the Wolverines take the extra point in a shootout.

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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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