Could Penn State Men’s Hockey Pick Up Where It Left Off?

That’s right, folks. Penn State men’s hockey will return to the ice Friday night to take on Notre Dame in South Bend after the team’s previous eight games were canceled or postponed due to positive COVID-19 tests.

The Nittany Lions last took the ice in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Fighting Irish on January 29. Unfortunately, that means the team hasn’t had the chance to improve its odds of making the NCAA Division I Championship Tournament after starting the season with an 0-5 record.

Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, the Big Ten recently announced its tournament seeding will be decided by winning percentage due to a large number of canceled and postponed games. Even after not playing the last eight games, the team’s winning percentage still sits at fifth place in the conference behind Michigan and ahead of Ohio State and Michigan State.

Now that the Nittany Lions will be back on the ice this weekend, it’s hard to predict how this team will perform against Notre Dame.

The Nittany Lions haven’t been the most dependable team this season. Despite winning nine of its last 13 games after starting 0-5, the team hasn’t played with much consistency during its resurgence. Even though the offense has kept up the work, for the most part, Penn State’s defense wasn’t as strong as it has been in past seasons. The team has given up an average of 3.4 goals per game since the beginning of the season and 3.1 in its last nine games.

On the offensive side of the puck, the Nittany Lions have averaged only 2.9 goals per game and 2.78 goals per game in their last nine games. Luckily, junior forward Aarne Talvitie will most likely be available for Friday night’s game after missing two games against Notre Dame with a day-to-day injury. He’ll add considerable depth to Penn State’s already deep offense.

Before the season came to a halt, Penn State’s fourth line began to step up to give the team a fuller offense. Sophomore forward Connor McMenamin also emerged as one of the Nittany Lions’ best players on and off the ice during the season’s second phase. If the offense picks up where it left off, it would make Penn State’s return to play considerably easier.

In addition to multiple skaters emerging as key players to Penn State’s success, Phase II of the season also saw the rise of Oskar Autio as the team’s number one goaltender. Despite allowing 2.4 goals per game in his last five starts, Autio consistently gave the Nittany Lions a chance to win in almost every game he has played this season. From preserving leads from making saves to keep teams from running away with games, Autio has arguably been Penn State’s most consistent player. Autio must continue to be Penn State’s backbone if it wants a chance to win.

After not playing a game for five weeks, the Nittany Lions are also in a difficult spot right now with only two games left to prepare for the Big Ten tournament. The Nittany Lions are currently on the outside looking into the NCAA Tournament. The team’s last chance to make the tournament will most likely be winning the Big Ten tournament. If the Nittany Lions come out with a solid game this weekend, success in the Big Ten tournament will be a very realistic thought.

The Nittany Lions will face off against the Irish Friday night to kick off its final series of the season. Puck drop is slated for 7:45 p.m. on NBCSN.

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected].

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