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Keys To Success For Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Second Half Of Season

On Sunday, October 3, 2021, fans entered Pegula Ice Arena for the first time in over an entire season with high hopes and anticipation for Penn State men’s hockey Big Ten title push.

Now, as the middle of January approaches, the Nittany Lions are 12-10 overall and have collected just eight points with a 3-9 record in conference play.

While there have been many close games, landslide losses, unexpected cancelations, and other unique situations have characterized Penn State’s season so far.

As the Nittany Lions head into Ann Arbor for their second series against the Big Ten’s second-place Wolverines, Penn State has an opportunity to rewrite its season. Here are a few keys to success for the remainder of the Penn State men’s hockey season:

Special Teams Must Improve

During the season’s opening month, Penn State exemplified a stellar 96.4% penalty kill, which was the fourth-best mark across the NCAA. However, the Nittany Lions now sit at the bottom of the Big Ten in penalty kills after successfully getting back to full strength only 64.1% of the time.

Additionally, Penn State sits dead last in the Big Ten in generating power-play attempts with just 34. This hockey team takes more penalties than it draws, which quickly proves costly. If the Nittany Lions want to turn things around for the rest of the season, taking bad penalties late in close games is a trend that will have to be put to rest quickly.

Good Goaltending Is A Necessity

Ohio State is currently in second place in the Big Ten conference. Coincidentally, the Buckeyes are in second place for goals allowed per game, giving up an average of 2.42 goals per game.

Penn State is at the bottom of the standings in its conference and (you guessed it) is coincidentally giving up 3.92 goals per game — the most in the Big Ten.

Oskar Autio will need to step up his game in this remainder of the season if Penn State wants to move up in the standings. He’s currently ranked ninth in the conference with a .891 save percentage.

Autio currently ranks fifth in the Big Ten in saves with 285. However, Autio is not entirely to blame for Penn State’s rough patches this season. Hockey is a team sport that relies on dapper defensive play, and fellow goaltender Liam Souliere is posting a .890 save percentage in his five appearances this season.

Ending on a high note for Autio, he ranks second in the Big Ten with 28.50 saves per game. If this pair of netminders can figure it out for the Nittany Lions, the back half of the schedule could see different results.

Careless Mistakes Can Be Nursed To Health Through…Caring

Penn State has been in quite a few games this season where it could’ve earned a win if it avoided some embarrassing mistakes. Minimizing these blunders could have made a big difference, even if it only adds on a couple of wins to this point.

In their series against Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions gave up a goal on an odd-man rush with only .2 seconds remaining in overtime in a game they led until late in the third period. 

Penn State has also had opponents’ momentum shift against it after allowing opponents to tie the game or take the lead. The mindset needs to stay sharp for the Nittany Lions to jump teams like Wisconsin and Michigan State.

If this Penn State team can get its psyche right in lead-changing scenarios and focus on the essentials without taking poor penalties, the record will see a higher number tack onto the left side of the column.

What’s Next?

Penn State will take the ice against No. 4 Michigan in Ann Arbor in two-game series with the Wolverines. The puck drop will at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 14, on BTN+.

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About the Author

Gabriel Herman

Gabriel Herman is a journalism major at Penn State from Minneapolis, MN. He writes about several sports-related topics. If you want to discuss great moments in Minnesota sports history, you can reach him at [email protected]

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