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‘We Feel Good’: Penn State Men’s Hockey Confident Ahead Of Series With No. 1 Minnesota

If you thought last week was the only time Penn State men’s hockey would face the No. 1 team in the nation, think again. The No. 8-ranked Nittany Lions are readying for a showdown against No. 1 Minnesota, this time in the belly of the beast in Minneapolis at 3M Arena at Mariucci on November 10 and 11.

Coming off a win and overtime loss against the then-No. 1 ranked Wolverines, the Nittany Lions are currently in first place in the Big Ten. This series will determine the top spot, as the Golden Gophers trail Penn State by just one point in the conference.

This will undoubtedly be a tough series, and Minnesota’s lineup is arguably even better than Michigan’s. Jimmy Snuggerud, Matthew Knies, and Jackson LaCombe each rank in the top 10 for most goals, assists, and points in the Big Ten. Meanwhile, Justen Close has established himself as one of the better goaltenders in the conference.

However, it would be very naive to believe Minnesota will easily win this series. In fact, Penn State is certainly capable of playing a competitive series, and its players are feeling confident and excited ahead of the matchup.

“We feel good,” forward Ashton Calder said. “We know we can play with those big teams no matter what.”

Calder is right, and the numbers back him up. Penn State currently has the second-most goals (43), assists (73), and points (116) in the conference.

Penn State’s defense is even better, holding opponents to an average of two goals per game. Meanwhile, it has the second-highest save percentage (.925) in the Big Ten, too.

The bulk of the Nittany Lions’ on-ice and film preparation for the series has come from experience. Many players on Penn State’s roster have played Minnesota enough times to have a general understanding of the Gophers’ style of play.

“They love to possess the puck. They love to use their speed,” forward Christian Sarlo said.

Minnesota plays with speed, but Sarlo understands what it will take to stop the Gophers.

“The big thing for us will be ending plays early, especially when they get the puck in our zone. Just get it out as quick as we can because they’ll possess it for 40 seconds to a minute — as long as they can until you get a shot and try to tire you out,” Sarlo said.

Calder, who played Minnesota during his time at North Dakota, also has a feel for what to expect in this series, even as a transfer to the program.

“I’ve watched them a lot,” Calder said. “I just know how they play. They’re a fast, skilled team.”

Despite Minnesota being a top team, defenseman and captain Paul DeNaples was adamant that his team isn’t preparing for Minnesota any differently than other opponents.

“We don’t really prepare any differently because our philosophy is that we play our game the right way,” DeNaples said. “We don’t have to change things for anyone else.”

Head coach Guy Gadowsky echoed DeNaples in his confidence that the Nittany Lions “don’t focus on the other team as much” as they do on themselves.

Penn State’s confident and unfazed mindset heading into this series is one the team has had throughout the season. The Nittany Lions have proven to be experienced and skilled, which should make for a very competitive series on Thursday and Friday.

Both games of the series will begin at 8 p.m. on November 10 and 11, respectively.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a sophomore majoring in journalism. From the Maryland side of the D.C. suburbs, Nolan likes using Old Bay and is a diehard Washington sports fan, which isn't fun these days. If you want to keep in touch with Nolan, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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