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Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Keys To Beating Minnesota

After a two-week hiatus, Penn State men’s hockey returns to the ice for a home series against No. 2 Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, with both games beginning at 6:30 p.m.

This series will be a tall task for the Nittany Lions. Minnesota is a talented team that simply finds ways to win, and Penn State needs as many victories as possible from here on out.

However, this is a winnable series for the Nittany Lions, as is any Big Ten series. The Nittany Lions split the first series with the Golden Gophers back in November, and here’s what needs to happen for them to have a successful series this weekend.

Avoid The Penalty Box

While this is generally important in hockey, it’s especially critical when playing Minnesota. The Gophers’ .248 power play percentage is second in the Big Ten behind Michigan and No. 8 in the nation. Meanwhile, Penn State’s penalty kill has been subpar, with a .772 success rate that ranks No. 49 in college hockey.

Good discipline is going to be massive if the Nittany Lions are to beat Minnesota. This is something Penn State consistently struggles with, which is proved by the team taking at least three penalties in every game since RIT on December 30.

Speed And Space

Although Minnesota is a fast team, Penn State has what it takes to out-skate the Gophers and get open enough to make plays. In Penn State’s 4-2 upset over Minnesota in November, the Nittany Lions consistently found space in the offensive zone, which set up scoring chances. Let one or two players get loose, and the possibility of scoring a goal increases for Guy Gadowsky’s team.

With additional rest and more time to prepare for what Minnesota offers, there is no reason why the Nittany Lions shouldn’t find ways to get open, create scoring chances, and put the puck in the back of the net.

Capitalize On Rebounds

A lack of capitalization on rebound opportunities is something Gadowsky recently mentioned he wants to see more from his team. Crashing the net is necessary, and it could be a great means to score on Justen Close.

Although Close has played well this season, he is just as vulnerable as any other goaltender in the Big Ten. Penn State needs to focus on giving Close as little time as possible to reset after making saves on big plays.

All Hands On Deck

This weekend is an “all hands on deck” situation for the Nittany Lions. The extended break gave the players time to rest up and prepare, and everyone needs to bring their best game against Minnesota.

Everyone, from the likes of Connor MacEachern and Kevin Wall to Jarod Crespo and Xander Lamppa, needs to contribute if Penn State is to win this series. If that happens, the results could be huge for Penn State’s postseason.

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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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