Know Your Enemy: Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Michigan Tech
It’s about that time for some playoff college hockey.
At 5 p.m. on Friday, March 24, Penn State men’s hockey has its NCAA Regionals matchup against Michigan Tech at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania. This is Penn State’s first trip to the NCAA Tournament since 2018 when the Nittany Lions were eliminated in the first round with a 5-1 loss to Denver.
With Guy Gadowsky’s crew back in the thick of things, it’s time to take a closer look at the looming matchup with the Huskies.
Penn State Overview
Penn State heads into the NCAA Regionals following a 21-15-1 season that culminated in a first-round exit from the Big Ten Tournament against Ohio State. The Nittany Lions started the season with a program-record nine consecutive wins but cooled off in the second half of the season. Penn State is just 2-5 in its last seven games.
Despite a slow finish to the season, the Nittany Lions are still a very talented team. Kevin Wall leads the team in goals (16) and points (29). Wall, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, will be a huge factor in this game.
Meanwhile, Ture Linden, Connor McMenamin, and Connor MacEachern are the other three players with over 20 points this season. McMenamin and MacEachern have both been staples of Penn State’s offense for years, while Linden has impressed in his first and only season in Hockey Valley after transferring from RPI in the offseason.
In goal, Liam Souliere has generally been reliable throughout the season but has a tendency to have a rough game here and there. His save percentage, which was in the .920s earlier this season, has dropped to .913 recently. Meanwhile, Souliere has a 2.52 goals against average and averages 25.09 saves per game. Souliere’s success this season earned him a spot on the watch list for the Hobey Baker Award.
Despite the team having many veteran players, Ashton Calder is the only one who has played in the NCAA Tournament before. Calder previously played in two other NCAA Tournaments — last season with North Dakota and in 2021 at Lake Superior State.
Penn State’s head coach is Guy Gadowsky, who, like Calder, will be making his third appearance in the NCAA Tournament as the Nittany Lions’ bench boss.
Michigan Tech Overview
Michigan Tech offers a formidable challenge to Penn State. The Huskies finished second in the CCHC with a 15-7-4 record and 50 points, narrowly behind Minnesota State’s 52 points.
Junior forward Ryland Mosley leads the team with 31 points. Mosley’s 12 goals are behind Kyle Kukkonen’s 18 goals, which is the most on the team. Other players to watch include Logan Pietila, Parker Saretsky, and Brett Thorne.
However, Michigan Tech’s biggest strength is its goaltending. Blake Pietila has been outstanding this season with a 1.99 goals against average, a .929 save percentage, and 10 shutouts.
The Huskies are 4-3 in the last seven games, a stretch that includes a series split against Minnesota State. If Michigan Tech had swept that series, it probably would’ve won the conference. The Huskies return to the NCAA Regional Semifinal for the second consecutive season after falling 3-0 to Minnesota-Duluth last season.
Keys To The Game
Penn State needs to play its best game, and it needs to start with Souliere on his A-game. If Souliere plays his best game, it becomes a serious possibility that Michigan Tech’s offense could go cold.
On the other hand, Penn State needs to attack Blake Pietila as much as possible and control the game from the start. As good as he is, any goaltender becomes more vulnerable over time if peppered with shots. If Penn State knocks on the door enough times, it’ll open eventually.
The Nittany Lions need to pay close attention to Mosley, as he is easily Michigan Tech’s most dangerous skater. If he gets loose, then he will find ways to score. Therefore, it is crucial that Penn State’s defense plays better than it recently has and gives Souliere the support he needs.
Ultimately, this game is going to come down to which goaltender plays the best.
Anything is possible, but this is an uphill battle for Penn State. The Nittany Lions have looked shaky recently, and that could play right into Michigan Tech’s strengths. It’ll be a low-scoring game, but we predict the Huskies will win 2-0.
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About the Author
“To any current underclassmen reading this: learn the fight song, cheer loud, and tailgate early. You’re lucky to be a Nittany Lion.”
“Do you guys like Teen Beach Movie?”
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