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Know Your Enemy: Penn State Men’s Hockey vs. Michigan

The only thing standing in between Penn State men’s hockey and the Frozen Four is Michigan. The Wolverines, perhaps the best team in the country, will surely put up their best effort to prevent a Frozen Four bid for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State played a nearly perfect game on Friday night, blowing out Michigan Tech 8-0 in the program’s first tournament appearance in five years. Still, its next game against Michigan will force the Nittany Lions to be just as good, if not better.

Here’s a closer look at the Wolverines as Penn State aims to clinch its first-ever trip to the Frozen Four.

Penn State Overview

It’s hard not to ride out the excitement of an 8-0 beatdown against Michigan Tech, but the Nittany Lions will need to reel it in and focus if they plan to upset the Wolverines for a second time this season.

Penn State pulled off one of the biggest upsets in all of college hockey this season when it beat Michigan 3-0 in the first of four meetings between the teams. The other three outings didn’t go as well for the Nittany Lions. Head coach Guy Gadowsky’s group lost the next three games and were outscored 16-10.

It’s been a tale of two seasons thus far for the Nittany Lions and despite their dominating win on Friday night, it’s worth noting that Penn State has struggled in the second half of the season compared to the opening half.

While Gadowsky’s roster just turned in its best all-around performance of the year, it’s hard to forget how much the team has grappled with its competition since the calendar flipped to 2023. When hot, the Nittany Lions boast a dynamic offense that’s evenly spread out across all of their lines, coupled with one of the better goaltenders in the country. When things aren’t going so hot, Penn State fails to stay out of the penalty box, while struggling to keep up with quicker, more dynamic teams.

Michigan Overview

Michigan presents a loaded lineup headlined by freshman phenom and projected top draft prospect Adam Fantilli. New Jersey Devils 2021 draft pick Luke Hughes, who scored four goals in a game against Penn State earlier this season, leads a loaded attack from the blue line in front of star goaltender Erik Portillo.

The Wolverines were the top seed in the Allentown Region for a reason. They enter Sunday’s game with a 25-11-3 record after winning the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan blew out its first-round opponent Colgate by a score of 11-1.

If there was a perfect team in all of college hockey, you could make the argument that it’s Michigan. Its balanced attack along with its experience and goaltending make the Wolverines a tough matchup for Penn State.

Keys To The Game

As is the case with every Penn State men’s hockey game, the biggest key to the game is goaltender Liam Souliere. After setting a new program record for single-game saves in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten tournament, Souliere pitched a shutout against Michigan Tech in the semifinal round of the NCAA Tournament.

If Souliere is on, there’s a good chance the Nittany Lions will head to Tampa Bay for the Frozen Four. However, if the same Souliere that showed up in the last three matchups against Michigan shows up, it’s going to be a long night for the Nittany Lions.

While their discipline was excellent on Friday, the Nittany Lions will need to do the same on Sunday if they wish to advance. A team like Michigan will punish Gadowsky’s group if they fail to stay out of the penalty box and Penn State can’t afford to put that amount of stress on Souliere and its defenseman. With the lineup that Michigan boasts, it’s imperative that Penn State stays out of the box if it wishes to advance in the tournament.


While the last few meetings between these two teams may suggest a blowout in favor of the Wolverines, we expect this game to be a close one. Unfortunately for Penn State, Michigan is too fast on offense and too stout on the back end to fall this early in the tournament. We predict that Penn State will put up a fight but eventually lose to Michigan 3-2.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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