Men’s Hockey: Penn State vs. Minnesota Preview

    Penn State vs. Minnesota preview. The two Big Ten powerhouses square off this weekend in Minneapolis for the first time this season.

    February 2, 2017

    Penn State vs. Minnesota preview. The two Big Ten powerhouses square off this weekend in Minneapolis for the first time this season.


    When: Friday, Feb. 3 and Saturday, Feb. 4 – Both games 8 p.m. ET
    Where: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, Minnesota
    TV Broadcast: BTN2Go (Friday), Big Ten Network and BTN2GO (Saturday)

    Both Penn State (16-4-2) and Minnesota (15-7-2) come into this weekend’s series as top ten teams in America, with the Nittany Lions sitting at No. 6 and the Gophers at No. 7. Penn State heads into this showdown as losers of two consecutive games, something that the former No. 1 team in the nation is not used to. And things won’t get any easier for them this weekend as Mariucci Arena isn’t exactly a relaxing road venue to play in.

    Each team will need their best players to be just that this weekend, meaning Minnesota’s Tyler Sheehy (15 Goals, 18 Assists) and Penn State’s Denis Smirnov (11G, 18A) should count on being heavily relied upon to create offense. That’s not to minimize the importance of either team’s depth players though either. In 22 games this season Penn State has 8 players with at least 15 points, while Minnesota has 7 players with at least 15 points through 24 games.

    In games between two top teams, a lot of focus gets put on the best players from either side, and rightfully so. What often times gets ignored, however, is the depth/role players. When you have two great teams squaring off, the top two lines can often cancel each other out. This leaves the third and fourth lines as keys to victory. Depth, and goaltending, are arguably the most crucial factors to being successful in this sport.

    Penn State Wins If…

    …they can figure out once again how to keep the puck out of their own net. While the Nittany Lions are currently ranked fourteenth in the country in team defense (2.36 GAA), they were once ranked third back in early December. Since then, the wheels have somewhat fallen off as they have struggled to limit their opponents’ scoring chances and subsequent goals. Penn State leads the nation in goals per game (4.41), so if they can limit Minnesota’s scoring chances and offensive zone time, they should have a shot to pull off at least one solid road victory.

    Minnesota Wins If…

    …they are able to win the puck possession battle. While Penn State owns the top offense, Minnesota is not far behind at No. 5 in that category. Keeping the Nittany Lions pinned in their own end should not only lead to more scoring opportunities for the Gophers, but it keeps the puck off the sticks of the nation’s top offensive team. In addition, the more time spent in the offensive zone for Minnesota, the better the odds are of them drawing some penalties and letting their seventh ranked powerplay go to work. Faceoffs and getting the puck cleanly through the neutral zone will be key factors for Minnesota during these two games.

    Matchup To Watch

    Peyton Jones vs. Tyler Sheehy

    Jones ranks second in the Big Ten in goals against average (2.45) and fourth in save percentage (.905), while Sheehy sits twelfth in the nation in points with 33. That’s a 1.38 points per game ratio for Sheehy, meaning he’s greatly counted on by his teammates to generate offense. It will be up to Peyton Jones to come up with some big saves to keep Sheehy off the scoresheet.

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