Where: Pegula Ice Arena, State College, Pennsylvania.
When: Friday night at 7 p.m. and Sunday at noon
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Penn State returns to Happy Valley for a pair of games against Holy Cross. The Crusaders, competing out of the Atlantic Hockey Association, are making the trip from Worcester, Massachusetts. This series features a unique format. The teams will play Friday, take Saturday off, and then finish the series Sunday at noon. There's probably something big going on in State College on Saturday.
The Crusaders (1-2-1) enter State College after a pair of two-game series against Merrimack and American International. Penn State last faced the Crusaders in 2012, when Holy Cross took both games of a series that was played in Worcester. Two years ago Holy Cross was favored to win against the Lions, now the tables have turned. Playing at home after a long and successful road trip to Alaska, this series favors the Lions.
Holy Cross finished last season with a record of 14-22-3 while competing in one of the softer conferences in NCAA hockey. The Crusaders lost two of three top scorers to graduation. The top returning scorer, junior forward Matt Vidal, is off to a quick start averaging one point per game. Senior goaltender Matt Ginn manned the net last season for all but four games and has played every minute between the pipes for the Crusaders this season. Vidal and Ginn serve as team captains.
First-year head coach David Berard brings a very young and inexperienced team to Happy Valley this weekend. The Crusaders have only four senior skaters after losing nine players to graduation last year. On the flip side, Penn State has four redshirt seniors, four true seniors, and a redshirt junior. In addition, most Penn State players have logged a great deal of minutes on the ice in their early years with the team. The Lions have an advantage in experience as well as talent heading into this weekend.
The Lions (36.8) and Crusaders (35.2) like to put the puck on net, averaging over 70 shots per game combined. Penn State (15) has lit the lamp nearly twice as often through four games as the Crusaders (8). Some of that scoring advantage has come while the power play unit is on the ice for Penn State. The two teams have each had eleven power play opportunities this season, with the Lions finding the net four times compared to Holy Cross netting only one goal.
- Penn State sophomore Dave Thompson is recovering from an injury that he sustained last weekend and he is in good spirits. An abdominal laceration requiring 20 stitches is likely to keep him out of action for the next four games.
Small bump in the road tonight, but nothing I can't bounce back from after receiving all the love and support from everyone #thankyou— Dave Thompson (@DaveChompson) October 18, 2014
- Zach Saar (6'5" 236) and Jonathan Milley (6'4" 246) will miss the series along with Thompson (6'2" 217), leaving the Lions without their three largest skaters. This may be one of the few series that Penn State does not have a clear size advantage.
- The Lions will host Bentley at home next weekend, giving the team a few weeks of home cooking following the trip to Alaska.