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Penn State Hockey Takes on UMass-Lowell

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The red-hot Nittany Lions journey to Massachusetts for a pair of games against the #4 River Hawks.

Where: Tsongas Center, Lowell, Massachusetts.

When: Friday 7:15 p.m. and Saturday 7 p.m.

Live Video: $10 per game

Penn State will take an impressive 5-1-2 record on the road to face fourth-ranked University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The River Hawks come into the two game series against Penn State having lost only to Michigan on October 24, owning a 6-1-2 record on the year. Penn State has received the highest ranking in program history following a two-game sweep of Bentley, garnering 30 total votes, good for 26th in the country.

PSU coach Guy Gadowsky has acknowledged the attention that his team has gotten from the national hockey media, while keeping the focus on this series. At this point Penn State is ranked higher than all other Big Ten hockey teams other than top-ranked Minnesota. At the beginning of the season, PSU was picked to finish dead-last in the Big Ten.

There are many games that remain to be played this season, the Big Ten tournament is scheduled to start on March 19. That being said, few people would have predicted that PSU would enter this series against Lowell with the chance to win one out of two games, and enter the top 20 rankings for the first time. This series is an uphill climb for the visiting Lions but the reward for success would be a milestone for the young program.

Losing two games wouldn't change things for the visiting Lions. No one expects PSU to win against UMass-Lowell on the road. Only Penn State fans who believe in miracles can imagine a scenario where PSU will win the series, tie, or otherwise hold their own.

The Match-up

The University of Massachusetts-Lowell competes in the Hockey East, arguably the toughest conference in college hockey. The two games this weekend will be the second-to-last set of games in the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge, which the Big Ten currently holds a 19-18 advantage. Minnesota plays the remaining two games of the challenge for the Big Ten, facing off against Northeastern and Boston College. A win for the Lions this weekend would grab attention for the young program, as well as the Big Ten.

Lowell averages 4.2 goals scored per game, the most in the country, on just under 26 shots per game. Penn State averages 3.8 goals per game which is tied for second-highest in the country. The River Hawks give up 2.4 goals per game off 29 shots per game. PSU averages 2 goals against per game. Lowell plays a style of hockey similar to Bentley, only with way more talent. They do not take many shots, but they make their chances count.

This is the first series of the season where the River Hawks will host the same team for consecutive games. Two weeks ago UMass-Lowell hosted Michigan and Michigan State on consecutive nights. Michigan handed Lowell the first and only loss of the year, an 8-4 thumping. The next night UMass-Lowell barely got by MSU, 2-1. There is reason to believe that PSU can compete this weekend.

The key for the Lions chances in staying competitive this weekend may rest on staying out of the penalty box. Last season the Lions averaged over five penalties per game, this season the average is under four per game. The Lions give up a point per game on power-play goals, which equals half the total goals the team has allowed. The River Hawks can close the deal when given an extra skater. The Lions must play a disciplined, patient, game on defense to keep the games close. On offense, PSU must remain loose and continue to get shots on net as they have all season, with a nation-leading average of 43.2 shots on goal per game.

Notes

  • Connor Varley, Jonathan Milley, Zach Saar, and David Glen are out with injury for the series.
  • David Thompson returns to the ice for the Lions for the first time since his scary injury in Alaska.
  • Penn State got the fifth win of the season on October 31st. Last season the team didn't register the fifth win until February 8.