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Penn State vs Wisconsin Hockey Series Preview

The Lions travel to Madison with a chance to make an early-season statement in the B1G.

Taylor Holstrom enters the weekend tied for second in the country with 1.50 points per game.
Taylor Holstrom enters the weekend tied for second in the country with 1.50 points per game.
Photo by giraffelover

When: Friday and Saturday 9 p.m.

Where: Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin.

Television: Friday-ESPN News/Saturday-btn2go and regional coverage.

An announcement was made mid-week that there will be additional Penn State hockey games on television this season. Including the match Saturday in Madison, six games will be broadcast on regional stations throughout Pennsylvania as well as on btn2go.com. Tonight's game will be aired on national television, with the additional television coverage, the weekend's series will be the first complete road series that fans can view at home on TV.

Coach Guy Gadowsky and his rising Penn State hockey program have a great opportunity this weekend against a young, struggling Badger squad. Having already split one B1G road series with Michigan, a split or series win would propel PSU into the #2 spot in the conference in the early going of the season. No team can be taken lightly. This weekend could be the best shot Penn State has all season to get a sweep on the road in B1G competition. The Lions have never swept a road series in B1G competition.

Scouting the Opponent

Wisconsin got off to a slow start this season, losing the first eight games played. This past weekend the Badgers showed signs of life, grabbing a win and a tie against a capable Ferris State squad. One of the largest concerns for the team has been maintaining puck possession.

There are only three upperclassmen forwards on the current roster, which is a leading factor in this deficiency. There are currently 26 players on the roster and 13 are freshmen. This lopsided approach to recruiting is by design. Coach Mike Eaves has structured the program in this manner.

Eaves has been head coach since 2002. Not coincidentally his best seasons at the helm have been 2006, 2010, and 2014. Wisconsin won the national title in 2006 on the strength of Eaves' first lopsided senior class and played in the national title game with the second batch in 2010. Last season the team won the B1G hockey tournament and lost disappointingly in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In each of the three great years under Eaves the team had at least nine upperclassmen forwards.

The 0-8 start to the season has kindled feelings of resentment toward Eaves from some longtime Badger supporters. The general consensus is that the franchise should perform better than it does every fourth year after the lopsided class graduates. The team has more national championships (6) than similar powerhouse teams such as Minnesota and Boston College. This year has been challenging for the team and their coach. A sense of urgency looms in the air in Madison for them to start winning games.

While the team is young, there is talent sprinkled around the roster. The Badgers played Denver and North Dakota tough, eventually losing by one goal to the highly rated teams. There is hope that the solid showing against Ferris State last weekend is evidence of having turned a corner.

The Badgers average 1.7 goals per game while giving up 3.2 goals per game. Anaheim draft pick Grant Besse leads the way in scoring with three goals and three assists for a total of six points. Senior goaltender Joel Rumpel is solid between the pipes and got the team's first win last weekend.

Notes

  • The series will be the second time Penn State will play on 'big ice', with the Kohl Center's surface at 200' x 97' compared to Pegula's 200' x 85'. The Lions fared reasonably well on big ice in Alaska, showing a major improvement over last season.
  • The comment section of this article will be used as an open-thread during the game, so check in if you have something to share or want to see how the game unfolded from the hockey bros' perspective.
  • Check out defenseman Luke Juha in this week's practice update.