Where: Pegula Ice Arena, State College, Pa.
When: Friday 7 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m.
Television: American Sports Network
Getting back to State College after a two-month road trip will certainly energize the the home team. Penn State (9-6-2) will look to snap a two-game losing streak against Ohio State (6-9-2). The series will be televised and also available for free online via BTN2GO if you are a subscriber of the Big Ten Network. The team has enjoyed home cooking so far this year as it is undefeated (5-0-1) and have played with a great deal of speed and tenacity in the beautiful new home arena.
Senior forward Tanner Fritz is Aaron Craft on ice. He's been a productive player for Ohio State for the past four years. An assist machine, Fritz finished with 26 assists two years ago and 24 last season. This year he is only on pace for 15 assists, mostly due to the fact that he oftentimes has no one to pass the puck to. Ryan Dzingel, who scored 22 goals for the Buckeyes last season, has moved on to the Binghamton Senators of the AHL. Max McCormick and the 35 points that he scored last season have also left for the NHL minor leagues, he is in Binghamton as well. The pair combined for 81 points last season and each left with a year of eligibility remaining.
Last season OSU took Wisconsin to overtime in the championship game of the B1G tournament. Losing 5-4 and failing to gain an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, the Buckeyes are in rebuilding mode this season. After a slow 2-5-2 start the team has a 4-4-1 record the past nine games. The team seems to be finding a groove in time for the B1G schedule. Tanner Fritz only had four points in the past nine games which is a sign that the team could be poised for a step forward in the second half of the season. If Fritz gets hot, the team could do some damage in the B1G.
The goalie play has been solid and much more steady than last season for OSU. Last season six different goalies dressed for the team at various times due to injury and players leaving the team. Matt Tomkins (4-5-1), a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick is healthy this season. Christian Frey (2-4-1) has gotten the start every third game in a regular rotation. Tomkins is the stronger of the two with a goals against average of 2.82 compared to Frey's 3.39.
Second-year coach Steve Rohlik hopes to gain momentum heading in to the B1G schedule. The Buckeyes are come into the series after a win and tie result on the road against a very solid Mercyhurst squad.
The numbers for both teams line up pretty evenly with what the teams have done so far this season. PSU scores 3.2 goals per game and OSU allows 3.1 goals per game. The Buckeyes score 2.7 goals per game and the Lions allow 2.8 goals per game. One stat which has separation is that OSU takes and allows 29 shots per game. PSU takes 39.1 shots per game and allows 30.3.
The difference in shots on goal can be attributed to the faster pace of play employed by the Nittany Lions. However, the Lions have played a much more challenging schedule to date, including the high-flying RMU Colonials and UMass-Lowell. It would not be surprising to see PSU get a shot on goal total closer to 50 for this series and OSU may stay closer to 30.
One advantage could be size and hitting. OSU has three players on the roster that weigh 200 pounds or more while PSU has 14 players that tip the scale over 200. The Lions have skill to match the strength and the combination may prove more than the Buckeyes can match.
- Penn State's Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom have been nominated for the Hobey Baker award! Vote once a day in support of our team. This is the first time a Penn State player has been nominated for this honor. Let's flex our BSD muscles and vote early and often for the guys!
- Penn State and Guy Gadowsky got some love from the USCHO this week in their Big Ten second-half preview. In a highly speculative and fun article, Paula C. Weston picks Guy for coach of the year, Bailey as player of the year and PSU to make the NCAA tournament.
- Only two players will be unable to play for Penn State this weekend, with Jonathan Milley and Jacob Friedman nursing injury.
- The comment section of this article will be used as the open-thread for the game Friday night.
- The Penn State Hockey Story released another installment, featuring Doc Emrick.