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Hockey Preview: No. 15 Penn State Hosts Wisconsin

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The surging Nittany Lions have a chance to showcase their talent on national television this weekend.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Who: University of Wisconsin
When: Friday 6:30 p.m. EST, Saturday 6:00 p.m. EST
Where: Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, PA
TV: BTN (Friday) / ESPNU or TSN2 (Sat)
Stream: Audio: Free Fri+Sat / Video: Free on BTN2Go.com Fri / Free on ESPN.go.com Sat
Live Stats:

Gopsusports.com

The Lions (13-4-3) enter the series ranked No. 15 in the USCHO.com poll. Coming off a very important series split with Minnesota, the team will look to continue its winning ways at home. The Badgers (4-8-6) are a talented but young squad. This series could prove pivotal for each team. Penn State has to be thinking about a sweep or at least a series win in order to hold pace at the top of the Big Ten standings. The Badgers could turn their season around with a sweep or gain momentum with anything other than two losses.

The series will be the first of the season that is televised nationally. The Big Ten Network with host the 6:30 p.m. start on Friday and ESPNU will carry the 6 p.m. start on Saturday. The exposure will be a welcomed event for the young Penn State hockey program, entering just the fourth season competing at the division one level.

The Lions haven't played a game outside the state of Pennsylvania since November 21. After the series this weekend, only three more games will be played at Pegula Ice Arena this year. The first 200 students to arrive at the stadium on Friday will get a free Hockey Valley scarf, so don't be late!

Getting To Know The Badgers

Wisconsin is a very young team, having only five upperclassmen on the roster. Outside of leading scorer junior Grant Besse and the reliable senior defenseman Kevin Schulze the team gets all of its production from underclassmen.

Besse leads the team with 17 points off five goals and 12 assists. Luke Kunin has contributed 15 points off a team high seven goals and eight assists. Ryan Wagner has tallied 14 points with six goals and eight assists.

Matt Jurusik has started all but two games in goal for the Badgers. He has a solid goals against average of 3.10 with a not very solid save percentage of .898. Considering that Penn State leads the country with 44.10 shots on goal per game, Jurusik will be challenged to improve his effort.

The Badgers employ a more controlled style of play than most teams that Penn State has played thus far. The hope is to limit the opponent's chances to score while taking advantage of their own scoring chances. This approach has baffled Penn State at times in the past but Wisconsin may not have the talent to pull it off. The Gophers were able to hold Penn State under its average shots per period in four of the six periods of play last weekend, which resulted in a series split. Wisconsin will have to hope for the same result, pressuring the Lions in the neutral zone and limiting open shots. If PSU nets over 40 shots per game it will likely win.

Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves has been in Madison for 14 seasons. The team won only four games last year and is off to a tough start this season. There were rumbles among Badger faithful that questioned Eave's recruiting style after a 4-26-5 season in 2014-15. Eaves loads up two recruiting classes with the hope of having a veteran, high-quality team every few years. Consequentially, the team tends to have a down year after the veterans leave Madison. Until last season the down year had never been worse than one game below .500. The team is heading for another losing season if it doesn't right the ship soon. Considering that Eaves won the national championship in 2006 and came close to doing the same in 2010, the athletic department has more tolerance with another down year than many of the longtime fans may have. Eaves and his young team need to hold their own in conference play, a free-fall may result in a coaching change.

Notes

  • Penn State leads the nation with 44.10 shots on goal per game and are tied for fourth with 4.15 goals scored per game.
  • The Lions have killed 35 of the last 37 power plays it has faced.
  • Check out the third installment of the Penn State Hockey Story.