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Penn State Hockey Preview: Minnesota Visits Happy Valley to Take on the Nittany Lions

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Big Ten hockey play is here to stay as the Gophers come to visit.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Who: University of Minnesota
When: Friday 6:30 p.m. EST, Saturday 3:00 p.m. EST
Where: Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, PA
TV: BTN (Friday)
Stream: Audio: Free Fri+Sat / Video: Free on BTN2Go.com FriBTN Plus ($) Sat
Live Stats:

Gopsusports.com

The 2016 calendar year for No. 15 Penn State (12-3-3) kicks off with their second Big Ten series of the season, this time hosting the Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-9-0) Friday evening and Saturday afternoon. Conference play is upon us, as the Nittany Lions will finish the season with 18 straight games against the Big Ten, as they always have since the conference's inception a few years back.

After a 1-1-0 weekend to finish out the 2015 year at the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh, Penn State comes back to Pegula ranked as the 15th best team in the NCAA. Even with the loss to Robert Morris in the series, the Nittany Lions are still 8-1-2 in their last 10 games and are in the midst of their best stretch in program history. For that to continue, Penn State will need to take down last year's Big Ten Tournament champions- Minnesota.

Getting To Know Minnesota

The Gophers have won four of their last six coming into Pegula, as Minnesota has gotten steadily better since a 2-4-0 start to the season. With a 3-2 win over UConn and a 4-3 overtime loss to No. 5 Harvard as their last pair of games to start the new year, Minnesota has shown it can keep up with top teams in the NCAA, so despite the near .500 record, Penn State should not take their Big Ten conference foes lightly.

Minnesota's offense is lead by junior Hudson Fasching and his point-per-game pace of 17. Tied with his nine goals on the year is sophomore Leon Bristedt, who trails Fasching with just one less assist for 16 points. Rounding out the team's top three is freshman forward Tommy Novak, who despite having just two goals, leads the team with 11 assists as he centers the team's top line of Bristedt and Fasching.

There's been a change in the guard for the Gophers in net, with freshman Eric Schierhorn taking the mantle from Adam Wilcox, who moved on to play for Tampa Bay's minor league team. It's been an okay year for the freshman in net, who boasts a .907 save percentage and a 2.82 goals against average in 17 starts on the season. Schierhorn should get both starts in goal over the weekend, as sophomore Nick Lehr and senior Ryan Coyne have only played in one combined game so far this year.

Minnesota does have the 22nd best offense in the NCAA according to USCHO.com, with 2.82 goals per game. Their power play is a huge reason for that and at 23.73 percent, it rounds out the top-ten teams in the country. While the Gophers offense can be lethal, getting shots onto the net and on the freshman netminder Schierhorn should be a top priority for the Nittany Lions this weekend if they want to sweep Minnesota.

Notes

  • You might have missed it, but alternate captain Luke Juha was named the Big Ten's third star of the week on Tuesday for his one goal, three assist performance in the Three Rivers Classic.
  • Want video? We've got your weekly practice video from the Penn State hockey Twitter page right here for you:
  • The second episode of the Penn State Hockey Story went live before the new year. Check it out!