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Skate Of The Union: Canisius Series Preview

Let’s catch up with the hockey team, which is coming off a huge series win on the road versus No. 3 Notre Dame.

Who: Canisius Golden Griffins
When: Friday 7 p.m / Saturday 7 p.m.
Where: Pegula Ice Arena, University Park, Pa.
Video Stream: ($) Big Ten Plus
Free Audio: Tripp and Tim King

No. 19 Penn State entered the rankings for the first time this season after it went 1-0-1 on the road with No. 3 Notre Dame. Four out of the five games that the Lions (3-1-1) have played this year have been against ranked teams. Guy Gadowsky’s team held its own with the tough opponents, and as a result currently holds the No. 6 spot in the PairWise Rankings.

It’s very early in the season and the PairWise Rankings don’t mean a great deal at this point, but it shows that the Lion’s strength of schedule and success, combined, have the team in position to win its way into an at-large spot in the NCAA tournament. Last season the team went 21-13-4 and it wasn’t even close to consideration for an at-large spot since the schedule was so weak. The schedule last season was hurt by the Big Ten games, and the conference’s lack of talent. This season the Big Ten has a great deal of talent, four out of the five B1G opponents are going to help the Lion’s schedule strength this year. That combined with the early-season victories versus St. Lawrence and Notre Dame, and a duplicate 21 or better win season may place the Lions in an at-large spot for the NCAA tournament.

But that’s getting a little further up the road than our headlights can cover. In the near future Penn State will play ten consecutive games at home. Canisius, Niagara, Alaska-Anchorage, and Arizona State will come to Hockey Valley for two games series over the next four weeks. Penn State will be favored, heavily, to win each of the next eight games. After that the team will square off with No. 11 Michigan at home in the finale of the home stand. It will be a critical first Big Ten series for the Lions on Dec 1 and 2. After the Michigan series the team has 33 days off before it resumes with the conference schedule beginning on Jan. 6.

The next eight games will be played against opponents that currently hold a combined record of 4-14-3 and the results are not a surprise. The four teams are projected to finish in the bottom 15 in all of college hockey. This will hurt the Lion’s strength of schedule briefly, but with the quality of the Big Ten, that will even out by the end of the season. It’s nice to know that perennial powerhouse Notre Dame will be joining the Big Ten next season, adding another four games annually that will help the strength of schedule.

Taking A Look At Canisius

Canisius (2-3-1) is coming off a great series with Robert Morris in which the team won and tied. Felix Chamberland scored a hat-trick in the opening game and for that was named the Atlantic Hockey Player of the Week. Charles Williams was named goalie of the week following the 1-0-1 record he posted over the weekend which included 59 saves versus a solid Robert Morris team.

It’s hard to tell just how well the Canisius team will play this weekend. So far the Golden Griffins have played RMU in addition to splitting in Alaska, a tough road trip, with the two Alaskan teams. The team opened the season with two losses to returning National Champion North Dakota. So the 2-3-1 record has a couple of losses that are expected, with a 2-1-1 record outside of that.

Last season Canisius was a very young team when they hosted Penn State in Buffalo for the opening game of the season. The skill of the team was apparent, but the Lions were able to score a few early goals to put their opponent on its heels, going on to take control for a 6-1 win.

Seven different players have recorded a goal through 6 games, which isn’t a great deal of balance, but it’s early in the season, statistics aren’t very good indicators. When two of your first 6 games were on the road versus the best team in the country, the numbers can be misleading.

One tendency that is not working in the favor of Canisius is the rate in which it has been penalized this season. It has allowed 33 power plays, giving up 7 goals. The team has also scored 7 goals on 33 power plays of its own, but the Lions have one of the best penalty kills in all of college hockey, ripping off 28 kills to start the season. The visiting Golden Griffins had better not try to swap penalties with Penn State, it will likely lose that battle.

It’s hard to know much about this young Canisius team, but the Lions are playing at home with a much better team. We should expect nothing worse than a series split but hope for a series sweep, which will be the theme for the next month as Penn State completes the softest stretch of its schedule.

Odds and Ends

  • Peyton Jones earned the Big Ten First Star of the Week for his performance in South Bend. The freshman goalie held up nicely on the road versus the Fighting Irish and currently has a record of 2-0-1 on the season. The only game that Jones has played this year that he would have liked to get back was the second game of the St. Lawrence series, which he was pulled from after allowing three goals in less than five minutes. While he did in fact allow the three quick goals, it was a collective team effort to allow the goals as the entire unit came out flat. Guy Gadowsky acknowledged that after the game, saying that he pulled Jones to give the team a wake-up call.
  • The series will be streamed on the Big Ten Network’s $9.95 per month subscription platform. The quality of the stream is worth the money if one is on the fence to purchasing the subscription. Also, for ten dollars, fans can get several hockey games, and other Penn State sports as well. One cool feature that isn’t always available with other streams is that the games can be rewound, paused, or watched at a later date as though they were on a DVR. If you get the subscription this month, it will allow you to see all of the games leading up to the Michigan series, which will have at least one game televised on ESPNU. Then there’s a month off in December, so you could save the $10 by not keeping the subscription active. From there there’s only three more months of hockey season left and many of the remaining games will be televised. It’s not perfect, but at least the option is there for those who are interested. (No, I don’t get any money from the sales of the BTN Plus service, just passing on the word.)