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Penn State Hockey Hosts St. Lawrence In Season Opener at Pegula Ice Arena

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It’s the first game of the year and it’s a very important non-conference match.

NHL: Preseason-Minnesota Wild at Buffalo Sabres Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
Who: Saint Lawrence Skating Saints (ECAC)
When: Thursday and Friday 7 p.m.
Where: Pegula Ice Arena
Television: None
Free Online Stream: Audio and Video Via College Sports Live
Live Stats: Gopsusports.com Game Tracker

The Penn State hockey team is set to begin its fifth season as a member of Division I hockey when it takes on St. Lawrence at Pegula Ice Arena on Thursday and Friday. Each team is currently ranked in the top 25 of the USCHO.com and there is reason to believe that this will be one of the most critical non-conference series of the season.

The Lions have gotten a shot in the arm, bringing in the most talented group of freshmen in program history. We broke down the forwards and also the goalies and defensemen earlier in the week. Guy Gadowsky has never had such a high level of talent to work with since coming to Hockey Valley. Having started practice less than a week ago, the question will be whether the influx of talent will play as a cohesive unit in the early-going of the season.

Taking a look at the match-up

Penn State hosted St. Lawrence at the end of October last season and went 0-1-1. The teams skated to a 2-2 overtime tie in game one and Penn State lost 4-2 in the series finale. It was the only time all season, other than when facing Michigan, that the Lions played a team more than once and failed to win at least one game.

The Saints play in the ECAC conference which boasts returning national champion Quinnipiac. In the preseason polls taken by the coaches and the media, the Saints were voted to finish in second place behind Quinnipiac in the ECAC this year. St. Lawrence is a very solid hockey team, currently ranked No. 16 in the USCHO.com poll. After receiving votes in the preseason USCHO.com poll for the first time in program history last season, the Lions garnered 63 votes this year, the highest-ever preseason ranking, good for of No. 23.

While the Saints are the higher-ranked team, with the games being played at Pegula Ice Arena the series is a toss-up. Both teams would be happy with a split, each team dreads the idea of being swept.

Penn State has had problems with teams out of the ECAC in the past due to the deliberate, controlled style of play the teams employ. Penn State likes to play fast and loose, leading the country in shots on goal for most of last season. St. Lawrence, like many other ECAC teams, will shoot half as much as Penn State but score just as many goals, holding the puck until the offense is set up and poised to threaten the net.

Like many other sports that feature a high-octane attack versus a more methodical approach, it is in Penn State’s favor should the game become a shootout. If the teams combine for fewer than five goals, it is likely that the outcome will favor St. Lawrence.

The Saints have a new head coach this year, Mark Morris, but he is not new to college hockey. Morris coached at Clarkson from 1988-2002. While with Clarkson Morris had a record of 306-156-42 and took the team to the NCAA tournament in 7 of his first 10 seasons. The three seasons following his successful first decade were disappointing, and Morris was fired just three games into the 2002 season. Since then Morris has coached at many different levels other than college, including two stops in the NHL as an assistant coach. There’s no doubt that Morris can coach, but it has been a while since he did so at this level.

It is expected that St. Lawrence will employ a similar style that it did last season. It returns starting goalie Kyle Hayton and its leading scorer who happens to be a defensemen, Gavin Bayreuther. Each player was named to the preseason all-ECAC team by both the media and the coaches.