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Penn State Hockey Preview: No. 16 Nittany Lions at Minnesota

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It's the last meeting of the year between the Gophers and Nittany Lions.

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Who: Minnesota Golden Gophers
When: Friday 8 p.m. ET, Saturday 5 p.m. ET
Where: Mariucci Arena, Minneapolis, MN
TV: Friday: BTN. Saturday: Fox Sports North
Stream: Audio: Fri+Sat Video: BTN2GO.com Fri+Sat
Live Stats: Gopsusports.com

The last time Penn State (16-7-3) played the Golden Gophers, the Lions were dealt the fourth loss of the season in a 7-1 trouncing at home. Now, Penn State heads to Minnesota looking to right a three-game losing streak.

The Golden Gophers have lost just two of 10 B1G conference games this season. Penn State likely needs to win at least one game to stay alive in the hunt for a top-two Big Ten regular season finish. The top two seeds will have a bye in the first round of the Big Ten tournament. With Penn State trailing Minnesota and Michigan by six points in the B1G standings, a sweep this weekend by either squad will recalibrate the pecking order for the remainder of the conference season.

Getting To Know The Golden Gophers

We already highlighted the Gophers when they came to Pegula Ice Arena in January. Since splitting the series with Penn State, Minnesota has gone 4-2.

Junior forward Hudson Fasching leads the Gophers with 27 points, now over a point-per-game pace with 25 games played this year. His 15 goals on the season thus far has him in the top 20 goal scorers in the NCAA and first on his team. Leading the way behind Fasching is sophomore Leon Bristedt, who has put up 10 points since the Nittany Lions last saw him. Junior Justin Kloos has also come on strong, and remains just the third Gopher to hit double digits in goals with 11. His 15 assists round him out with 26 points, tying him with Bristedt as the team's third best scorer.

Freshman goaltender Eric Schierhorn has been relied upon in net still for the Gophers. With a .914 save percentage and a 2.51 goals against average, Schierhorn has gotten stronger as Minnesota's season has gone on. There's no point in the Gophers deviating from their system that has worked to their advantage thus far, so Schierhorn should be the starter for both games against the Nittany Lions this weekend.

The last time the teams played, Minnesota was sitting just outside the top 20 teams in terms of offense in the NCAA. Now the Gophers are sitting pretty at 13th with 3.28 goals per game. Compare that to their 2.72 average goals allowed and it's not hard to see why Minnesota has been on such an upswing. Their power play has taken a slight dip at 22.22 percent, but at 11th in the NCAA, Penn State should still stay out of the box as best they can.

Notes

  • Andrew Sturtz is sitting out Friday's game with a suspension after leveling Michigan's Tyler Motte with an elbow to the face in Saturday's game.
  • Despite the loss on Saturday, Madison Square Garden looked really great. And as a spectator for the hockey game, I can confirm MSG is an extremely spectacular venue.
  • The Daily Collegian spoke on Penn State's defense and the efforts the Nittany Lions are going to to tighten up their blue line.
  • I'm making an unrelated trip out to Minnesota this weekend and dragging my best friend to Friday's game with me! Hopefully my 1-1 record away from Pegula this season will bring us some luck!