For the second time in the past three seasons, and just the second time in program history, Penn State will begin its regular season on the road, as the Nittany Lions will head to upstate New York for a split weekend against a pair of teams from the North Country.
The No. 10 Lions will open the weekend against Clarkson before heading down the road to take on St. Lawrence. While the poll has no official impact on the teams, until late in the year when the PairWise Rankings have enough data to become relevant, it is the best indicator of pecking order in college hockey.
Both the Golden Knights and Saints received votes in the USCHO Poll, with the Knights garnering 45 votes to place them at No. 25, while the Saints received 18 votes to come in at No. 29.
This weekend there is no television coverage, but on Friday night Clarkson’s live stream is free of charge. Saturday night there is a stream available versus St. Lawrence, but it will cost you dearly, to the tune of $19.99.
Each of the Lions’ opponents will pose a serious challenge, and should provide a tune up for the Lions next opponent, Big Ten foe Minnesota.
The Golden Knights will experience quite a bit of turnover from last season, particularly on the offensive side of the puck. Gone are the team’s top four scorers from 2016-17. The leading returning scorer for the Knights is sophomore Sheldon Rempal, who managed 23 points in 39 games as a freshman.
On defense, the Knights have quite a bit more stability,
The Golden Knights’ strength rests in goal, as sophomore Jake Kielly returns between the pipes. Kielly started 35 games last season, posting a 16-15-5 record with a 2.56 goals-against average and .911 save percentage and three shutouts.
Kielly was named as one of 20 goaltenders, along with Penn State’s Peyton Jones, to the Mike Richter Award Watch List. The honor is given to the most outstanding goalie in the NCAA.
While the Knights strength lies in goal, the Saints will have to replace a longtime starter. Kyle Hayton, who played 104 games for the Saints, departed for Wisconsin as a graduate transfer.
Hayton finished a strong 2016-17 season with a 16-12-7 record and posted a 2.28 GAA and .929 save percentage, which were actually both the worst during his time with the Saints.
The Saints also lost their top performer on the blue line, as the recently-graduated Gavin Bayreuther signed a professional deal with the Dallas Stars. A player who Guy Gadowsky praised highly during his collegiate career, Bayreuther led the team with 29 points in 30 games during his senior season.
Few players can replace the impact Bayreuther brought, but a pair of defensemen may rise to the challenge. Ben Finkelstein (23 points) and Nolan Gluchowski (19) finished in the top six in scoring last season for the Saints.
Up front, Mark Morris’ squad will be led by Mike Marnell and Joe Sullivan, who finished tied for second to Bayreuther with 27 points in 25 and 37 games, respectively.