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Penn State Returns Home to Face Michigan State

The Nittany Lions will take the ice at Pegula Ice Arena for the first time in just over a month.

Photo by Heather Weikel

For the first time in over a month, Penn State is coming home. The first game of the series will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network on Friday at 8 p.m.

Following a Dec. 8 thrashing of Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions hit the road for a neutral site draw against Princeton before a three-week break for the holidays. They returned to action with a series split at Minnesota last weekend.

The Nittany Lions welcome Michigan State this weekend for their first home series of the calendar year. Recent history shows this weekend should provide the Nittany Lions a chance to make up ground in the congested Big Ten conference. In 10 meetings at Pegula Ice Arena, the Nittany Lions are 6-1-3 against the Spartans.

Coach Guy Gadowsky regularly notes how the coaching staff doesn’t discuss rankings or standings with the players. Despite the opportunity presented to the Nittany Lions this weekend, that mantra won’t change.

“What the coaches talk about is not necessarily what we talk about as a team. We know the standings, we know the deal. But as a team, we are always just looking at the next game,” he said Monday. “We have to do that, because we can get ourselves in trouble when we have any other mentality.”

The Nittany Lions are just six points back of Ohio State for the top spot in the conference. A weekend sweep against the Spartans could put Gadowsky’s squad level with the Buckeyes when they visit State College next weekend.

Scouting Michigan State

While Evan Barratt and Alex Limoges have sat atop the nation in scoring for much of the season, a new frontrunner emerged during the Nittany Lions’ holiday break. Spartans’ forward Taro Hirose paces the team with a national best 22 assists and 31 points.

The catalyst of the Spartans’ offense, his linemates Patrick Khodorenko and Mitchell Lewandowksi sit second and third on the team with 21 and 19 points, respectively.

Hirose’s scoring prowess hasn’t been enough to lift the Spartans out of the Big Ten basement, however. Michigan State currently sits last in the conference with a 2-6-2 in Big Ten play largely due to a porous defense.

The Spartans are allowing 3.5 goals per game, as the goaltending duo of freshman Drew DeRidder and junior John Lethemon have sub-.900 save percentages in equal playing time.