Coming off a tough sweep at the hands of No. 5 Ohio State, Penn State has a chance to regroup against a solid Michigan team. The series will be split-location, with the game on Thursday being played in Ann Arbor. The teams will travel on Friday to New York, and finish the series with a game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The game on Saturday will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network as the second part of a double-header called Super Saturday. Illinois and Maryland will square off at noon in a battle on the hardwood inside MSG, then later in the evening Michigan and Penn State will skate on the ice surface.
The Lions reached No. 8 in the PairWise Rankings a couple of weeks ago when it beat Michigan State. Since then, three losses has dropped the team to 18 entering the weekend. Michigan has stabilized its season recently after suffering a long streak without a win and is currently 27 in the PairWise Rankings, which means a split or series win would benefit the Lions greatly.
The Wolverines (8-9-6) were playing well when Penn State last faced off with them in early November. After winning the first game at the Pegula Ice Arena, Michigan dropped the second, 7-6 in overtime, to the Lions. That loss started an 0-3-6 streak over 9 games in which the Wolverines failed to win a game. The span lasted from November 17 to January 5.
While the near two-month stretch without a win challenged the team, it’s ability to play well enough to tie six games helped it keep its head above water. Since then it has gone 2-2. A strong series this weekend could be the start of getting back into position for a shot at the post-season.
The Wolverines had a bye week to add to the home ice advantage on Thursday. It will be a tough task for the Lions to come away with a win at Yost Arena. It will be interesting to see which fan base provides the most support once the teams reach Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The Lions sacrificed a second home game in the series with Michigan in order to take part in the MSG double-header a few years ago. This time it’s the Wolverines that will have just one game played between the teams on its home ice.