It’s hard to believe that there are only six more games remaining on the schedule between now and January 3. At 10-3 and in the 6th slot in the PairWise Rankings, the season has gotten off to a good start for Guy Gadowsky and his veteran team.
Penn State’s only losses so far have come to teams ranked respectably in the PairWise Rankings; Alaska (25), Ohio State (13) and Michigan State (11). Every team would like to be perfect but it doesn’t hurt much to lose a game here or there to teams in the top half of the rankings.
With two conference sweeps in the books already the Lions have a shot to get to the break in first place, standing 3 points higher than second place Notre Dame heading into the weekend. After this weekend, Penn State will travel to Michigan, who at 0-5-1 in B1G play is struggling. Then a trip to South Bend will put a cap on the first half of the season, a series that will likely determine which team will spend the holidays in first place of the conference standings.
This weekend is an odd series in which there will be two different opponents on two different nights, at two separate locations.
Tonight in North Andover, Merrimack will play host to the heavily-favored Lions. At 2-8-2 they are toward the bottom of the Hockey East standings and are currently No. 48 in the PairWise. While the season has gotten off to a rough start for the team, there is talent on the roster.
The Warriors feature three freshmen goalies that have all seen time in net. They will have to deal with one of the best offensive teams in the country so we may see more than one of them tonight. The leading scorers on the team are tied with 8 points through 12 games, so there isn’t a high-volume scorer among them at the moment.
If the Lions come out and play their game, Merrimack should have a hard time skating with them.
On Saturday the opponent will be much tougher. Lowell is ranked 27th in the PairWise and will have the home ice advantage. The River Hawks are currently second in the Hockey East Standings. Lowell only gives up 1.93 goals per game, playing a team-wide defensive game similar to Ohio State.
Lowell’s offense has come from a group of freshmen that have put up the second-highest total of points for first-year players in the nation, only trailing Wisconsin. 11 of their 18 games have been decided by one goal, so much like playing Notre Dame or the Buckeyes, it should be a battle for the entire 60 minutes or more.