After getting off to a slow start Penn State was able to split with Michigan last week to collect their first win of the season. If the Lions can get another win against Arizona State this weekend, or more, they can go to the break on an upswing.
There will be a hiatus for the Lions that is expected to last for a month following the games this weekend and that is normal for college hockey. The abnormal part of the equation is that to date there has not been a formal announcement of what the second half schedule will be. Once the game is over on Sunday afternoon, Guy Gadowsky’s squad will have to wait like the rest of us to find out how the second half of the season will play out.
The good news is that Penn State has already played on two of the toughest sheets of ice in the conference, at Minnesota and then Wisconsin. Having a series against the highly-rated Wolverines in the rear-view mirror is a good thing as well. The second half of the season should be favorable for the Lions and the team appears to be coming together, learning how to play with one another.
Scouting The Sun Devils
Arizona State and Penn State were the most recent additions to NCAA Division 1 hockey and things couldn’t be going better for either side. The Sun Devils qualified for the NCAA Tournament in their fourth year at the D1 level and were in the No. 11 Pairwise spot with a 96% chance of making the tournament again last year when the season was canceled.
In its sixth season the team is faced with a tough task: playing a Big Ten schedule entirely on the road. ASU will play as the 8th Big Ten team this year but will not host any games, so the players will be the most nomadic group in the country. Michigan swept them during the first weekend of the season, surprising few people. The Wolverines are incredibly talented this year.
The Spartans took the second series with a win and a tie and at that time it was beginning to look like it was going to be a very difficult season for the Sun Devils. That was when they went on a 3-game winning streak, sweeping Wisconsin and then splitting with Notre Dame last weekend.
They come to State College with a very respectable 3-4-1 record and considering the teams that they have played and not one game has been at home. Following the series this weekend, an odd Friday night and Sunday afternoon affair, they will head to Ohio State to close out the first half of the season. They will get to spend the holidays in the nice weather of Arizona after that, waiting for the remainder of the schedule to be revealed.
Matthew Kopperud leads the team with 11 points on 6 goals and 5 assists. There are 8 other players that have between 4 and 6 points so the scoring is spread around other than the freshman sniper Kopperud. Senior Johnny Walker, who has been with the team since it became relevant on the national stage during his freshman season, has been sidelined since the first series with a lower-body injury. Walker has 96 career points and there is no word of when he will return.
Their goalies have platooned and one allows 3.62 goals per game and the other 3.30. Both have an identical 90.6% save percentage so there won’t be a notable difference and we will likely see both players this weekend.