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Penn State Opens 2021 Slate Against Michigan State

The Nittany Lions head to East Lansing to kick off the second half of the season.

Heather Weikel | Black Shoe Diaries

Phase I of Penn State’s season didn’t start how the Nittany Lions would have liked. Five straight losses to open the reason set the Nittany Lions back in their defense of the Big Ten regular season title.

The offense was pedestrian, averaging just two goals per game, and the defense was porous, allowing 23. Seemingly out of nowhere, everything clicked against Michigan. Since then, the Nittany Lions have built some momentum they hope can roll over into Phase II.

The Nittany Lions still sit last in the Big Ten, but have the opportunity to leapfrog both Michigan-based teams when they take on the Spartans.

In the Nittany Lions three-game winning streak to close out 2020, they looked more like their usual selves. The defense was still porous, yielding 11 goals, but the offense was rejuvenated, potting 17. Granted, nine of those came in that contest against the Wolverines.

Scouting Michigan State

Similar to Penn State, the Spartans lost quite a bit of production over the offseason. Four of the team’s top six scorers from last season departed, including leading scorer Patrick Khodorenko. Mitchell Lewandowski returns as the last remaining member of the once feared KHL Line.

Also akin to Penn State, the Spartans have replaced some of that production with the help of a graduate transfer. Charlie Combs, a transfer from Bemidji State, paces the Spartans with three goals and six points.

Drew DeRidder has taken the reins from John Lethemon in goal. DeRidder has been the only goaltender to see game time for the Spartans this season. In his eight starts, the Spartans have gone 3-3-2 with DeRidder posting a .940 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average.