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No. 18 Penn State vs. No. 7 Minnesota: Hockey Series Preview

The Nittany Lions return to conference play this weekend

Penn State Athletics

No. 18 Penn State hockey resumes Big Ten play this weekend against No. 7 Minnesota. The Golden Gophers enter the weekend with a modest 7-4-3 record. Puck drop is set for 7pm on Friday and 6pm on Saturday. Friday’s game will be on B1G+, and Saturday’s game will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network.

Opponent Preview

Despite losing Logan Cooley and Matthew Knies, Minnesota’s roster is loaded with talent, totaling 13 NHL draft picks and three first round selections. Much like Penn State, the Golden Gophers have a solid balance of veterans and underclassmen. Bryce Brodzinski leads Minnesota with 16 points (8 goals and 8 assists) and is tied for the team lead in goals with Jimmy Snuggerud (8 goals, 3 assists). Rhett Pitlick, Jaxon Nelson, and Brody Lamb also each have at least five goals on the season.

Goaltender Justen Close has started every game for Minnesota, posting a .917 save percentage, 2.52 GAA, and two shutouts. Close has been stellar for the Gophers since becoming the full-time starter in 2021.

The Gophers lost only once in regulation in November but are below .500 in conference play. Both of these teams need points this weekend to keep pace with Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame in the Big Ten standings.

Series Notes

  • As this is the last home series before the holidays, Friday’s game will feature the annual Teddy Bear Toss benefit. Fans in attendance are encouraged to bring a stuffed animal to toss on the ice during the first intermission. All stuffed animals are donated to Four Diamonds children. Last year, fans tossed 1,755 teddy bears on the ice.
  • Penn State is 17-24-1 against Minnesota all-time. The last home win against the Gophers came on February 22, 2020.
  • Guy Gadowsky can move up to 34th all-time in NCAA coach wins with one win this weekend. Gadowsky is currently tied with Mike Sertich at 375 career wins.
  • The Kids Line has accounted for 14 of Penn State’s 36 goals since forming eight games ago. Freshmen have scored 20 goals for Penn State, helping to replace the production lost from last season.

Prediction

Minnesota may not quite as good as they were last year, but this is still one of the toughest opponents for Penn State all season. It’s going to take Penn State’s best effort to win. With the students back from Thanksgiving break, the Roar Zone should lead a raucous atmosphere. I’ll take a split at home.

Penn State 4-3, Minnesota 3-2