The Matchup: No. 18 Wisconsin vs. Penn State
When: Sunday, 7pm (CT); Monday, 7:30pm (CT)
Where: Kohl Center
Ice Sheet: 200' x 97'
TV: Sunday – Fox Sports Wisconsin; Monday – BTN
All-Time Series: never met before
Wisconsin and Penn State are about to become familiar for the first time of many. This is Penn State's first year playing as a D1 school in hockey and both of these non-conference foes will become conference foes in the Big Ten come next season. This year the Nittany Lions are playing as an independent and therefore their season and record can be a bit deceiving.
Fans should also get used to what is now a rare Sunday-Monday series as they could become a bit more (not totally though) commonplace when the Big Ten has it's first season of hockey underway in 2013-14 thanks to having to coordinate schedules with men's and women's basketball.
So, what does this unfamiliar foe have in store for us over the next two nights? Let's explore, shall we?
About Penn State:
Head Coach: Guy Gadowsky – 1st year at PSU (12-13-0); 13th year overall
Notable: This will be the Nittany Lions season ending series, so expect them to be game to end on a high note. However, they are 0-2-0 against ranked opponents on the season – losing to then No. 8 Union 2-1 and 4-0
Points: David Glen (16 goals, 9 assists) & Casey Bailey (13 goals, 12 assists) – 25 points
Goals: David Glen – 16 goals
Assists: Max Gardiner – 17 assists
Save Pct.: Matthew Skoff – .918
GAA: Matthew Skoff – 2.52GAA
Record: 13-10-7 (10-7-7 WCHA)
Notable: Since Dec. 13th Wisconsin is 11-3-2 overall with it's three losses coming to North Dakota (twice) and Minnesota. However, in non-conference play the Badgers are just 3-3-0 on the year. This weekend is also Senior weekend as the Badgers go on the road to face Nebraska-Omaha and St. Cloud State in WCHA play after this series.
Points: Michael Mersch – 24 points (16 goals, 8 assists)
Goals: Michael Mersch – 16 goals
Assists: Derek Lee – 18 assists
Save Pct.: Joel Rumpel – .931
GAA: Joel Rumpel – 1.92GAA
Penn State's record is a bit deceiving to say the least. They've played a variety of teams from all sorts of NCAA divisions and the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) to get to the 12-13-0 record they have. Against actual D1 competition their record is 9-11-0.
For the Badgers to maintain the advantage they have in talent and experience at the D1 level they need to get off to a good start and finish with a flurry as well. That may seem like simple advice, but the stats bare it out as the way to beat the Nittany Lions. They allow 22 goals in the 1st period and 27 goals in the final period with a scoring margin of -9 in those two periods combined.
Penn State has shown an ability to score on the offensive end of the ice, averaging 2.8 goals a game and are led by the trio of David Glen, Casey Bailey, and Max Gardiner. Each averages in double figures in either goals (Glen), assists (Gardiner), or both (Bailey), but the problem is only one other person is in double figures in either one of those offensive categories.
That points to the major weakness of Penn State going up against a physical and deep team like Wisconsin. Expect that advantage to really shine come the 3rd periods both nights. Couple that with the confidence coming off a win against their biggest rivals and you've got all you need for a sweep in my book.
Prediction: Sunday – Wisconsin 5, Penn State 1; Monday – Wisconsin 3, Penn State 2