Ohio State vs Penn State at the Schottenstein Center on Saturday, February 1, 2014. (Photo c/o www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com)
It was not a fun weekend to be a Penn State hockey fan.
I feel like I've been saying that quite often this season, but last weekend's performance by Penn State in Columbus was unimpressive. Freshman forward David Goodwin scored his fifth goal of the season last Friday, but the team fell to Ohio State, 5-1, in Game 1. The Buckeyes scored once in the first period and three straight goals in the second period. Ottawa Senators prospect Ryan Dzingel led all scorers with two goals and one assist. Buckeyes frosh goalie Christian Frey made 46 stops.
Saturday's game, which aired on ESPNEWS, showed promised early.
Freshman Dylan Richard scored his second goal of the season less than three minutes into the game to give Penn State an early 1-0 lead. Richard then assisted on Casey Bailey's first-period goal to give Penn State the early 2-0 advantage. That was the first time PSU has jumped out to an 2-0 lead since their Dec. 1 game against then-No. 15 Union.
The lead would be short-lived as the Buckeyes tallied five unanswered goals during the final two periods en route to the 5-2 victory. PSU now falls to 4-17-1 overall on the year and 0-8-0-0 in the Big Ten. OSU improves to 14-9-1 overall and 4-5-1-0 in the Big Ten.
Dzingel finished the weekend with three goals and three assists.
If you're up 2-0, you must find a way to win that game. It's simple as that. For a team that is having a tough season to begin with, Saturday's loss was gut-wrenching and demoralizing.
I do understand it is their first season in the Big Ten and they’re playing against college hockey’s elite teams. That’s fine, it’s going to a challenge. However, some weekends they look like they can hang with any team in the country (Minnesota and BC games this month), and other weekends they lay duds. There seems to be no consistent good play with this team.
Penn State’s inconsistency I think is due to their abundance of low level NCAA players and lack of overall depth. Many of the current players are very young and are being asked to play much more significant roles than they can handle. It’s not their fault they haven’t had four years of recruiting classes come through State College yet. Once that happens, then we may see the program make some noise in the Big Ten. Until then, head coach Guy Gadowsky has his work cut out of him.
Penn State still has a shot to steal a few games once they get into the second half of the Big Ten schedule, but from what I’ve see thus far that may not happen.
The high-powered No. 10 Michigan Wolverines make their first ever appearance in Happy Valley this weekend for a pair of games starting this Friday at 7 p.m. The Wolverines are 13-6-3 overall on the season, and are coming off a weekend series against Wisconsin in which they won game one in regulation and tied game two (SO Win).
Up front, Red Berenson’s squad is an elite group that features eight NHL prospects.
Buffalo Sabres prospect JT Compher leads a balanced Michigan attack that has eight players in double-digit scoring this season. Compher leads the Wolverines in scoring with nine goals and 12 assists for 21 points in 22 games played. The highly touted Northbrook, IL native is a 5’11,185 pound winger noted for his incredible hands, competitive nature, and ability to make plays at high speeds. Winnipeg Jets prospect Andrew Copp leads the Wolverines in goals this season with 10.
Junior Alex Guptill, who is Dallas Stars prospect, led the Wolverines last season with 36 points (16 goals, 20 assists) in 38 games. Guptill is currently fourth in team scoring with 15 points.
New York Rangers prospect Cristoval “Boo” Nieves has had a rather disappointing season thus far. He led all Wolverines rookie forwards last season with 29 points, eight goals and 21 assists in 40 games. Nieves utilized his exceptional speed quite well last season. He showed glimpses of the many things that he can do with his speed. This season though, Nieves has only one goal and nine assists in 21 games played. Look for Nieves to have a breakout game against the rather slow Penn State defense corps.
One of the big holes Michigan had to deal this season was the loss of Jacob Trouba, who opted to forego the remainder of his eligibility to sign with the Winnipeg Jets. As many hockey fans know, Trouba is an absolute star in the making and should garner some consideration for the Calder Trophy this year.
In steps senior captain Mac Bennett.
Bennett (MTL), who hails from Narragansett, RI, posted 18 points in 31 games last season. He’s Michigan’s most consistent defenseman and brings a calming influence to the backend. Bennett has two goals and seven assists for nine points in 22 games this year.
Another defenseman to keep an eye on is Florida Panthers’ prospect Michael Downing. The Canton, MI native was one of five Michigan players that were selected in the 2013 NHL Draft. Downing has good size at 6’2, 180 pounds. He’s noted for his toughness and powerful skating stride.
Freshman goalie Zach Nagelvoort is 9-5-2 on the year with a 1.91 GAA and .936 save percentage. Head coach Red Berenson still hasn’t said if Nagelvoort is Michigan’s number one goalie, but after back-to-back brilliant performances last weekend against Wisconsin, he’s all but secured the No. 1 spot over sophomore Steve Racine.
Racine is probably the best backup goalie in all of college hockey, who went 12-6-3 in 24 appearances last season.
It’s been hard for Penn State all year to find the win column and now they have the dubious task of getting a victory against a team that boasts 12 NHL prospects. Maybe the raucous Penn State crowd will give them some energy? Maybe David Glen’s return to the lineup will spark the offense? Maybe Eamon McAdam plays the game of his life? That’s all nice in theory, but the reality is Michigan is far too talented than the Lions.