PREVIEW: MSU hockey takes on No. 4 Penn State on the road
The MSU hockey team (4-13-1, 0-4-0 Big Ten) continues its five-game road trip as it faces No. 4 Penn State (14-2-1, 3-1-0 Big Ten) in a two-game series this weekend.
“(Penn State is a) good team, playing with lots of confidence,” head coach Tom Anastos said. “They’re a real good team at home … They traditionally have thrown a lot of pucks to the net and created a lot off of that. Their defense is very active in their game, which makes you have to really be on your toes to defend.”
The Spartans enter Friday’s opening matchup on a seven-game losing streak while the Nittany Lions are coming off a win and a loss to Ohio State University after having their 13-game winning streak snapped.
“Penn State’s a really good team, obviously,” sophomore forward Mason Appleton said. “They’re high up in the rankings, they shoot the puck a lot, they go hard, they play a good, solid game and they’re usually consistent. So I think heading in there, we’re really excited for the opportunity. Obviously, we haven’t found a win in a while, and that’s a big focus for us (to win and) build confidence.
The Nittany Lions are currently in the top five in the NCAA in most statistical categories. Penn State is first in the nation in shots on goal per game with 47.82 and first on the penalty kill, killing 67 of its 74 shorthanded attempts.
Penn State is also second in the NCAA in goals per game with 4.53 and first in goals allowed per game with 1.94.
The Nittany Lions are currently the Big Ten’s leader in total goals for with 77 and goals against with 33.
Dissimilar to the Nittany Lions, MSU is in the bottom tier of the NCAA in most facets of the game.
The Spartans rank No. 57 in the NCAA in shots on goal per game with an average of 24.5 and their .698 penalty kill percentage is No. 60 in the nation.
With 40 goals this season, the Spartans rank No. 54 in the nation and worst in the Big Ten in goals scored.
Allowing four goals per game, MSU’s inability to stop the opposition from scoring has led them to a current national ranking of No. 56. Its 72 goals given up this season is also worst in the Big Ten.
The Spartans — currently without a conference win this season — are led by Appleton. A sixth-round draft pick by the Winnipeg Jets in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, Appleton leads the team in goals with eight, points with 17 and assists with nine.
Penn State freshman forward Denis Smirnov enters this weekend’s contest leading the Nittany Lions in points with 28 and assists with 18. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz is the team leader in goals with 13.
Nittany Lions’ freshman goaltender Peyton Jones has started 15 games in the net for Penn State, including all four Big Ten games, and currently holds a .919 save percentage and 1.98 goals-against average.
The Spartans will take on the Nittany Lions at 7 p.m. on Jan. 13 and then Jan. 14 at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.