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Preview: Hockey travels to face high-powered No. 10 Penn State

January 11, 2019
Freshman right defenseman Dennis Cesana (22) waits for the puck to drop during the game against Ohio State University at Munn Ice Arena on Jan. 4, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 8-7 in double overtime.
Freshman right defenseman Dennis Cesana (22) waits for the puck to drop during the game against Ohio State University at Munn Ice Arena on Jan. 4, 2018. The Spartans defeated the Buckeyes 8-7 in double overtime. —
Photo by Anntaninna Biondo | The State News

Who: Michigan State vs. No. 9 Penn State

When: 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 11 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12 

Where: Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania

TV/Streams: Friday on Big Ten Network and Saturday on BTNplus 

Radio: Spartan Sports Network

Michigan State ice hockey (6-11-3, 2-6-2 Big Ten) travels to No. 9 Penn State (12-6-2, 4-5-1 Big Ten) in back-to-back away games this weekend for the first matchup of the season. 

Penn State comes into the weekend with the Big Ten’s most prolific offense, averaging 3.6 goals per game. 

Big Ten Race

The Nittany Lions hold a four-point advantage over the Spartans, as they have 14 points compared to the Spartans’ 10 in the Big Ten standings. This places the clubs at No. 6 and No. 7 respectively. This set of games could prove crucial for Michigan State, as a pair of wins would catapult the Spartans over Penn State in the standings.

Players to Watch

MSU points leader and junior forward Taro Hirose, leading the nation with a total of 31 on the season, has had Penn State’s number as of late, tallying 10 points in his three seasons against the Nittany Lions. His offensive ability will be crucial in the Spartans’ attempt to keep pace with Penn State’s high-scoring group.

Trailing only Hirose in the national point standings, Penn State forwards Alex Limoges and Evan Barratt hold a respective 30 and 29 points this season. Barratt has been the more consistent scorer for PSU, already netting 13 on the campaign. These two forwards present possibly the greatest challenge MSU’s defensemen have faced this season.

“They've got the guys that can get up and put some put some pucks on net, and they do a really good job of generating speed coming into the offensive zone,” MSU coach Danton Cole said in preparation for the matchup.

Many will be eyeing freshman goaltender Drew DeRidder’s response, as he allowed seven goals before junior and fellow goaltender John Lethemon started the second game, allowing six. MSU will need stellar play from its goaltender to compete with this high-powered Penn State team.

“Their (defense) are really involved and they attack," Cole said. "They get pucks to the net and then they bring a lot of bodies to the net. And that's their mentality. They attack, find space, put pucks on the net and make you turn around and find the puck. They're hard to play against.”

Prediction

Although MSU has shown resilience of late, coming back to beat Ohio State in double-overtime, their uncertain goaltending coupled with Penn State’s scoring ability will be the difference in the front end of the two-game stand. 

Friday's Final Score Prediction  

Penn State 4
Michigan State 2

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