No. 6 Penn State is looking to make season-opening history this weekend.
The Nittany Lions will try to start Big Ten play 4-0 for the first time in program history as they welcome Michigan State to Pegula Ice Arena for a two-game set. The two sides will face off on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m.
Penn State is coming off a dominant sweep of then-No. 7 Wisconsin last Thursday and Friday to open up its conference schedule. After toppling the Badgers by a combined score of 10-3 and carrying a 6-1 overall record into the final contests of their current homestand, Guy Gadowsky is happy about his team’s position.
“We feel pretty good about ourselves,” Gadowsky said. “It was a really good performance against a really good team.”
Gadowsky said the sweep of Wisconsin was “the six most-consistent periods that we’ve had probably in a long time.” Heading into this weekend against the Spartans, forward Aarne Talvitie believes the Nittany Lions must prepare the same way if they want similar results.
“Big Ten games are never going to be easy,” Talvitie said. “So, I think just keeping the same mindset and trying to be as good as we were last week [is important].”
Penn State’s wins over the Badgers were emotional ones, as both sides combined for 33 penalties between the two matchups. While the Nittany Lions played cleaner hockey in Friday’s contest, Gadowsky believes his squad must put their emotions from the last series behind them.
“I think that we realize that all we have now is Michigan State Friday night,” Gadowsky said. “And we have to do everything we can to take advantage of it.”
The Spartans roll into Happy Valley with a 2-4 overall record after playing six nonconference matchups. Michigan State is coming off a sweep at the hands of No. 4 Cornell last weekend.
A scoring machine in 2018-19, the Spartans no longer have their three-headed offensive monster made up of forwards Taro Hirose, Patrick Khodorenko and Mitchell Lewandowski, dubbed the “K-H-L” line. Khodorenko and Lewandowski still remain, however, giving Michigan State a one-two scoring punch.
Khodorenko leads the Spartans in assists with five and points with six. Four players are tied for the team lead with two goals.
“They’re going to be a very different team compared to what we saw in the past with Taro Hirose gone,” Gadowsky said. “I think they’re going to find different ways [to play].”