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Michigan hockey welcomes Penn State to Yost this weekend

Michigan and Penn State are set for an NCAA Tournament rematch.

Michigan v Massachusetts-Amherst Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images

The Michigan Wolverines are set to welcome the Penn State Nittany Lions to Yost this weekend for a series of two teams struggling with consistency. Michigan is perhaps the best two-period team in college hockey, but untimely lapses in the third period have seen the Wolverines lose three of their last four games, each by one goal a piece.

Penn State is a high-flying team that leads the nation in shots on net, but its chaotic approach to shot selection has led the Nittany Lions to over-rely on fortuitous bounces and puck luck. Neither team has won a game outright since October and both teams will be looking to get out of their slump in a similar offensive-minded fashion.

Penn State is led by a quartet of nine plus scorers in Danny Dzhaniyev (4G, 7A), Ryan Kirwan (4G, 6A), Aiden Fink (3G, 6A), and Xander Lamppa (2G, 7A). These are the maestros of Penn State’s explosive attack and will look to use their speed to exploit creases and create opportunities on pucks fired from all angles. However, when the Nittany Lions are slowed down, this team struggles to get much going in structure, which explains its underwhelming power play production.

Defensively, Penn State’s identity is focused on quick clears and it gets its offensive humming in transition. This strategy has yielded entertaining results, but has also frequently left its defenders short-handed. Dartmouth transfer Tanner Palocsik (1G, 5A) is the highest scorer on the blue line with six points, but the duo of Jarod Crespo and Simon Mack are the sponges in the backend with a combined 31 blocked shots on the season.

In net, returner Liam Souliere has struggled posting a .869 save percentage in seven games, but has still produced a solid 4-2-1 record. Sophomore Noah Grannan has helped spell Souliere in four games with a .918 save percentage and a 1-1-2 record.

Michigan could see both players in net this weekend and will look to overwhelm Souliere or Grannan behind its big four forwards. Rutger McGroarty (6G, 12A; 18 PTS) and T.J. Hughes (6G, 11A; 17 PTS) lead the way for Michigan’s potent attack and are closely followed by Gavin Brindley (9G, 6A; 15 PTS) and Dylan Duke (5G, 9A; 14 PTS). The Wolverines have reliable scoring options on every line and are also the best team in the Big Ten in the face-off circle. However, the loss of Jackson Hallum’s speed and physicality for the season is not something that will be easily replaceable.

Defensively, Seamus Casey (4G, 13A; 17 PTS) continues to be one of the brightest stars in the country as he leads all defenders nationally in scoring. Casey has been a lightning rod for this team and one of the biggest reasons why the Wolverines are the top power-play unit in the country. Joining Casey on the blue line, are veterans captain Jacob Truscott (7A; 7 PTS) and Marshall Warren (1G, 7A; 8 PTS), and the scrappy Tyler Duke (5A; 5 PTS) who all bring a defensive intensity to Michigan’s back end.

Between the pipes, Jake Barczewski has posted a 4-4-2 record with a .911 save percentage so far this season. While his numbers won’t wow anyone, Barzo is continuing to get better and as his defense cleans up a few things in front of him, the Canisius transfer will continue to improve.

Penn State will be out for blood early in this one. It was only a few months ago that Michigan eliminated Penn State in overtime in the NCAA Tournament behind a wicked wrister from Mackie Samoskevich. If Michigan can weather the early storm from the Nittany Lions and maintain composure in the final frame, this weekend could be the springboard the Wolverines need to get back on track in the race for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament.

Game 1

When: Friday, Nov. 17, 7 p.m. ET

Where: Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

How to watch: Big Ten+

How to listen: WXYT 1270 AM

Game 2

When: Saturday, Nov. 18, 7 p.m. ET

Where: Yost Ice Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

How to watch: Big Ten+

How to listen: WXYT 1270 AM