Once the Big Ten hockey schedule commences, there is little let up in facing top quality opponents.
After a home split with No. 8 Notre Dame in their Big Ten opening series last weekend, No. 16 Michigan goes on the road for a pair of games in Happy Valley against No. 5 Penn State this weekend. Both Friday’s and Saturday’s contests will begin at 7 p.m.
The Nittany Lions (8-1-0) have gotten off to a blistering start this season, but have only faced a ranked foe in three of their opening nine games. Playing at home in eight of those nine contests, their only loss was in overtime to Arizona State, who is currently ranked 18th nationally.
The Wolverines (5-4-0, 1-1 Big Ten) will be seeking a more balanced offensive attack and a tighter team defensive effort.
Single goals by sophomore forward Dakota Raabe, senior forward Brendan Warren and freshman forward Jack Olmstead have been the only contributions from the third and fourth lines. In addition to a more balanced attack, the Wolverines will continue their quest to improve their goals against.
Freshman goalie Strauss Mann gave his teammates a lift with a one-goal, 26-save performance last Friday in a 2-1 win against Notre Dame. Expectations are that he will get a chance this weekend to build upon that performance. Mann and junior netminder Hayden Lavigne have alternated starts to date this season, but Mann could be called upon to duplicate his success in both weekend games against the Nittany Lions.
Freshman Strauss Mann is expected to be called upon to backstop the Wolverines both nights against Penn State. While his season numbers aren’t spectacular to date (2.83 goals-against average, .889 save percentage in four starts and five overall appearances), Mann has been the more effective of Michigan’s two goalies.
Hulking 6-7, 212 pound junior forward Nikita Pavlychev, a native of Yaroslavl, Russia, has paced the Nittany Lion offensive attack this season with seven goals and nine assists. Pavlychev also has used his size aggressively with a team-leading 10 minutes in penalties.
No. 8 Notre Dame at Michigan State (Fri.-Sat.)
St. Lawrence at No. 19 Minnesota (Fri.-Sat.)
Wisconsin at No. 6 Ohio State (Fri.-Sat.)