Men's hockey heads to Michigan State

February 12, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Nittany Lions venture outside the Keystone State for the first time in two months when they face Michigan State for a two-game series Friday and Saturday at Munn Ice Arena.

Friday's contest is slated for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop on Fox Sports Detroit/BTN2Go, while Saturday's game will air at 6 p.m. on Big Ten Network/BTN2Go.

SCOUTING THE SPARTANS
Michigan State (10-12-2, 4-4-2-2 Big Ten) enters the weekend after a pair of neutral site conference games vs. Michigan (2-1 win at Joe Louis Arena on Jan. 31; 4-1 loss at Soldier Field on Feb. 7). The Spartans haven't dropped a home game since Feb. 5, going 3-0-1 in the past four college games with an exhibition win thrown in there.

Led by the conference's top goaltender Jake Hildebrand, the Spartans have been a tough team to score on this season. Hildebrand has a .920 save percentage and a 2.38 GAA with two shutouts. Additionally, the MSU defense blocks nearly 16 shots per game, keeping shots on goal to less than 30.

Offensively, the Spartans are guided by Matt Berry, who has played in the four games since the last time Penn State and Michigan State met, leading the team with four points. Overall, Berry has 17 points on eight goals and nine assists, while Michael Ferrantino leads the squad in goals with nine. Travis Walsh has a team-best 10 assists.

EARLIER THIS YEAR
Penn State used a pair of comebacks to earn four of six points against the Spartans at Pegula Ice Arena (Jan. 16-17). In the opener, the two teams skated to a 2-2 tie as David Goodwin's late third-period goal forced overtime where the Spartans took the shootout point. Eric Scheid scored to even the score for a brief moment in the first period.

Saturday's contest saw Penn State's top line break out for four goals and four assists in a 5-2 victory. PSU scored the final four goals led by Casey Bailey's two tallies to offset Villiam Haag's second goal of the weekend and a Ferrantino tally late in the first. Nate Jensen, Goodwin and Taylor Holstrom combined to cap Penn State's scoring.

SERIES HISTORY WITH MICHIGAN STATE
All-Time Series: Michigan State 4-2-2
PSU at home: 1-1-2
PSU at MSU: 1-3-0
PSU on Neutral Ice: 0-0-0
PSU Streak: 1 win, 2 unbeaten
First Meeting: 1/25/13, MSU 5-3
Last Meeting: 2/15/14, MSU 2-1
Last PSU Win: 1/17/15, 5-2
Last MSU Win: 2/15/14, 2-1
Last Tie: 1/16/15, 2-2 (MSU-SO)
Largest PSU Win: 5-2, 1/17/15
Largest MSU Win: 3-0, 1/17/14

LIONS COMPLETE SEASON SWEEP OF BADGERS
Penn State checked off two more items off its first-time list as it swept Wisconsin (5-2 and 4-1) for its first Big Ten home sweep and first Big Ten season sweep of an opponent.

No strangers to a deficit, the Nittany Lions overcame Wisconsin, 5-2, Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena in front of 6,033 fans. Casey Bailey had a game-high three points including an absolute blast in the third period to pace the Penn State offense.

Sparked by Bailey's offense and the expert play by defensemen Connor Varley and Nate Jensen, Penn State was able to down the Big Ten's last place team, Wisconsin.

The Nittany Lions scored four unanswered goals for a second straight game, overcoming a 2-1 first-period deficit as the team's three leading scorers--Bailey, Eric Scheid and David Goodwin--mounted a comeback and finished off the Badgers.

Tommy Olczyk put PSU ahead early in the first period with his sixth of the year, while Taylor Holstrom added an empty netter.

In net, PJ Musico saved 35 shots for his second straight win in as many starts, stopping 17 Badger efforts in the third period alone.

On Saturday, Penn State would play in a game where it never trailed for just the second time in the 2015 calendar. Musico saved 27 shots and four different Nittany Lions scored to win, 4-1.

Luke Juha and Dylan Richard made it a 2-0 game in the second period before Adam Rockwood's 4-on-4 goal cut the lead in half, 2-1, midway through the second.

The Badgers seemed to tie it with 12:11 remaining in the third as Aidan Cavallini tipped in a goal. Following a lengthy review, the goal was ruled off due to a high stick. What went to happen 88 seconds later would all but seal the game for Penn State.

James Robinson scored his third career goal, all of which have come vs. Wisconsin, to make the score 3-1 with 10:43 remaining. Erik Autio put the cherry on top with his first career goal of the season on the power play in the final minutes.

MUSICO GARNERS BIG TEN ATTENTION
Senior goaltender PJ Musico became the eighth different Nittany Lion to win a Big Ten weekly award when he was named the Third Star of the Week on Tuesday (Feb. 10).

The conference tabbed Musico's performances that helped Penn State (15-7-4, 7-2-1-0 Big Ten) sweep Wisconsin. Musico registered a .954 save percentage over the course of the two games, topping all other Big Ten netminders who played two games.

Musico's rise to being the current Penn State starter has been rather innocuous after starting the season as the third-string goalie. Musico's first appearance of the season came Dec. 30 against Western Michigan in a reserve role.

MUSICO TO MY EARS
Entering the season, PJ Musico was Penn State's third goaltender and didn't see action through the first 16 games of the year. Since then, Musico has played in seven of the last 10 games, initially in a reserve role earning more playing time on each occasion, before garnering his first start vs. No. 14 Vermont.

Against the Catamounts, Musico made 33 saves to earn his second win of the year, improving to 2-1-1. His 33 saves were the most since making 46 at Wisconsin on Feb. 24, 2014. The start was his first since March 7, 2014, also against Wisconsin.

Last weekend's performance moved Musico to 4-1-1 with a .938 save percentage and a 1.92 goals-against average in 281 minutes of play.

BACK IN THE USCHO RANKINGS
Penn State, which is riding an eight-game unbeaten streak, was voted 19th by USCHO.com on Monday afternoon (Feb. 9). Penn State last was ranked Dec. 15-Jan. 4 at No. 20.

The Nittany Lions are just two points behind first-place Michigan in the Big Ten standings. Penn State is tied for the nation's longest active unbeaten streak with Robert Morris, who checks in at No. 18. Michigan is No. 12 according to the USCHO voters.

The No. 19 ranking is the highest in Penn State's short varsity history. The Nittany Lions have yet to be ranked in the USA Today/USA Hockey rankings, which rank the 15 best teams in the country.

In the PairWise, which attempts to mimic the ranking procedure the NCAA Selection Committee uses for the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions are tied for 20th. Sixteen teams comprise the NCAA Tournament with six automatic bids and 10 at-large bids. 

NEXT TIME OUT
Penn State returns home for a crucial home series when it faces Minnesota for the first time this season. The Nittany Lions and Gophers drop the puck at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Feb. 20 for a Big Ten Network telecast before Saturday's 5 p.m. ET game on ESPNU.   

Last Updated February 12, 2015