Penn State is well-known for being in the upper echelon of many sports. Their football team is 4-1, Women's Soccer is ranked No. 6 in the country, their Women's volleyball team are yearly championship contenders and ranked No. 5.
Men's Hockey is not one of those sports. They have only been a Division 1 program since 2012 and their record shows it. In his third year as coach, Guy Gadowsky is 21-40-2, allowing a whopping 129 goals in 36 games (3.58 GA/game) while only scoring 80 (2.22 GF/game) lead them to a dead last finish in the Big Ten, with a record 3-16-1 in conference play(8-26-2 overall).
UConn actually hosted the Nittany Lions in the 2012-2013 season. It was the Huskies' last season with their former coach Bruce Marshall and Penn State's first season in Division 1, so reading too far into that outcome may not be entirely fair for each team, as they have both evolved in leaps from these points. For the record, though, the Huskies did win twice.
Just like the Huskies Penn State is looking forward to showing improvement this season, and they have the experience to do so. They have eight returning seniors, four of which red-shirted. Also returning is top goal-scorer and point-getter Eric Scheid (11 goals, 9 assists), in his red-shirt junior year. They will be looking to sophomore David Goodwin to improve from is 18 points last season (7 goals, 11 assists) as well.
A major area of concern for the Nittany Lions last year was goaltending. While now-junior Matthew Skoff was mildly successful at minding the net with a .906 save rate, 2.95 GA/game and all of the Nittany Lions' eight wins, their other two goalies combined for an average of 4.11 GA/game and 13 losses. With Skoff as the full-time goalie, I would imagine those numbers to improve.
Also worth noting, tonight's match-up is part of the Big Ten/Hockey East Challenge. According to the folks over at BC Interruption, the event could use better organization and promotion. I agree since there hasn't been much talk about it to date.
UConn lines vs. Penn State pic.twitter.com/eqtVMqPgdp— Mike Anthony (@ManthonyCourant) October 10, 2014
Sam's Prediction: All in all, it will be a good game for a hungry Huskies' squad looking to prove themselves early. While Penn State could be a tough place to travel to, most students will have their minds on the upcoming football game versus Michigan.
I expect the team to come out fast, strong, and attack the goal. I think UConn wins the game, 3-1 thanks to defense and experience.
Tim Fontenault's Prediction: When UConn skated to a pair of victories against Penn State in 2013, I was left wanting more. Those two games were as entertaining as any UConn game I have seen in two years of covering the team. Both sides played fast, physical hockey, leaving me wondering if this was a rivalry in the making.
Both teams are better than they were then. Penn State has matured, now battle-tested after one year in the Big Ten. UConn and Mike Cavanaugh are starting to build a program that will be competitive.
I think this will be a fun series, an excellent beginning to what will be a historic season for the Huskies. UConn has proven time and again that they can compete with anyone and in any situation, so look for the Huskies to get the win in one of college hockey's newest and most beautiful arenas.