Penn State Hockey: What To Know About Union
While the Penn State hockey program might still be celebrating its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth, it's safe to assume that the smiles and high-fives will quickly turn back to business as usual ahead of this weekend's historic game. The opponent of course, the Union Dutchmen out of Schenectady, New York only one spot higher in the PairWise rankings than the Nittany Lions at No. 8.
So what is there to know about the Dutchmen as Penn State heads to Cincinnati? A few things.
Like most teams, Union looks to its top line for the bulk of its production and few players in college hockey have done a better job delivering than Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo. With 62 and 60 points respectively that combination is one of the best Penn State has seen since Michigan's CCM line last season and third and fourth best nationally in total points. While Penn State fans certainly aren't rooting for injuries, this top line might be without its third piece in Sebastian Vidmar who suffered a knock against Cornell this past week and is questionable for Saturday. Vidmar racked up 40 points, the third best on the team behind his two linemates.
In net the Dutchmen have turned to Alex Sakellaropoulos who has racked up a 22-5-2 record but didn't dress for a four game stretch near in the final third of the season. In the seven final games of the year Sakellaropoulos has been business as usual the junior with the nation's 13th best save percentage at .921 and a 2.42 goals against average just a bit better than Peyton Jones' 2.51.
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky says there isn't much stock in this kind of thing but Penn State and Union do share four similar opponents this year. Both teams having played Michigan, St Lawrence, Niagara and Princeton. All things considered both teams played the majority of these games much earlier in the year so there isn't too much value in comparing, but Union did go 0-1-1 against St Lawrence while Penn State went 1-1-0. Not exactly the stat that will decide the series, but an interesting footnote nevertheless.
Won It All Before:
Union is only a few years removed from a 2014 national title as the Dutchmen knocked off Minnesota in the program's first-ever NCAA Title game. Union leaned heavily on defenseman and current Philadelphia Flyer Shayne Gostisbehere during the tournament going +7 and picking up three points in the 7-4 national title game victory.
Fifth Time Is The Charm?
If the name sounded familiar off the bat that's because Penn State has played Union before. The Nittany Lions' visited Union the first season as a Division I program and then the Dutchmen visited Pegula Ice Arena the following season. Union won all four games but Penn State was competitive. All things considered though both teams are vastly different and the Nittany Lions in particular and far improved over the first few years of existing.