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GAME DAY CENTRAL
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The 14th-ranked Penn State men's ice hockey team returns to action after 26 days off for holiday break as they host the No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers for two games this weekend at Pegula Ice Arena.
HOW TO WATCH
- Friday night's contest will be available for streaming on BTN-Plus while Saturday's series finale will be broadcast live on the Big Ten Network.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP
- Penn State opens the 2018 portion of its schedule with a weekend set against the Wisconsin Badgers at Pegula Ice Arena.
- This series marks the 22nd and 23rd meetings all-time between the two schools with Penn State holding the 13-8 advantage and the convincing 12-2 mark over the last three seasons.
- The Nittany Lions are 5-3 all-time against the Badgers at Pegula Ice Arena splitting last season's final series with a 6-0 shutout on senior night after dropping the opening game 7-4.
BREAKAWAY TO WIN THE TOURNAMENT..... THEY DO
- This marks the first meeting between the two schools since the epic double-overtime thriller in last season's Big Ten Championship at Joe Louis Arena. Liam Folkes scored a pair of goals including the winning score at 6:43 of the second overtime to defeat the Badgers, 2-1.
- Penn State received the conference's auto bid to the NCAA Tournament marking its first visit in program history while Wisconsin fell one-game shy of the Tournament after a resurgent season under first-year head coach Tony Granato.
- Penn State went 4-1-0 against the Badgers last season outscoring them 23-13.
- Wisconsin enters the weekend with a 10-9-2 overall record and a 4-5-1-0 conference mark as they sit in fifth place with 13 points, but just three points out of second place as the 2-6 spots in the Big Ten are separated by just four total points.
- The Badgers finished 2016-17 at 20-15-1 and are without two of their top-5 scorers from last season as leading scorer Luke Kunin (22-16-38) left early for the NHL and Grant Besse (9-19-28) graduated last spring.
- However, the other three of the top-5 are back and continue to lead the way as Ryan Wagner paces the team with 19 points on a team-best eight goals and 11 assists. Trent Frederic is second on the team with eight goals and eight assists for 16 points and Cameron Hughes has added seven goals and eight assists for 15 points.
- Wisconsin spreads its offense out as they have eight players with at least five goals this season and ten players with double-digit points.
- Wisconsin's power-play leads the Big Ten and ranks 11th in the nation at 23.8 percent (19-for-80) while its PK ranks fifth in the Big Ten and 25th in the nation at 82.5 percent (66-for-80).
- In goal the Badgers have graduate transfer Kyle Hayton who has posted a 7-7-2 record with a 3.01 goals against average and an .887 save percentage. Lately sophomore Jack Berry has been stronger in net with a 3-2-0 record, a 2.17 goals against average and a .916 save percentage.
- Berry has started three of the last five games as Tony Granato has gone to a two goalie system splitting the weekends during the last three series the Badgers have played. Berry has won two of those three starts.
- Wisconsin ranks fourth in the Big Ten in offense averaging 3.33 goals per game to rank 14th nationally while ranking fifth in the conference and 28th in the nation in defense allowing 2.90 goals per contest.
- As a freshman last season Denis Smirnov registered eight of his program record 47 points against the Badgers. With three goals and five assists.
- During a 5-2 victory over Wisconsin in Madison Smirnov set a career-high with four points on two goals and two assists. He added a goal in the series opener to register a five points during a weekend sweep.
- Sophomore classmate Nate Sucese matched Smirnov point-for-point as he too collected eight points on three goals and five assists against the Badgers last season including a two-goal game to finish a weekend sweep in Madison.
- Senior James Robinson has scored three of his 10 career goals against Wisconsin in just four games played while junior Andrew Sturtz has six goals and two assists in 10 career games against the Badgers.
- Junior Chase Berger has six career assists against Wisconsin while senior Erik Autio has one goal and five assists vs. Wisconsin.
- Smirnov, Sucese and Sturtz lead all active Penn State players in points against the Badgers with eight.
- Following a 7-4 victory against Robert Morris, Penn State has now scored seven goals in a game five times this season after only hitting that mark four times total during 2016-17 in 39 games played.
- Of those five games, four have come at Pegula Ice Arena where the Nittany Lions have scored 43 goals in nine games and are averaging 4.78 goals per contest this season.
- Penn State is 5-0-0 when scoring at least seven goals this season and 14-0-0 in program history when putting up seven or more goals. Ten of those 14 games have been played at Pegula Ice Arena with 11 being at home (PSU defeated ASU 8-3 at Greenberg on 11/30/12).
GET HOT, STAY HOT?
- Over the last four seasons Penn State is a combined 27-0-5 heading into winter break including a program record 13-game unbeaten streak to enter the break last season (12-0-1) and previously a nine-game unbeaten streak entering the break during the 2015-16 season (7-0-2).
- This season is no different as Penn State is riding the nation's third longest active unbeaten streak of eight games (6-0-2), the fourth time in the last four season's the Nittany Lions have had an unbeaten streak of at least eight games.
- However, the long layoff from playing games has hurt the Nittany Lions in the past as they are 0-3-0 in their last three games following winter break. Penn State hasn't played a game in the last 26 days.
STREAKING INTO 2018
- During this eight-game unbeaten streak no one has been hotter than sophomore Brandon Biro and junior Andrew Sturtz. Each have combined for three goals and nine assists for 12 points which ties for the Big Ten lead and for 12th in the nation during that span.
- Biro is currently riding a career-high four-game point streak (1-5-6) and has registered at least one point in seven of the last eight games.
- Sturtz is also in the midst of a career long point-streak of six games (3-7-10), registering multiple point efforts in four of those six games.
LEADER OF THE PACK
- With 26 points through the first 20 games of the season, Sturtz leads the team and is on pace for a career year.
- His 26 points are tied for second in the Big Ten and seventh in the nation only two points behind the 28 of Notre Dame's Jake Evans, Western Michigan's Wade Allison and Michigan's Cooper Marody for the national lead.
- Sturtz has also already set a career-high with 16 assists this season to rank fourth in the Big Ten and tied for seventh in the nation while his 10 goals are good for third in the Big Ten.
- Sturtz also ranks tied for 21st nationally in career scoring for active players with 90 points (50 goals, 40 assists), which ranks sixth in the junior class. His 50 goals lead the entire junior class and rank second most in the nation for active players only behind RMU's Brady Ferguson who's scored 59 goals in his career.
- Sturtz, who's 50 goals is already a Penn State program record, also holds the Penn State career records for game-winning goals (7) and shorthanded goals (9) and ranks second in points (90) and has leapt into seventh in assists with 40. He is also a plus-49 for his career, which is currently the Penn State program record.
GUESS WHO'S BACK... BACK AGAIN
- After missing eight games due to an illness, sophomore sensation Denis Smirnov has returned in a big way registering four goals and a pair of assists in the last four games.
- Smirnov closed out the first semester of play by being named the NCAA First Star of the Week and the Big Ten Second Star of the Week on December 12th.
- Smirnov tied his career-high with four points during Penn State's last game of 2017, a 7-4 victory over Robert Morris.
- Smirnov ranks fifth in the nation with a 1.42 points per game average just above Sturtz who sits tied for eighth with 1.37 points per game. In his career, Smirnov is averaging 1.25 points per game - a Penn State record.
- In just 51 career games, Smirnov already ranks in the top-ten of Penn State's all-time records in every offensive category, points (64 - 9th), goals (28 - 8th), assists (36 - T-10th), game-winning goals (7 - T-1st), power-play goals (7 - 7th) and plus/minus (+27 - 4th).
STOP..... HAMMY TIME
- Senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton has been a force all season ranking first in the Big Ten and tied for fourth in the nation in defenseman scoring with 18 points. His 14 assists also top the conference and rank tied for third in the nation for blueliners.
- During this current eight-game unbeaten streak Hamilton ranks third in the entire nation in defenseman scoring with 10 points securing at least one point in six of the last eight games.
- Hamilton's 45 blocks on the season lead the team, ranking third in the Big Ten and tenth in the nation.
BOMBS FROM THE BLUELINE
- After finishing 2016-17 third in the nation in defenseman scoring (32-85-117), Penn State led the nation before the holiday break scoring 15 goals while adding 48 assists for 63 points from its defense.
- Along with Hamilton, freshman Cole Hults has been a main contributor as he ranks fourth in the Big Ten in defensemen scoring with two goals and 12 assists for 14 points, good enough for fifth among rookie blueliners. He also ranks second in the Big Ten for rookie defensemen behind Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk.
- Sophomore goaltender Peyton Jones has found his grove over his last seven starts and boasts a 1.87 goals against average and a .936 save percentage during that span, good for eighth and seventh in the nation, respectively. Jones is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts with the only loss being a 1-0 shutout against No. 6 Notre Dame.
- With a 7-4 victory over Robert Morris to complete the sweep before winter break, Jones is now the all-time wins leader at Penn State with 33 passing Matthew Skoff `16.
- Jones also ranks second all-time with 1,301 saves in his career passing Eamon McAdam.
WON'T YOU TAKE ME TO FUNKEYTOWN?
- Talk about it, in his last two starts junior Chris Funkey has gone 1-0-1 with a 2.43 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.
- He secured his second career shutout at Arizona State (7-0) in November and stopped a career-high 43 shots during a 5-5 tie at No. 11 Ohio State early in December.
- Then, when the team needed him most, Funkey stepped up in the shootout stopping all three Buckeyes to secure the extra point for Penn State.
- Penn State is currently leading the nation in a number of key offensive categories including shots on goal per game (41.25), goals (82), assists (144) and points (226).
- After a rather slow start to the season the offense is averaging 4.10 goals per game, which leads the entire nation. During the current eight-game unbeaten streak, Penn State is averaging 5.12 goals per contest, which is more than a half goal better than Boston University who is averaging 4.43 goals per game since November 17.
- Penn State remains home to close out its five-game homestand as they welcome the 8th ranked Buckeyes to town for a pair of games next Friday and Saturday evening.