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GAME DAY CENTRAL
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The eleventh-ranked Penn State men’s ice hockey team returns to Pegula Ice Arena to open its 2017-18 home slate as they welcome American International College for a pair of contests on Thursday and Friday evening at 7 p.m.
- Prior to puck drop on Thursday evening there will be a brief pregame ceremony to honor the 2017 Big Ten Tournament Champions and the first-ever NCAA Tournament team with a banner unveiling. Fans are encouraged to be in their seats at 6:45 p.m.
- Tickets are still available HERE and standing room only tickets can be purchased by calling 1-800-NITTANY.
THIS WEEK’S MATCHUP
- Penn State opens its 2017-18 home slate with a rare Thursday-Friday matchup against American International College.
- The Nittany Lions hold the 3-1 series advantage over the Yellow Jackets dating back to Penn State’s inaugural Division I season, 2012-13.
- AIC is the answer to a pair of trivia questions in Penn State hockey history as the Yellow Jackets gave the Lions their first-ever loss in their first-ever Division I game on October 12, 2012, but PSU responded for it’s first-ever win the following night. Both of those initial games were decided in overtime.
- Penn State outscored AIC, 13-6, in a series sweep at Pegula Ice Arena the last time the two teams met during the 2015-16 season.
- AIC finished last season 8-20-8 overall and 7-14-7 in Atlantic Hockey play during Head Coach Eric Lang’s first season behind the bench. The Yellow Jackets bowed out of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament in the first round to Mercyhurst in two games.
- The Yellow Jackets return their top four scorers from a year ago including eight of their top 10 scorers led by Blake Christensen who led the team with 21 points and Dominik Florian who was the team’s only double-digit goal scorer in 2016-17 with 10.
- AIC returns both of its goaltenders who saw action last season in Zackarias Skog and Alex Murray. Skog started 23 games compiling a 5-12-6 record with a 3.06 goals against average and a .904 save percentage. Murray started 13 games going 3-8-2 with a 3.59 GAA and .883 save percentage. Skog has started four of the team’s five games so far this season.
- The Jackets are led by Patrik Demel so far this season with three goals and two assists for five points. Demel sat out the first semester last season before coming on strong down the stretch for AIC scoring four goals and adding five assists for nine points in 14 games. Only Janis Jaks has also registered multiple goals so far this season for the Jackets with two.
- AIC has struggled so far this season on the penalty kill as they rank 44th nationally at 74.1 percent. The seven power-play goals they have allowed in 27 opportunities are the most in the nation. The Yellow Jacket power-play has fared a little better ranking 28th in the nation at 18.2 percent converting on four of 22 chances.
- AIC also ranks near the bottom nationally in offense and defense allowing 3.80 goals per contest to rank 49th while only scoring 2.00 goals on offense to rank 41st.
- AIC is a very young team with 19 of its 29 players either a freshman or a sophomore.
- Sophomore Denis Smirnov picked up right where he left off last season as he leads the team in goals (3) and points (6) through the first four games of the season.
- Smirnov was named the Big Ten’s Second Star of the week after a three-point weekend including two goals, one being the game winner, against No. 7 Minnesota. It marks his first weekly honor this season and the fifth of his career.
- Smirnov, who registered his 15th career multi-point game over the weekend, is currently riding a three-game goal streak, which is just one game shy of his career-long achieved last season.
- After leading all freshman in the country with 47 points last season, Smirnov now has 53 career points and reached the 50-point plateau in just 41 games played, the fastest for a Nittany Lion. He is now just three points shy of tying Curtis Loik ‘16 for tenth on the Penn State all-time points list.
- The Nittany Lions were outshot, 32-26, for the first time last weekend during their 6-3 loss at Minnesota. In the two game series Penn State failed to reach 30 shots in both contests collected just 26 each night.
- Penn State was held to fewer than 30 shots on goal only twice all last season in 39 games, once to Minnesota and against Denver in the NCAA Midwest Regional final.
- The Nittany Lions, who have paced the entire NCAA in shots on goal during the last three seasons including averaging 8.32 more shots on goal than their closest opponent during the 2016-17 season, are currently tied for 21st nationally averaging 31.50 shots on goal through the first four games this season.
- The 52 combined shots for the Nittany Lions in the two games this past weekend are 11 less than the 63 they fired during a 4-3 double-overtime victory last season in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.
- After a pair of goals over the weekend, Penn State junior Andrew Sturtz currently ranks third on Penn State’s all-time career goals list with 42. He sits just behind David Goodwin ‘17 (44) and Casey Bailey (45).
- The junior is also tied with Taylor Holstrom ‘15 for sixth on the career points list with 67 after a three-point weekend at Minnesota.
- Sturtz registered his first career goal against AIC during the 2015-16 season and has three career tally’s vs. the Yellow Jackets in two games. He is currently riding a two-game goal streak.
LENDING A HELPING HAND?
- After a three assist weekend for senior Erik Autio, the Finnish blue-liner has inched closer to catching Luke Juha for first all-time in Penn State history for defenseman assists. Autio currently sits at 41 just four shy of Juha’s record of 45.
- Autio is also closing in on the all-time defenseman point’s record of 60, also held by Juha. Autio currently has 47 points and is five behind former d-partner Vince Pedrie (52) for second on the list.
- With a single assist last weekend at Minnesota senior Trevor Hamilton tied Connor Varley for fifth on the Penn State all-time defenseman assists list with 23 just behind current teammate Kevin Kerr who ranks fourth with 29.
- Penn State defensemen currently have 11 assists through the first four games of the season and rank tied for third nationally in that category.
- After going just 1-for-10 with the man-advantage to open the season, Penn State registered four powerplay goals in six opportunities this past weekend at Minnesota and now rank sixth in the nation with a 31.2 percent conversion rate (5-for-16).
PENN STATE FEATURED ON TOP PLAYS
- Sophomore Peyton Jones made an incredible diving stick save over the weekend to keep Penn State in the lead 3-0 at the time. The Nittany Lions went on to win the game, 3-1.
- Later that night the save earned some love on SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays coming in at No. 3 and later No. 4.
- The play also earned recognition on NCAA Ice Hockey’s “Nice from the Ice” the Top Five plays of the week earlier this week.
- Penn State remains home and returns to Big Ten play as they battle the Michigan Wolverines for a pair of contests on Friday and Saturday evening at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively.