GAME DAY CENTRAL
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INSIDE THE NUMBERS
MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - No. 11 Penn State remains on the road for the second consecutive weekend to open the 2017-18 season as they travel to No. 7 Minnesota to begin Big Ten Conference play with a pair of games this weekend.
THIS WEEK'S MATCHUP
- Penn State opens Big Ten play during just the second full weekend of the season as they travel to No. 7 Minnesota for a pair of contests on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.
- Due to a football scheduling conflict the finale of the series will be played at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday instead of the normal Friday and Saturday night affairs. Friday's puck drops at 8 p.m. ET.
- Penn State is just 4-13 all-time vs. the Gophers including just a 1-7 record at Mariucci. PSU's lone road win against Minnesota came during the 2015-16 season a 5-3 victory on February 6, 2016. That is also the last regular season win for the Nittany Lions over the Gophers.
- Penn State was outscored 20-9 by Minnesota during the four regular season contests last year including 10-3 at Mariucci.
- Rem Pitlick was a Nittany Lion killer last season scoring seven goals while adding two assists for nine points in five games. Tyler Sheehy added a 2-7-9 line as well.
- This weekend also marks the first time in the five year history of the Big Ten that Penn State and Minnesota have opened conference play against each other.
- This marks the third time overall, but first in the last three years, that Penn State has opened conference play on the road.
- The Nittany Lions have won their last three conference openers and are 5-3 overall in their first Big Ten series of the year and 5-1 over the last three years.
- Minnesota opened the season No. 3 in the USCHO.com preseason poll and fell to No. 7 after splitting a pair of opening weekend contests at the Ice Breaker tournament in Duluth.
- The Gophers fell to Duluth, 4-3 in overtime before defeating Union, 2-0, the following night.
- Minnesota won its fourth consecutive Big Ten regular season title last year finishing the regular season with 43 points and a 14-5-1 conference mark. The Gophers saw their season come to an end in the Northeast Regional with a 3-2 setback to Notre Dame in Manchester, N.H.
- Minnesota returns a bunch of fire power from the 2016-17 roster, but still are without the services of three of its top six scorers from a year ago with the graduation of Justin Kloos (18-25-43), Vinni Lettieri (19-18-37) and Jake Bischoff (5-27-32).
- Tyler Sheehy, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, was second in the conference with 53 points off 20 goals and 33 assists last season and returns for his junior season while Leon Bristedt (12-21-33 and Rem Pitlick (14-18-32) are also back for the Gophers after 30-plus point seasons a year ago.
- Eric Schierhorn returns between the pipes as a two-time reigning Big Ten Goaltender of the Year. The junior had an impressive sophomore season going 23-12-3 with five shutouts a .908 save percentage and a 2.61 goals against average.
- Minnesota had the fifth most prolific scoring offense last season registering 3.71 goals per contest, which ranked third in the Big Ten behind Penn State (4.10) and Ohio State (3.92).
- Freshman Casey Mittelstadt was selected eighth overall in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres and is the 20th Golden Gopher selected in the first round and the highest such pick since 2006. Overall Minnesota's 2017-18 roster boasts 12 NHL draft picks (6 forwards, 6 defensemen).
- Rem Pitlick currently leads the team with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) while Mittelstadt has added one goal and one assist as the only two player with multiple points through the opening two games of the season.
- Like Penn State, the Gophers are having early season power-play problems as they have only converted two of 11 chances (18.2%). Minnesota has killed off 9-of-11 chances on the PK (81.8%).
- This marks the first time in program history Penn State has had back-to-back road trips to open a season and all totaled Penn State will have travelled 8,474 miles by the end of the first semester of play.
- Penn State has just four full weekends of home games during the first half of the season and still has trips to Notre Dame, Arizona State and Ohio State on the horizon.
- The Nittany Lions will get a break from travel once they return from Minneapolis as they play at home the next three weekends in a row.
- Picking up right where he left off a season ago, senior Trevor Hamilton leads the nation in blocked shots after the opening weekend. Hamilton has 11 blocked shots and is averaging 5.5 per game early on.
- Penn State as a team has blocked 25 shots with Hamilton accounting for nearly half of the team's blocks. Hamilton had a career-high eight blocked shots in a 4-1 win over St. Lawrence while also dishing out a pair of assists.
- Hamilton finished 2016-17 first in the nation with 107 blocked shots averaging 2.74 per game.
MAY I HELP YOU?
- With his two assists last Saturday Trevor Hamilton has now tied Nate Jensen for sixth on the Penn State all-time assists list for defensemen. In just 41 games wearing the White and Blue, Hamilton has registered 22 assists.
- With his next assist he will tie Connor Varley for fifth with 23 and will sit behind current defensive partner Kevin Kerr. Kerr also collected a pair of assists on Saturday and now has 29 for his career and sits seven assists shy of tying Vince Pedrie for third on the all-time defensemen assists list at Penn State.
DENIS THE MENACE
- Sophomore Denis Smirnov registered his 14th career multi-point game and the eighth game of his career with at least three points during a 4-1 victory over St. Lawrence.
- After leading all freshman in the country with 47 points last season, Smirnov now has 50 career points and reached that plateau in just 41 games played, the fastest for a Nittany Lion.
- Smirnov was also one of just three players last season to register multiple goals against the Golden Gophers as he potted a pair of goals while adding four assists for six points in five games against Minnesota. Only David Goodwin (two) and Alec Marsh (two) were the other two Lions to score more than once all season against Minnesota.
SMILING IN THE BRIGHT LIGHTS
- Sophomore Peyton Jones was named to the Mike Richter Award Watch List last Thursday and backed that up with a pair of fantastic performances against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. Jones fell just a simple redirected puck short of his third career shutout during a 4-1 victory over St. Lawrence.
- Jones registered 30 saves against the Skating Saints to secure his 24th career victory and the eighth time in his career he has collected 30 or more saves in a game. Jones is now 6-1-1 in such games with his only loss coming against Princeton last season in Philadelphia.
- Jones turned in a 1.54 goals against average and a .942 save percentage as he stopped 49 of 52 shots last weekend.
NO SOPHOMORE SLUMP
- Penn State's 2016-17 freshman class led the entire nation in scoring last season registering 64 goals and 93 assists for 157 points. All three totals topped the entire NCAA.
- The class also contributed four of Penn State top-10 scorers including Smirnov who led the team with 47 points and Nate Sucese who was fourth with his 36 points. Brandon Biro (6-14-20) and Kris Myllari (8-9-17) round out the top-10.
- Now sophomores the class didn't disappoint last weekend collecting 10 of the team's 15 points including all five goals. Smirnov led the way with three points (1G, 2A) while Sucese, Myllari and Liam Folkes each added one goal and one assists during the opening weekend.
- Penn State will return home to Pegula Ice Arena to open its 2017-18 home slate in a Thursday-Friday series against American International College. Thursday's contest will feature a brief pregame banner unveiling ceremony to honor the 2017 Big Ten Tournament Championship and the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Both games begin at 7 p.m. Thursday's game will air on BTN.