Michigan hockey vs. Penn State: What to know about 2023 NCAA tournament regional final
UPDATE: Michigan beat Penn State, 2-1 in overtime. Read about the NCAA tournament regional final here.
2023 NCAA hockey tournament: Michigan Wolverines vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Matchup: 1-seed Michigan (25-11-3) vs. No. 2 Penn State (22-15-1), NCAA tournament Allentown regional final.
Faceoff: 6:30 p.m. Sunday; PPL Center, Allentown, Pennsylvania.
At stake: The winner heads to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Florida, on April 6-8, to face Sunday’s winner between Quinnipiac and Ohio State.
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The Wolverine to know: D Luke Hughes
It’s rare for a top-five NHL draft pick (whose two older brothers are already stars in the league) returning for his sophomore season after finishing as a Hobey Baker finalist to get overshadowed, but that’s almost what has happened to Hughes, who merely had 10 goals and 37 assists this season. That includes his five-point night against Colgate on Friday — the most points by a Division I defenseman in a game this season. Then again, the Nittany Lions hardly needed that performance to put him on their radar: Hughes was a one-man wrecking crew in Michigan’s 5-4 comeback win vs. the Nittany Lion in Ann Arbor on Jan. 28. After PSU jumped out to a 3-0 lead, Hughes scored four goals, including the game-winner, in about 15 minutes of elapsed time in the second and third periods.
The Nittany Lion to know: G Liam Souliere
Penn State brings an up-tempo offense predicated on taking as many shots as possible, regardless of whther the Nittany Lions make them — PSU’s 1,501 shots entering the NCAA tournament was more than 80 more than the No. 2 team (Ohio State), and 145 more than the Wolverines at No. 3. That gives their netminder an outsized role in their defense. The 24-year-old took a big step forward this season, going from a 2.88 goals-against average while stopping 90.5% of shots to a 2.45 GAA while stopping 91.5% this season. That included a shutout of the Wolverines — their only blanking this season — back on Nov. 4 in Happy Valley. Souliere only had to make 17 stops, as his Nittany Lion teammates peppered U-M backup Noah West with 46 shots of their own … but as we saw in U-M’s first-round rout of Colgate, once Michigan gets one goal, more are sure to follow. The key then, is to not let the Wolverines get that first goal.
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Ryan Ford’s pick
These two teams are much closer than the season series — won by U-M, 3-1 — suggests, especially considering PSU outscored the Wolverines, 6-4, in their two-game series in Happy Valley back in November. Still, the Wolverines have too much offense to shut down, even if the Nittany Lions control the pace with a plethora of shots against goalie Erik Portillo. The pick: U-M 5, Penn State 3.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: 2023 NCAA hockey tournament: Michigan vs. Penn State for Frozen Four