Penn State prepping for Denver

ALLENTOWN — The Penn State Nittany Lion ice hockey team, which earned its second straight NCAA Tournament berth last weekend as an at-large team, will take on Denver Saturday night at the PPL Center in a rematch of last year’s Midwest Regional Final.

Penn State is the No. 3 seed while Denver is the No. 2 seed. The winner will get the winner of the Ohio State (No. 1)-Princeton (No. 4) on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. That game will air on ESPNU.

Denver is the defending national champion, which has won four straight going into the postseason. The Pioneers, who are 22-9-8, possess one of the top lines in collegiate hockey this season in Henrik Borgstrom, Troy Terry and Jarid Lukosevicius. They’ve combined for 126 points this season.

Penn State (18-14-5) is led by goalie Peyton Jones, who has started 70 of a possible 76 games for the Nittany Lions in his career. He is 40-22-6. He is 5-1 in his last six starts.

Offensively, the Lions are led by sophomores Brandon Biro, Nate Sucese, Liam Folkes and Denis Smirnov. The group ranks first in the nation with 64 goals and 93 assists, good for 157 points. Biro leads the way with 31 points. Smirnov leads the group in goals with 15.

Last season, Penn State beat Union, 10-3, in its first-ever NCAA Tournament game before losing to Denver, 6-3. Smirnov, Nikita Pavlychev and James Gobetz all scored for the Nittany Lions in the loss.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions are anchored by senior Trevor Hamilton who was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. He led all Big Ten defenders with 29 points on six goals and 23 assists.

Saturday’s game will air on ESPN 3 and is also available for live streaming on the WatchESPN App.