Andrew Sturtz is already a prolific scorer and found some pretty decent success during his college hockey career.
But the Penn State junior has a goal he’s been itching to accomplish that has thus far avoided him: Win a game at Michigan’s historic Yost Ice Arena.
He’ll get another chance soon enough as the No. 12 Nittany Lions make their only trip of the season to Ann Arbor, visiting the No. 20 Wolverines for games at 8 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“This weekend’s been marked on my calendar,” Sturtz said. “I want to try to win a hockey game there, and I definitely want to win two. My whole class — they’ve got our number.”
Penn State does have wins against Michigan — including splitting their meetings at Pegula Ice Arena in October — but the contests at the old Michigan Arena have not gone very well. In the last four games the Lions have played there, Michigan has won by a combined 20-4. Aside from a tight 3-2 game last season, with Penn State even holding a lead early in the game, the other three were decided by at least four goals.
“All of us want to go to Yost and change the script here a bit,” said Sturtz, who enters the weekend tied for sixth in Division I with his 30 points on 11 goals and 19 assists.
It’s hard to argue with the excitement for a hockey player just to hit the ice at the arena, which has hosted games for nearly five decades and seen more NCAA titles than any other Division I men’s hockey program.
Trevor Hamilton also appreciates the experience, growing up in the Detroit suburbs about an hour away from the campus. The senior defenseman figures he has played there at least eight times, including youth games, and his family had season tickets. It was his also was his dream college hockey destination.
“I was a big Michigan fan,” Hamilton said, adding with a laugh, “not so much anymore.”
Hamilton started his college career at Miami (Ohio) and is only in his second season as a Lion. His only win over the Wolverines in that rink was with the U.S. National Developmental Team, which makes its home in Ann Arbor.
“Beating Michigan at Michigan is something very special,” he said. “Coming into Michigan this weekend, (if) we have the right mindset, we can take two there. It’s a tough rink to play in.”
The rivalry between the programs has not always been so lopsided. Penn State has a number of historic victories against the Wolverines, including a home win against them in 2014 and a few weeks later winning again for the program’s first Big Ten road victory. There also have been two Big Ten tournament triumphs, including in the first round last season en route to the tournament title.
With just 10 games left in the regular season, both teams also are battling for postseason positions. In the national PairWise Rankings, which annually serve as a strong indicator of who will make the 16-team NCAA tournament field, the Nittany Lions are ranked 12th and the Wolverines are tied for 15th.
Michigan also just swept a weekend series at Minnesota last weekend — the first conference team to do so since the Big Ten added hockey.
“It’s important for them, it’s important for us,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “Partly why you come to the Big Ten is to play in big games that have big implications.”
The Nittany Lions need to stay in the postseason conversation, and winning in Ann Arbor helps.
Sturtz just wants to know what that feels like.
“Growing up, dreaming of playing college hockey, you end up at a place like this to play against big schools like Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin,” Sturtz said. “It was always a dream to play in there, and now that you’ve played there — you don’t want to lose every time.”
Who: No. 12 Penn State (13-8-3, 6-5-3-2) at No. 20 Michigan (10-10-2, 5-7-2)
Where: Yost Ice Arena
When: 8 p.m. Friday, 7:30 p.m. Saturday
TV: BTN (Friday)
Radio: WAPY 103.1
Leading scorers: PSU — Andrew Sturtz (11 goals, 19 assists), Brandon Biro (5 G, 17 A), Trevor Hamilton (4 G, 18 A), Chase Berger (7 G, 13 A), Nate Sucese (11 G, 9 A). UM — Cooper Marody (9 G, 22 A), Tony Calderone (15 G, 12 A), Dexter Dancs (6 G, 11 A)