The Michigan hockey team is going where no Michigan hockey team has gone before - to State College for the program's inaugural weekend series with Penn State. The Wolverines need six points while also looking to avoid a historic defeat.
"We definitely don't want to be that team that Penn State gets its first conference win against, that's for sure," senior captain Mac Bennett said.
Two years a varsity program, the Nittany Lions are 0-8-0 in league play, the only winless team in Big Ten action. They've lost eight games by an average of 2.8 goals per defeat, but PSU has suffered one-goal losses to No. 12 Wisconsin (4-3), No. 1 Minnesota (3-2) and Michigan State (3-2). Penn State has a habit of losing one tight game per series and then one blowout (7-1, 5-2, 3-0 and 5-1 losses to the Badgers, Gophers, Spartans and Buckeyes, respectively).
But the Blue and White are not far off from notching that first conference victory, and Michigan could be the victim if it suffers any letdown this weekend.
"They're going to be a good team," Benentt said. "Every team they've played, it's been close, especially in the Big Ten.
"We're not taking this series lightly. This is a good team that plays for a great coach. We're going to approach it like we would Wisconsin, Minnesota or Michigan State.
"This is a big weekend for us. There are six points available and when we leave we want to make sure we have all of them."
At 5-2-1 in Big Ten action, U-M sits third in the league with 17 points, however, Michigan has three games in hand against both Wisconsin (second with 19 points) and Minnesota (first with 26 points). If the Wolverines sweep Penn State, they will be in second place by Sunday and will have inched closer to the Golden Gophers in preparation for a Feb. 14-15 showdown in Minneapolis.
"Looking at the standings, we have to keep pace," sophomore alternate captain Andrew Copp said. "These are two big games for us to win.
"I don't think it matters how good Penn State has been. They've been in every game they've played. It's not a team that will be taken lightly. We're going to have a business mentality. We need to go up there with one intent -- to get six points."
On a bit of a roll, going 3-0-1 in its last four with a 3-2 shootout victory over UW Feb. 1, Michigan could blitzkrieg Penn State this weekend if it is playing its best hockey, and the goal for the Maize and Blue is to build off their current streak with an even better series than it produced against the Badgers.
"Let's continue on the path we're on right now," Bennett said. "We have a little bit of momentum and we want to continue to play our game because we feel we have the talent and the skill and the will that if we're on our game and playing our best, it doesn't matter who we're playing."
The puck drops tonight at 7:00 p.m. and the game can be seen by subscribing to MGoBlue All Access. Saturday's 5:00 p.m. afternoon game will be televised by ESPNU.