Penn State's Jack Forster, Towson's Thomas DeNapoli
Are the Tigers for real? Winner of four straight, Towson is 7-5 and 3-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Coach Shawn Nadelen, in his second year, has done fine work advancing this team after an 0-3 start. The Nittany Lions (8-3) have won six straight. They aren't flashy but have an up-and-coming program that works hard and has learned to play to its strengths.
The factors that will make the difference:
Goaltending: Towson senior Andrew Wascavage has been unreal. He currently ranks No. 4 nationally in save percentage (.615) and has held opponents to an average of 6.5 goals in the four-game streak. But Penn State counters with one of the nation's most gifted stoppers, Austin Kaut, who is No. 3 in save percentage (.629). Coach Jeff Tambroni has done a marvelous job mixing man and zone defensive concepts to keep opponents guessing.
Penn State offense: The Lions' attackmen are running amok. Jack Forster (26, 11), freshman TJ Sanders (28, 3) and Shane Sturgis (18, 13) pack a punch. Can their shooting break Wascavage¿s rhythm? Can the trio handle Towson's close defensemen who throw lumber? Can Penn State penetrate off the dodge? From film study it appears Towson is slow to support its poles and prefers to fake slide or hedge halfway.
Faceoffs: Towson is using freshman long-pole Pat Conroy on faceoffs. Conroy has mucked and scrambled his way, creating 50-50 loose-ball scrums for his wingers. A team weakness (.385 winning percentage on draws) has been minimized lately. Penn State counters with Danny Henneghan, a stout senior from Michigan who has won 57.1 percent of his draws.
Towson offense: Junior Thomas DeNapoli was shifted from midfield to attack. The left-hander now runs the show and has 29 goals, doubling his production from 2012. The Tigers set a ton of on-ball picks, so Penn State's pick-and-roll defense will be crucial. This game smells like a low-scoring contest.