By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions will embark on yet another busy week in their 2017 season, set to take on Ohio State, NJIT and Princeton all within the next five days. Penn State has dealt with adversity in terms of injury and illness all season long, but the team still sits in a solid position heading into the second half of EIVA play.
"We like where we're at," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "We sit a game ahead of both NJIT and Princeton, so these next couple games are going to be very big."
Penn State fell to both Lewis and Loyola Chicago this past weekend, but there were still lots of positives during the weekend, most notably the fact that the Nittany Lions never looked like a team that had given up on the games.
"We loved the response from our guys in both games," Pavlik said. "Obviously it's not the results that we wanted, but we fought in both games and were right there."
"We know that Ohio State is a good team and we are excited for the challenge," Pavlik said. "It is always a good opportunity to see where we stack up against one of the top programs in the nation."
Penn State and Ohio State are set for a Tuesday, March 28 matchup with first serve set for 7 p.m. at Rec Hall.
By Jack Dougherty, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With Big Ten play looming, Penn State is coming off a somewhat disappointing four-game weekend series split with Columbia, but that hasn't changed the confidence in the Nittany Lions locker room.
"We stay positive," pitcher Taylor Lehman said. "We would've liked to take all four games this weekend, but you just got to learn from what we could've done better and take it to next week."
Lehman had an encouraging weekend himself coming out of the bullpen, appearing in two games and not allowing a run in three innings. He notched five strikeouts as well.
Head coach Rob Cooper said overall he was happy with the team's pitching performance over the weekend but mentioned the offense needs to put more competitive at-bats together heading into Penn State's first Big Ten series at Michigan starting this Friday.
"I know that this team can do it, but I think what we have right now are a lot of guys that are pressing from a mental standpoint and a confidence standpoint," Cooper said.
One player Cooper sees getting hot soon is senior Nick Riotto. Riotto was fourth on the team last season with a .307 batting average, but so far this year he's hitting just .157.
"This is a guy that I think has a chance to play professional baseball," Cooper said. "He just cares so much and wants to win so much that he's trying like crazy to almost make up for lost time, but he's starting to relax."
Riotto has been at the forefront of helping newcomers like freshman Braxton Giavedoni adjust to the college level. He's been pegged as the offensive leader of the team, and Cooper believes he'll find his groove soon and the offense will follow behind him.
As for Giavedoni, he's impressed coaches with his work ethic and steady improvement since day one. He's started 18 of Penn State's 22 games and has produced a .275 batting average in 2017, good for fourth highest on the team.
"I just kept my confidence up and kept working and found my way," Giavedoni said. "In TCU I got one hit, got my confidence up, and from there I've just been rolling. Once I got that first hit off a really good arm at TCU, then I just thought I could do it off anyone."
Giavedoni feeds off confidence. If he continues to believe he can thrive at this level, he'll be a force in the middle of the Nittany Lions lineup during the Big Ten stretch.
"Braxton's been a pleasant surprise, Cooper said. "It's not that we didn't think he could play at this level, but you're excited that a true freshman can come in and want to be in the moment and want to play and make the most of those opportunities."
Amidst the start to the season, Cooper said he sees no reason to panic.
The Nittany Lions haven't even started the Big Ten season yet, which is by far the most crucial stretch of the year. Penn State has almost a week to improve and flush the last two weeks out, putting them in the past. Two home midweek contests against Binghamton Tuesday night and Bucknell Wednesday night give the Lions an opportunity to right the ship before conference play begins.
"Every goal that our team wants to accomplish we can still accomplish," Cooper said. "We can make the NCAA Tournament. We can make the Big Ten Tournament. We can win the Big Ten Championship. All those things are possible for us to do."
PARK, Pa. - With week one of Penn State spring practices complete, the Nittany
Lions are well underway in spring game preparations. Throughout the next four
weeks, go position by position with the Penn State staff highlighting top performers
who are exceeding expectations.
In the first release, catch up with Penn State special teams coordinator and running backs coach Charles Huff for a closer look at the Nittany Lion running backs.
"The entire group is really doing a good job, coming out every day, playing fast working hard, pushing each other," Huff said. "Obviously there are some guys who have played so it makes it a little bit easier for them to do it again."
For Huff, he keyed in first, on Mark Allen, a veteran member of a deep running back unit that dazzled Nittany Lion fans with explosive quickness and bigtime plays all year long. With everyone returning, the level of competition in practice has only elevated with each passing practice.
"Whenever you can compete in practice, it makes the games a lot easier and right now we have that," Huff said. "We have a lot more depth, guys who have more experience, they've played a year, some guys played a lot, some guys played a little bit and some guys who have played a lot are talking to the younger guys and it makes practice a lot more competitive and it makes them feel like, I've got to come out here every day and be on my 'a' game to keep up and meet the expectation."
A centerpiece of the dynamic unit, Huff noted that All-American, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Saquon Barkley has also continued to develop as a leader on the squad, looking toward his junior season come fall.
Reach Arielle @firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent
By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com
CINCINNATI, Ohio - When head coach Guy Gadowsky assumed responsibilities as Penn State hockey's head coach, he didn't arrive with a timeline for program milestones and accomplishments in mind. Rather, Gadowsky and his staff have a checklist, having decided to focus first, on forging a foundation built on the principles of work ethic and commitment.
On Sunday night, third-seeded Penn State's 2016-17 season officially came to a close in the NCAA regional finals, as top-seeded Denver emerged with 6-3 decision.
Regardless of the bitter end, there's no denying that the 2016-17 season saw plenty of list-checking worthy moments that filled loyal fans with a palpable sense of pride, leaving enough excitement to pique even the interest of the most skeptical critics.
First there was the program's rise to a No. 1 national ranking, which came January 16th following a pair of wins against Michigan State. Next, a thrilling marathon run through the Big Ten Tournament, culminating in the program's first conference title, a feat that Gadowsky noted postgame, he and the staff didn't think possible so soon.
Just days later, the Nittany Lions earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in program history, making a striking debut with a record-setting 10-3 win against Union before arriving in the regional finals, facing Penn State's toughest test all year long.
"This season can be a very important one," Gadowsky said. "I don't think anyone will forget this season, it was magical."
The Pioneers opened the scoring with a goal 3:17 into the first period before widening the advantage to two, sending a laser through traffic and past Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones at the 7:19 mark.
Nikita Pavlychev's shorthanded goal shaved the deficit to one as the freshmen dished to Ricky DeRosa, who sent it right back just in time for a finish. At 2:02 in the second period, it was fellow freshman Denis Smirnov who scored to tie the game, 2-2, striking up the pulse of the Nittany Lion fans in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena.
Penn State couldn't find its rhythm to settle into though as Denver scored again to recapture the two-goal lead before adding a power-play goal with 1:18 left in second period, stretching the gap to three, 5-2.
"I don't think we were necessarily us, but you have to give them a lot of credit for making us not us," Gadowsky said.
Although facing a daunting deficit, as DeRosa noted postgame, there was no panic on the bench headed toward the final period of play.
"We have a saying, don't panic just manage," DeRosa said. "We posted five goals in the third period yesterday so that was the mindset in the locker room, just chip away at it."
Penn State did make every attempt to do just that, as James Gobetz fired a shot from up near the blue line to for his first goal of the year to bring the Nittany Lions back within two, 5-3, at 12:40 in the third period.
The Nittany Lions wouldn't pull any closer though as Denver continued to stifle the offense, turning away a variety of seemingly promising opportunities with Pioneer goalie Tanner Jaillet finishing with 24 saves. Denver added an empty net goal late in the frame to make it 6-3 before the final blare of the horn.
As the scoreboard illuminated with zeros, Penn State retired to the locker room with the sting of the season-ending loss setting in.
"I believe it was Nikita Pavlychev who said thank you on behalf of the freshmen, and James Robinson thanked everyone else," Gobetz said. "Everyone was pretty emotional, kind of consoling each other. I mean, we are brothers. It is obviously a tough loss, but we will bounce back and we are thankful for the seniors for sure."
In early March, Penn State honored a group of five seniors on senior night at Pegula Ice Arena. A group of Nittany Lions who committed to a program in its early beginnings, unknowing of the future or what to expect, they proudly helped shaped an already special legacy from the moment they said yes to Hockey Valley. Seeing everything from the first game in Pegula Ice Arena to their last game, which came in Penn State's first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, it's a journey that features unprecedented achievement.
"The seniors have really taught me a lot," Gobetz said. "I think we have a lot of freshmen here, and we are all very thankful for what they have done. Without them, we would not be here, that is for sure. They built this program and we thanked them in the locker room after the game and obviously, we could not be more thankful for them."
Strengthened by the 2016-17 seniors and for all those who have come before and for those who are still yet to come, the future for Penn State hockey is undoubtedly bright.
Among the blazing outlook, Penn State returns 11 from its standout group of freshmen, including Smirnov, who netted the second period equalizer, setting a single-season Penn State freshman record with his 19th goal of the season, breaking Andrew Sturtz's record (18) from last year."We'll remember this team forever, but at the same time, I hope the guys that are returning use it as motivation," Gadowsky said. "We didn't match up great today. I don't think we were us and I hope we get another shot at a Denver. I'm proud of what happened this year, but we use it as motivation. We learned a lot this year, as a program, as coaches, and as individuals as well. It's tough right now, but we'll definitely use is as motivation."
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