White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's ice hockey team will hit the road again this weekend with match ups against Army and Sacred Heart. It is the start of three games in five days for the Nittany Lions, who also face Fredonia State on Tuesday at Fredonia State.
The team is coming off of a weekend set in New York, going 1-1 with a tough loss to Buffalo State, and a gratifying win against RIT. Despite playing three games in a five day span, head coach Guy Gadowsky said his team will prepare the same as any other weekend. The only difference will be a lighter practice on Monday before Fredonia State.
We approach this week exactly the same and then Monday is going to be different
than normal," Gadowsky said. "It's going to be a lot easier. Normally Monday is
a tough day in the weight room. We'll have to curl that down a little bit."
Most of the players on the team are used to traveling from previously playing junior hockey either in the United States or Canada. Sophomore goaltender PJ Musico said that life on the road is becoming routine for the young Nittany Lions.
"In juniors we had some pretty long road trips," Musico said, "like 15 hours...so I mean the road doesn't really bother anyone anymore. It's certain protocol we go through every weekend so it's pretty routine."
Freshman forward Casey Bailey said that playing on the road is a good team-bonding experience, and helps build chemistry.
"(During) the road experience, you get to room with different guys," Bailey said. "There are 12 guys in the dorm, so it's really easy to bond with those guys. Then we get on the road and you get to room with some of the older guys, so that's nice too."
Early road trips can be very beneficial to a team with a lot of newcomers, including 10 freshmen, and playing on the road is another aspect of Division I hockey that the team has to adjust to.
"There are so many guys that haven't played at the Division I level, so everything is new including road trips," Gadowsky said. "Anytime you get a freshman class to come, it's good to get on the road and have them acclimate and know what's going on. I expect us to have a quick learning curve. It's fun on the road."
Musico said that they have no choice but to get closer as a team while on the road. The
has fun traveling together. He also picked the comedian of the team.
"We're kinda stuck on a bus together," Musico joked. "We get to have some laughs and stuff like that, so it definitely helps with cohesion...the funniest guy on the team is probably Tommy (Olczyk). He gives a pretty good ribbing sometimes."
According to Bailey the team chemistry has developed more quickly than anticipated.
"We're a really close team already," Bailey said. "There's not a single guy that doesn't get along. Its one of the closest teams I've ever been on. I really like every guy. I think every guy would feel the same way."
While life on the road has been fun for the Nittany Lions, Bailey said that he is excited to play at home again after the road trip.
"We can't wait" Bailey said. "You gotta love that home atmosphere, those screaming fans, and the chants. It's unbelievable."
Looking ahead to the weekend, Penn State will focus on improvement on their special teams. The Nittany Lions are 2-20 on the power play so far this season and the penalty killing unit is only working at 74 percent. Gadowsky said that he isn't pleased with special teams, but he is being patient with his team, especially on the power play.
"It's too early to panic and to change things," Gadowsky said. "We believe in the people we have and it comes down to executing a little bit better. We talk about doing things a little simpler and a little more basic. We would like to see that be more of the norm."
The Nittany Lions gave up three power play goals on 11 opportunities to Buffalo State last Friday and the amount of penalties the team is taking is a concern. Gadowsky didn't think the team was as focused as they could have been on Friday and knows they have to be prepared to play Friday against an Army, a team that lost a tough game against No. 20 ranked Maine early in the season.
"Our game plan is to be ready to play," Gadowsky said. "For us to be successful against anybody we have to have good goaltending, follow the process, and make sure we improve and get better in the areas we can control."
Gadowsky also addressed his goaltender conundrum, saying that he would continue to rotate goaltenders. He named Musico the starter against Army on Friday, and said he deserves the nod.
"This week PJ will start and we'll play it by ear," Gadowsky said. "I think he deserves to play. We make those decisions based on results. We'll ride PJ [Musico] for Friday and see what happens."
Penn State (2-2-0) will take on Army (1-2-1) on Friday at Tate Rink in West Point, NY at 7:05. The game will mark the first Division I matchup against Army since 1947 when the Nittany Lions fell to the Black Knights 13-12.
The Nittany Lions will then travel to Milford, Conn. for a 7:05 matchup against Sacred Heart (0-3-1). The team will make a brief stop back in Happy Valley before venturing to Fredonia, NY to play Fredonia State (1-1-0) on Tuesday at 7:00.