By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Good things take time.
In Saturday's night's setback to the Wisconsin Badgers, the Penn State Nittany Lions showed that they're improving game by game, period by period. The offensive lines are starting to come together, the defensive pairings are playing better and the goaltending continues looks stronger, as well.
Penn State battled hard against Wisconsin in Saturday's 4-3 loss and showed a lot of bounced back after a 7-1 defeat on Friday night. They scored four goals on 30 shots Saturday night, after scoring just one goal on 28 shots on Friday. They limited the Badgers to just 31 shots on Saturday night, after allowing 43 the night before.
The improvement in all phases of their game is obvious. After going 0-for-4 on the power play Friday, the team went 1-for-2 the next night. These are the things coach Gadowsky is looking for out of his team. The consistency he has been searching for is starting to shine through.
"I thought we did a lot of good things," Gadowsky said after Saturday night's game. "I thought we had a good game. I thought we played fairly consistently, but at the end the wrong guy had the puck on his stick. I felt we played more consistently than we did on Friday night."
During Saturday night's setback, the Nittany Lions looked like a completely different team than the one that played Friday night. They were quick to the puck, made solid passes and their play was leading to goals. As a team, they just looked more composed on the ice than the night before.
Matt Skoff took a tremendous step after struggling in the opener. The sophomore made 27 saves and stopped potential Badgescoring chances several times. Not once did Skoff look like a goaltender who had given up 5 goals the night before.
On the offensive end, it was a group of young players leading the charge for the Nittany Lions.
Zach Saar and Ricky DeRosa, both freshman forwards, tallied pivotal goals for Penn State. DeRosa's third of the season came at a crucial moment in the second period when his team was in need of a spark.
The Badgers had a one goal lead when DeRosa found the back of the net. Saar's initial shot was turned away but the Aston, Pa., native charged the net and hit the puck out of mid-air into to score. The goal evened the game and revamped the Nittany Lions.
Saar's goal came in the third period, after the Badgers had taken a 3-2 lead. Joe Faust beat Matt Skoff seven minutes into the period, but Saar answer 42 seconds later with a rebound goal of his own.
"We'll take our goals anytime we can," Gadowsky said. "I thought it was a huge goal by Zach Saar to get us back to 3-3. I feel like we played a consistent hockey game and I'm very happy with the improvement from last night."
DeRosa, Saar and Captain Tommy Olczyk's line generated 9 shots and the three ended Saturday night with a combined five points. Olcyzk and DeRosa have been working together for most of the season and the addition of Saar will be beneficial heading forward.
Also on the score sheet for the Nittany Lions was Eric Scheid, who scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season. Scheid has become a major offensive threat for the Nittany Lions in 2013. The redshirt sophomore forward is also tied for second on the team in assists.
On Saturday night, Scheid, David Goodwin and Taylor Holstrom combined for seven shots on net. The continuity between the lines is starting to form and more goals are coming.
"At times, we showed what we can do [Saturday] night. We played much more consistent in our game and did what we wanted to do," Gadowsky said. "You're never comfortable against Wisconsin, but we felt like we were in the game the whole way."
The team is still searching for consistency, but the improvement night after night is encouraging.
The Nittany Lions return to Pegula Ice Arena for a couple of weeks of practice before heading to Pittsburgh to compete in the Three Rivers Classic held at the CONSOL Energy Center, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Penn State will be squaring off against Robert Morris on Dec. 27.