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Nittany Lions Shaking Up Lines

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With only four weeks  between Penn State men's hockey and the Big Ten Tournament, every game is important.

Coming off a hard-fought series on the road at Michigan, the No. 14 Nittany Lions are looking to turn their luck around this weekend, heading back out on the road to No. 18 Wisconsin.

"I think we're in a good spot," junior Chase Berger said. "We're playing some good games coming up and it starts with Wisconsin. We're right in the hunt for the NCAA playoffs and right there for the Big Ten [tournament], so I think for us we're excited about what we have coming here."

Moving forward, a point of emphasis for the Nittany Lions will be the simple task of getting pucks into the back of the net. Although scoring has hardly been a problem for the program this year, Penn State has seen its fair share of goal scoring troubles in its last few outings.

Looking to fix the slump, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and his staff have had no problem taking some risks and shaking up existing lines.

"You expect when you have guys like Nate Sucese, Denis Smirnov, Chase Berger and Andrew Sturtz that aren't getting on the score sheet, you want to switch things up and try to somehow jar things a little bit," Gadowsky said.

That is exactly what took place in Saturday night's series finale against the Wolverines. Every line was tweaked in some way with the exception of the second line, made up of freshmen Alex Limoges and Evan Barratt as well as sophomore Liam Folkes.

Perhaps the most surprising movement came in sophomore Brandon Biro's switch from the third line to the first. Having played alongside his best friend and roommate, Sucese, the duo showed obvious signs of chemistry throughout the season joined by Smirnov.

"It was different, I've pretty much played with Nate [Sucese] and [Sam] Sternschein or [Denis] Smirnov the entire year," Biro said. "I think [Andrew] Sturtz is a little bit of a different player, same with [Chase] Berger, so it was a little bit of an adjustment but it's your job to figure out how to make that work." 

More adjustments were made on the first line too, moving senior captain James Robinson to the fourth line to skate with sophomore Nikita Pavlychev and junior Alec Marsh. Even though Berger might have missed his fellow captain and linemate, he noted it's good for the overall success of the team. 

"I think it was good," Berger said. "Trying out different guys and getting some new chemistry, sometimes it gets a little stale. It's good to shake it up a little bit, whether we stick with that or not, we're just trying to see what fits right now."

Although it is still unclear to the coaching staff what the lines will look like next weekend against the Badgers, it is safe to say the changes aren't over.

"I like the volume of opportunities but in the end, we didn't score," Gadowsky said. "So we are still undecided as to what we are going to do next week." 

Gadowsky did make it clear, this season is far from over and the Nittany Lions are ready to make waves not only the Big Ten but throughout college hockey, just like they did last year.

"[We] believe in those guys, they're the ones who got it done with their backs against the wall and we believe they are going to do it again," Gadowsky said.

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