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Penn State Remaining Optimistic and Confident

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By Andy Kuros, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a hard-fought road series at No. 18 Wisconsin that resulted in a loss and a tie, No.17 Penn State is staying optimistic and focused on moving forward.

After leaving the Kohl Center in Madison, Wisconsin without a win, despite two highly competitive contests, head coach Guy Gadowsky is not at all disappointed in the play of the Nittany Lions.

"We aren't playing badly," Gadowsky said. "We've done a lot of good things but haven't been able to pull (victories) out. This would be a great weekend to start doing just that."

One point of emphasis for Penn State as it looks to snap its season-high five game winless streak is to improve play in the third period.

"There are a couple of things we need to tighten up and one is our mental toughness in the third period," Gadowsky said. "It's not that we got away from our game plan. It's a matter of very little things right now. The margin between positive results and negative results is very thin."

Having been outscored by Wisconsin a combined 6-1 in the third period over the course of the weekend, correcting this will be crucial for Penn State to get back on track.

"I personally feel it's just a matter of staying mentally tough in the important moments of the game," Gadowsky said. "What we're talking about is momentum." 

After scoring his eighth goal of the season in Saturday night's shootout loss to the Badgers,  junior forward Chase Berger, talked about some struggles in the closing period of games.

"In the third period, we need to nail down our chances and take care of the puck," Berger said. "You have to stay positive about it."

Moving forward, however, the Nittany Lions will turn their attention to No. 2 Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish will visit Pegula Ice Arena this weekend in a pivotal conference showdown. For Gadowsky, facing the second ranked team in the nation amidst an atypical rough stretch is not cause for panic, but instead a golden opportunity.

"This is an opportunity," Gadowsky said. "The tough part about the Big Ten is you have six of the seven teams in the top 20. You're playing an extremely tough opponent every night. The good news of that is when you get them in your house, it's a tremendous opportunity to rise in the standings." 

Berger, who registered an assist in a 5-3 loss at Notre Dame back in November, echoed the optimistic message of his coach.

"It's a great opportunity for us to not only see a really good team, but hopefully take some points from them to prove that we're a really good team," Berger said.

This task is easier said than done as Notre Dame is coming off a 4-1 victory at Minnesota and a 16-game winning streak earlier in the season, currently atop the Big Ten standings.

"Notre Dame is an unbelievable team," Berger said.

Penn State is now tied for fourth in the conference standings with 24 points, just one point behind No.18 Wisconsin.

As the Nittany Lions look to make up ground, Gadowksy acknowledged the importance of this series. 

"This is a big weekend for us on a national level and you have the number one PairWise team coming in," Gadowsky said. "It's Notre Dame coming to play Penn State. I don't care what sport you're playing, that's going to be a big deal."

The Nittany Lions and Fighting Irish will face off in a weekend series beginning Friday evening at 6:30 p.m.

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