By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For two years, Tommy Olczyk captained the Penn State men's hockey team. He wore the "C" for the first Division I game in Greenberg Ice Pavilion, and he wore it again as the Nittany Lions took the ice for their first game inside their new home, Pegula Ice Arena.
This year, however, there is not an extra letter on the front of Olczyk's jersey. He is no longer a captain, as the "C" was given to senior defenseman Patrick Koudys, but the lack of a letter means little to Olczyk. He knows his place on the team and remains one of the Lions' most effective leaders both on and off the ice.
"He, in my mind, is as much of a leader as he's ever been," said head coach Guy Gadowsky. "Part of the thought process of making the change is to have a great example that you don't need a letter to be a very strong leader. I think it's paid dividends. I really think it's created a more inclusive atmosphere in the locker room."
Olczyk's example has had a major effect on the entire team, as others have realized they too can step up and take leadership roles. For instance, Gadowsky has noticed individuals like David Goodwin, Eric Scheid and Taylor Holstrom all speak to the team when necessary. More importantly, when these forwards talk, everyone listens.
The coach believes this increased comfort level to speak up and have a voice on the team may have emerged due to Olczyk's leadership this season. The forward understood the decision to change captains from the moment it was made, especially because he is more aware of team dynamics and the big picture than most having grown up around hockey at the highest levels.
In a way, Olczyk has also benefitted from the change. He is relaxed in his game and is enjoying Penn State hockey more than ever before.
"On the ice and off the ice, this is the most fun I've had playing hockey in a long time and being part of the team," said Olczyk. "I think it was the right decision. I mean, you see what we're doing this year as a team. I think Dice [Koudys] is definitely the guy for the job. He's an animal on the ice, and he's done a great job with our team, especially with the help of Jense [Nate Jensen] and Glener [David Glen], but as far as personally, I still haven't changed anything about the way I play.
"I may be a little more loose and goofy around the locker room now. I'm definitely not as serious as I was, but I think it's for the better. Everything happens for a reason, and like I said, this is the most fun I've had playing hockey in a while."
The fun Olczyk is having can also be attributed to the accomplishments the Lions have experienced in their short time as a Division I program. No one expected this team to perform at a high level this quickly, but Olczyk and his teammates believe in Penn State hockey and believe in what they can achieve together.
That strength and passion for their team has brought them to where they are today.
"I told him [Gadowsky] when I was here on my visit when I look back when I'm done five, ten, fifteen years down the road, I want to be proud of what I personally left behind and what I helped all these guys leave behind," Olczyk said. "When I'm an alumni one day, this team is going to win a national championship. Not saying we're not going to do it soon while I'm here, not saying that at all. I'm just saying it's going to happen when I'm not at this school, that this university's going to win a NCAA hockey championship, and I am going to be ecstatic that I was once a part and helped to start this."
If the Lions continue to play with determination the way they have all season, the team has a chance of reaching the NCAA tournament. In order to do that, the Blue and White have to buckle down and take each game one at a time, starting with Saturday's matchup against No. 15 Vermont at the Wells Fargo Center.
For the third consecutive year, the two teams will go head to head in the College Hockey Faceoff. In last year's game, the Lions blew a two-goal lead, falling to the Catamounts, 5-2. Olczyk and the Lions are not looking back on that game. This Penn State team is too different.
"I think every game at this point of the year is a showdown," said Olczyk. "We want to win every game. We want to give ourselves the best opportunity possible to make the NCAA tournament, and more so probably at this point of the season, every game is crucial. But at the same time, Vermont obviously is having a good year, but we're not going to change the way we play. I'm sure coach has said it, but we don't change our game depending on our opponent. We play Penn State hockey all the time. Come Saturday afternoon, it's just going to be another one of the games playing Penn State hockey."
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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When a team is down by three goals in a game, it usually finishes on the losing side; however, that is a thought the Penn State men's hockey team refuses to accept. When the Nittany Lions are down, they dig deep and never give up.
This fighting mentality is exactly what led the Lions (12-7-4, 5-2-1-0 B1G) to battle back from three-goal deficits in consecutive games against Northern Michigan (9-9-6, 6-8-4 WCHA). The team emerged victorious on Friday after four straight goals and forced a 5-5 tie on Saturday.
A Casey Bailey tally late in the second period sparked Friday night's comeback. Entering the third, the Lions were only down by two, and they were ready to score.
Just over three minutes into the start of the period, forward Dylan Richard brought the Nittany Lions within one when he scored a short-handed goal. With two more goals by David Glen and Scott Conway in the final seven minutes of the game, the Blue and White were able to roar back and take down the Wildcats, 5-4.
"That's playing with fire," said Richard of playing from behind. "That's really something we cannot keep doing because as the season goes on, we might not be able to keep that up. We really need to get away from that and not take any shifts, periods off and play a whole game."
Even with the team desperate to get away from playing from behind, the Lions found themselves in a hole once again Saturday afternoon. For the second day in a row, the team was down, 4-1, but this time head coach Guy Gadowsky was not upset with the efforts.
A few bad bounces in the first left the Lions trailing by three. They pulled within two, bringing the score to 3-1, but gave up a goal to widen the margin to three once more.
"I thought we were still playing very, very, very well, and I think the guys knew that," said Gadowsky. "They just sort of had faith that if they kept playing the way they played that we had a chance to score goals, and they did. I feel good about this game."
Again, the Lions rallied and used the atmosphere inside Pegula Ice Arena to their advantage.
Leading the way for Penn State was Eric Scheid. The forward, who played a phenomenal game on Friday night, was once again on fire. A pair of goals, one of which was short handed, helped inch his team closer to a win, and his final point of the night, an assist on Richard's tying goal, completed the second comeback in as many days.
"Right now, he's playing at a different speed than everybody else," Gadowsky said of Scheid. "I mean, he just, I don't know how. Honestly, it's like he just plays at a different level right now, and his speed is phenomenal. He's, boy, he's something to watch. When he's skating like he's skating now, he's incredibly dangerous."
A physical third period was not enough to declare a winner, so the two teams battled in overtime. Following the extra five minutes, the Lions and Wildcats remained tied at 5 goals each. The teams participated in an exhibition shootout, in which the Blue and White fell to Northern Michigan, 3-2.
In both games, goaltender PJ Musico was called off the bench to relieve his teammates, and in both games, Musico put on a dazzling performance.
"He kept us in there," said Gadowsky of the goaltender. "He gave us a spurt, like he gave us a bit of a kick in the pants and made a huge save right out of the gate and then a few huge ones later. I mean, I just give that guy a lot of credit. He's a great athlete, I think that's really his biggest attribute but he loves mental challenges and boy, we needed him tonight. He was exceptional."
Musico, who has only played in four games this season, grabbed his first win of the year on Friday. He stopped all 11 shots he faced and carried that momentum into his performance on Saturday.
In his second appearance of the weekend, Musico saved 19 of 21 shots and even registered an interference penalty. The goalie's name was all over the box score, and his efforts truly made all the difference.
"A lot of people say it's tough, but I try not to really focus too much on that," said Musico of being called off the bench. "I just kind of go out and play and have fun. Having fun is something that I've always really stressed with myself."
Known for his humor and personality, Musico brings much more to this Penn State squad than solid goaltending. His positive attitude is something the team and Gadowsky do not take for granted. He is someone that makes everyone on the team better.
"You have a real soft place for him, and he has taken a very interesting road," Gadowsky said. "He loves Penn State. He just loves this university so much, and he wants to give so much. The culture of the team and the environment of the team is just so important, and he's a guy that is in a tough position and he makes it fun. He's got a great attitude, and he comes in and is able to perform under the hardest of circumstances."
Start Toward Overcoming Shootout Struggles
For the fourth time this season, the Lions participated in a shootout. Although the team once again fell to its opponent, it is clear that Penn State is making strides in this area of the game.
Both Scheid and defenseman Peter Sweetland scored to keep the Lions alive. The shootout went to four rounds, which is the best performance the team has had this season.
"I haven't been doing too well picking guys, as you've probably noticed," Gadowsky said. "So, Skoffer [Matthew Skoff] and Eamon [McAdam] picked the shooters, and they did a whole lot better than I did. They're the ones that get shot on every day."
Looking Ahead - Philly Bound
Next up for the Lions is a game at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers. This will be the third consecutive year the Lions will take on Vermont in the College Hockey Faceoff.
The game is set to begin Saturday at 1 p.m.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sitting in the stands at Pegula Ice Arena, fans watch as sophomore David Goodwin appears on the jumbotron. As his voice echoes through the stands, he introduces himself as the "other" guy that plays on a line with Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom, two current Hobey Baker nominees. While many chuckle at the forward's joke, his teammates and coaches know those words could not be farther from the truth.
Goodwin is much more than the "other" guy to this Penn State hockey team. He is a key component of the Lion's offense, a key component of the trio that is Bailey, Holstrom and Goodwin and a key component of his line's success this season.
In the past four games alone, the top line combined for 20 points. Of those points, eight belong to Goodwin, who scored four goals and notched four assists. With so much offense coming from the three, it's easy for the sophomore, Bailey and Holstrom to stir up some friendly competition with one another.
"It's kind of like an unsaid competition almost," said Goodwin. "When you're playing with other guys who like to score, we have a phrase. Iron sharpens iron. When you're playing with each other, you're making each other better, so obviously there's going to be some competition. You ask me, Holy or Bailey, we're all going to say the same thing that we don't really care who scores as long as our line is producing and not getting scored on."
Goodwin is currently third on the team in points, behind only Bailey and Holstrom. However, his 10 goals and 12 assists come with a plus-10 rating on the ice, which is best among the Nittany Lions. In fact, the sophomore has not been a minus player in a game since the team's Dec. 6 matchup in Wisconsin.
Last weekend specifically, the sophomore's play earned him recognition in the Big Ten. Goodwin was named the conference's second star of the week following the Michigan State series, but the forward was quick to call the award a line honor. He knows all too well the importance of thinking and playing with a team mentality.
"I wouldn't be able to do any of that if it wasn't for Casey or Taylor," said the sophomore of his success. "It's a good accolade, but the credit goes to my linemates. They're the reason I'm getting these easy goals, back door tap ins and assists. I'm honored that I received it, but at the end of the day it's about the three of us, not just myself."
While Goodwin may look at the recognition as a line award, head coach Guy Gadowsky is pleased to see the forward finally getting credit for his efforts. Sometimes overshadowed by his linemates, Goodwin's impressive on-ice vision can be overlooked by the causal fan. He's a playmaker, something Gadowsky knows fully.
"David Goodwin got the puck and Casey Bailey was in such an easy position," Gadowsky explained of a goal-scoring play during the Michigan State series. "I think everybody in the rink knew that was a simple pass, and he has such a good vision in his mind that he went all the way across crease to Taylor [Holstrom]. That's a really high-level, quick-thinking play. It was really great to see. Taylor ended up, I mean the goaltender made a great save, but it went to Bailey for a goal. But he does things like that that really make a huge difference. Sometimes he doesn't get enough credit, so it's nice to see."
No matter the team, the top line is confident it can still contribute. Goodwin, Bailey and Holstrom truly believe they can take on any defense and any forward line. They're working hard, playing an honest game and doing what they love, scoring goals.
Playing with linemates like Bailey and Holstrom has also provided Goodwin with numerous opportunities to learn and grow as a college hockey player. Together, the three are confident in their abilities, and the sophomore is using this experience to soak up as much as he can from his teammates.
"They've been very instrumental in my success I've had this year and my development," Goodwin said. "Just every day in practice getting the opportunity to skate next to them and learn from them, just kind of talk to them in between periods and pick their brains about some of their past experiences. They've both been playing college hockey a little bit longer than I have, so it's been great. I've been very fortunate to have linemates like them, and I'm very proud to be on their line."
While some may consider Goodwin to be the "other" guy on the top line, his play speaks for itself. He is doing and will continue to do big things for Penn State hockey.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Scoring five of Penn State's seven goals this weekend, Casey Bailey, Taylor Holstrom and David Goodwin have proven themselves as a force to reckon with for the Nittany Lions. The three have been dominant all year, and they are determined to keep the ball rolling.
Their weekend success led the team to a 2-2 tie and a 5-2 victory against Michigan State, securing the Lions a first place spot in the Big Ten standings.
On Friday, Goodwin produced a third period, tying goal with the help of Bailey and Holstrom to force overtime and later a shootout. Although the Lions (11-7-3, 5-2-1-0 B1G) ultimately fell to the Spartans (7-11-2, 1-3-2-2 B1G) in the shootout, the team rallied back in the second matchup, erasing any doubts about its hunger to win.
The three forwards notched four goals on Saturday with two from Bailey, one from Goodwin and one from Holstrom.
"I thought they could have had a few more," head coach Guy Gadowsky said of the line following Saturday's win. "What'd they have, four I think? Boy, I thought they could have had a few more. They just seem to be clicking. I thought they all worked very hard tonight."
The three have consistently been playing their best hockey. They know what to expect from each other, but most of all they love putting the puck on net. The results are merely a product of their constant efforts.
Bailey is currently tied for second in the nation with 16 goals scored, which has given him much recognition. Nevertheless, he believes his success is a product of the chemistry he has with his linemates. His achievements are directly related to the work he, Holstrom and Goodwin put in on a daily basis.
"It's definitely not me doing all the work," Bailey said. "I think if you look at a lot of my goals, kind of like the empty netter right there, without these two guys battling, without the whole team, the defense are involved as well. So it's definitely a team credit."
Also a major factor in Saturday's victory was goaltender Matthew Skoff, who came up with 28 saves. His play sparked the team's confidence, and his performance marked a big bounce back after his previous two starts.
The junior's comfort in the net only grew as he watched the team's top line steal the show.
"These guys have clicked since the beginning of last year," said Skoff. "It's fun to watch, and I know when they're on the ice it's something where I can enjoy watching what they do in the other end. Obviously, they've been scoring so it helps whoever is in the net out."
Bailey, Holstrom and Goodwin are looking to continue their success, especially in Big Ten play. They are ready to face whatever challenges opposing teams throw their way.
"Certainly they're on a roll right now," Gadowsky said of the forwards. "All three of them seem to have synergy with each other. All three of them are working very, very hard away from the puck, and I think that's sort of started by Taylor Holstrom right from day one of training camp. He set a real high standard, real high bar in terms of work ethic, and I think those two have matched his work ethic. I think you're seeing really good things happen."
With their success, including the line's impressive showing against Michigan State, comes some jokes and friendly competition, which only makes playing together more fun for the three.
"Goodwin was telling me I stole it from him," said Bailey when discussing his second goal on Saturday. "But I just think I'm a little hungrier than him."
"I'm just doing what I can," Goodwin joked back, "to not let Casey Bailey outscore me at this homestand."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With 14 goals and eight assists in 19 games this season, Casey Bailey has emerged as one of Penn State hockey's offensive leaders; however his value as a member of the Nittany Lions goes far beyond his ability to score.
Bailey puts his heart and soul into every second he is on the ice, every shift he gets to play. His game has never looked stronger or more consistent, a result of his commitment to the program.
"The better hockey he plays, especially away from the puck, it seems the more goals he scores, and his conditioning right now is at the highest level it's been," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "And that's by far. That's easy. I think that helps. The better condition he's in, it allows him to play better hockey away from the puck. Anytime you're playing good hockey, it seems you get more chances. That's what's happening to him."
With his increased success, Bailey is quick to acknowledge his linemates, Taylor Holstrom and David Goodwin. The three have played together all season, and they are by far Penn State's most productive line, accounting for 60 of the Lions' points.
"I think a lot of credit goes to my linemates Holstrom and Goodwin there," Bailey said. "I think, you know, unless they're not passing to me, they're opening up space for me. So a lot of credit goes to them and the rest of the team. I think when we're playing our best hockey and I'm kind of doing the small things to help us play our team game, that's when I'm doing my best and scoring the goals."
Bailey's goal scoring is what he is most recognized for, but the junior is not only successful when the puck is on his stick. He constantly battles in the defensive zone. He forechecks at every opportunity and drives the net.
The forward truly has a hockey sense and knows exactly what he need to do in order to be a smart player.
"I'm constantly trying to read where the puck is about to be," said Bailey. "I'm trying to get lost, especially in the offensive zone, obviously. I have confidence in my linemates to find me. They're constantly looking for me in the zone, and I'm trying to do the same when I have the puck. I think they're distracting the other guys with their speed and skill, and it's leaving space for me."
At the conclusion of last season, Bailey started to show glimpses of his abilities. It has been no surprise to Gadowsky and the rest of the coaching staff that he has dominated this year.
This weekend, Bailey and the Lions will welcome Michigan State to Happy Valley. The Blue and White were winless against the Spartans last season, with four hard-fought games, but the team is expecting better results now. Penn State is an improved team.
"I think that we've showed at times that we are very much improved, and it's a matter of playing our game," said Gadowsky. "We know the preparation that we need and the mindset that we need to play our game, to have our best performance, our best chance at a positive result. It's a matter of doing it.
"I know their scores. I know their record, things like that, but I don't know how much maybe they're improved as well. I think it just comes down to I know what happened here last year. I know the games that we played in. They were all very, very close. The coaching staff, we're sort of hungry on this one to see where we're at and see if we did improve."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a shaky start to his Penn State career, sophomore goalie Eamon McAdam has worked hard to prove himself this season. With his first four wins as a Nittany Lion and his first victory at Pegula Ice Arena now under his belt, McAdam is ready to keep rolling with his team, contributing in any ways he can.
Following the goalie's winless freshman season, he evaluated his game and his habits. McAdam knew he needed to make a change in order to compete with the best. It was time to step up.
"At the end of last year, I kind of looked back and really noticed that I was working hard at times, but it wasn't an all the time thing," said McAdam. "One of the biggest parts of being a pro is really coming out and working every time you're on the ice. I think that's pretty much been my biggest change, just battling at every turn, every play."
McAdam's fight and determination to compete to the best of his abilities have not gone unnoticed. Earlier in the season he was in net when the Nittany Lions defeated then-No. 4 UMass-Lowell on the road, and this past weekend he helped lead his team to a commanding win over Ohio State.
The sophomore's efforts against the Buckeye's resulted in his first Big Ten weekly honor as he was named the conference's third star. Although recognition is wonderful and appreciated, McAdam believes there are more important things to focus on right now, like helping his team succeed.
"You have to take it in stride and not let it go to your head," said the sophomore of the honor. "It's cool to experience, and maybe later down the line it's something neat to have on your resume. For now though, it's just another day."
Through seven appearances and six starts this year, McAdam has posted a .918 save percentage and is allowing an average of 2.77 goals. These numbers are very telling of how far he has progressed in a year, as last season he finished with a save percentage of .882 and a goals allowed average of 4.09.
His improvements have allowed for increased depth at the goalie position for the Blue and White, as McAdam splits times with goalies Matthew Skoff and PJ Musico. With such competition to start, goaltending can be mentally challenging, but McAdam doesn't find it difficult to stay positive with teammates like Skoff and Musico by his side.
"You need to be able to take things in stride more as a goalie than any other position," McAdam said. "It's more of a mental battle than any other position. You need to be able to stay even-keeled and not ride a roller coaster of emotions, otherwise your play is going to reflect it.
"It also helps that Skoff, PJ and I are all so close. Honestly, if one of those guys is starting, it's not like it's a challenge for me to cheer them on. I really enjoy having them as teammates, and when they're succeeding and the team is winning, that's really all I can ask for. It's great when I'm in there, but also it's great to be a part of when they're in."
Looking ahead to this weekend, McAdam is hoping to get back in net against Michigan State. He, as well as all of his teammates, love the atmosphere at Pegula Ice Arena, but they love it even more when the Roar Zone is filled to capacity with Penn State students screaming loudly.
After playing a home series without them, McAdam and the Lions are looking forward to the having the students back where they belong.
"It's nice that we filled the building still and sold those seats last weekend, but it's a completely different atmosphere when you've got the students back there," McAdam explained. "They're loud and they're into it. They're rowdy. They have signs, and they're banging on the glass, kind of getting into the other team's head. It's just a whole other animal. It's really cool, and I'm really excited to have them back."