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Lions Shine in Record-Setting NCAA Debut

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

CINCINNATI, Ohio - Third-seeded Penn State skated confidently into the NCAA regional finals, putting on a dominant performance in a 10-3 win against second-seeded Union Saturday.

From program records to shorthanded goals, the Nittany Lions highlighted their first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history with a five-goal third period to stun the Dutchmen in a run away victory. 

Both Penn State and Union set the pace from the start with a flurry of scoring in the first period. Freshman Brandon Biro etched his name into Penn State hockey history scoring the first NCAA Tournament goal in program history off an assist from sophomore Chase Berger. Union quickly answered just a little over a minute later to even the score. 

"We were kind of on our heels to start off the game," Biro said. "Berger made a great play on the wall and it just kind of happened to go off my stick and in. I think it was pretty good for us to just get our feet going there and to get a little bit of momentum." 

Penn State looked to jump ahead again with a Berger goal off the feed from sophomore Andrew Sturtz. Even quicker than before though, the Dutchmen quieted the largely Nittany Lion contingent in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena with yet another equalizer a mere 24 seconds later.

Freshman Kris Myllari opened the second period with a rocket from near the blue line to give Penn State its third lead of the game. Union was on the rebound once again though, capitalizing of the first penalty of the night, as the Dutchmen's Spencer Foo zigzagged his second goal of the night past freshman Peyton Jones on the power play to tie the score, 3-3. Jones finished solid in the net for the Nittany Lions without surrendering another goal for the rest of the night, tallying 22 saves.

The Nittany Lions responded with Berger's second goal of the night, which was confirmed after a brief review, before senior Dylan Richard added a goal off of a Myllari rebound to give Penn State its largest lead of the night, 5-3, headed into the final period of play.

"The two-goal lead was really important because every time we had one, they came back," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Every time we scored and they came back we said, this time we have to get the next one and we didn't until then." 

Penn State came out firing in the third period, as freshman Nate Sucese fired a shot off a David Goodwin rebound to send the Nittany Lions ahead 6-3 just 1:10 into the third period.

"Going into the third we knew we just wanted to play Penn State hockey like we have all year," Sucese said. "Being up two goals there and being lucky enough to go up three goals was huge. I think we really got rolling there after that sixth one. It was a blast."

In retrospect, rolling, is perhaps an understatement as Penn State poured on another four goals in the third period to cruise into the NCAA regional finals. 

By the 14:58 mark in the third period, sophomore Vince Pedrie's shorthanded goal was simply icing on the cake before Sucese's second goal of the game set both a program and NCAA Tournament record for the most goals scored in a single game. The 10-goal tally breaks an NCAA record for a first time tournament team originally set in 1990.

In a balanced offensive showing, a total of eight different Nittany Lions combined for the record-setting 10 goals on 33 shots. 

"Every line was going, it wasn't just one big line or one big guy," Berger said. "I think the strength of our team is how deep we are and I'd love to see that keep going, everybody producing." 

For Gadowsky, Penn State's offensive surge wasn't anything he hasn't expect from his Nittany Lions all year long.

"I think they were just finishing," Gadowsky said. "A couple of those shots hit the post and went in rather than hitting the post and going out. They just finished. We've had guys who have been goal scorers all season and they certainly showed that tonight." 

For both the Nittany Lions and Gadowsky though, the success of the offense wasn't without a tremendous defensive effort, powered by swift adjustments to shut down a particularly potent Union offense.

 "I think the more we play in the offensive zone, we don't have to play defense, so our d-men are winning battles in the corner, transitioning up to forwards and we were able to keep it down low in there tonight and the more we play in their end," Berger said. "Like I said, that's all the defense because they're getting the pucks out of our end."

As joyful as a statement win against a seasoned NCAA Tournament team is though, among a brief moment to savor the victory, it's well known that there's still work to be done. Penn State is now tasked with shifting the momentum toward top-seeded Denver, in a regional finals matchup set for Sunday, March 26 at 6 p.m. on ESPNU.

"It's very special," Goodwin said. "It's something I've dreamt about, to be honest. I don't know, it will feel a lot better with a win against Denver tomorrow."
Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Union (NCAA Tournament)

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CINCINNATI, Ohio - Third-seeded Penn State (24-11-2) and second-seeded Union (25-9-3) are set to meet in the first round of NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional action Saturday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. in U.S. Bank Arena. Follow along for live in-game updates and exclusive content.
Live Blog Men's Hockey Gameday Live - vs. Union (NCAA Tournament)
 

NCAA Tournament Preview: Assistant Coach Keith Fisher

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CINCINNATI, Ohio - Third-seeded Penn State (24-11-2) and second-seeded Union (25-9-3) are set to meet in the first round of NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional action Saturday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. in U.S. Bank Arena. The matchup between the Big Ten Champion Nittany Lions and the Dutchmen will stream live on ESPN3.

As Penn State preps for its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, catch up with Nittany Lion assistant coach Keith Fisher for a closer look at Union before puck drop.

NCAA Presser Recap

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

CINCINNATI, Ohio - Just a day before Penn State hockey's NCAA Tournament debut, the Nittany Lions took to the ice for the first time at U.S. Bank Arena. Following practice, head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions David Goodwin, Andrew Sturtz and Peyton Jones all took time to meet with members of the media. 

Check out a few top takeaways from the press conference.

They Deserve It
As Gadowsky mentioned earlier this week, Penn State is well aware of how difficult it is to earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament, and with the achievement, the Nittany Lions will carve out some time to enjoy the moment, among a business as usual approach.

"They deserve everything," Gadowsky said. "To win back-to-back double-overtime games after playing on a Thursday, they absolutely deserve it. The university is extremely supportive and excited. It has been a blast, and I do not want it to end." 

As the thrill of Penn State's first Big Ten title in program history continues to remain fresh on the minds of the Nittany Lions, the challenge of channeling the same momentum in a relatively short turnaround is one the staff isn't taking lightly. Having played just more than 240 minutes in a 52-hour stretch, both mental and physical recovery has been at the forefront of NCAA Tournament preparations this week.

"Over the past week, we did a good job of getting our bodies back to normal with our athletic trainer, trying to get back in shape for this weekend," Andrew Sturtz said. "We did a good job with that and over the course of the weekend, we're trying to keep the team light like last weekend at Big Ten's and not take too much of the outside pressure into the locker room. We're just going to have fun with it and play a good game tomorrow night." 

He Said It
Union head coach Rick Bennett had some high praise for the surging Nittany Lion squad earlier this afternoon, noting Penn State's growth as a program has been impressive to watch from afar. Although the series record shows the Nittany Lions behind 0-4-0, each of the last two most recent outings during the 2013 season were separated by just one goal.

"We've had the chance to play them four times and each time that we've played them the games have gotten better and better," Bennett said. "I think that's all due to head coach Guy Gadowsky, his staff and the players they have in the program. Gadowsky plays a different style and he has carried that style from Alaska to Princeton and to Penn State. It's been really impressive to watch from a distance, but now the distance has gotten very close and tomorrow it's going to be right in front of us."

For Goodwin, who was a freshman on the squad in the most recent series against the Dutchmen, Penn State has come along way since 2013.

"Specifically this team, is probably a little deeper than we were back then and we definitely play more consistently than we did that year," Goodwin said. 


More on Union
Gadowsky noted that there hasn't been a team the Nittany Lions could compare Union to when taking a closer look at Penn State's first NCAA Tournament opponent.

"I think they present some unique challenges because they have two scorers that are in the top four of the nation, and they play on different lines," Gadowsky said. "I do not think there is any team this year that I can remember having a situation like that." 

Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo are leading a potent Union offense that features a variety of scoring options. Together, Vecchione and Foo have combined for 122 points and 53 goals, the most of any duo among the 16-team NCAA Tournament field this year.

Aside from the Vecchione and Foo though, the Dutchmen also present some familiarity for the Nittany Lion staff in terms of program culture.

"They have a tremendous work ethic, they always have," Gadowsky said. "Now they add two top scorers in the nation. We know that they can beat you in a number of ways. We very much respect the way they play. I do not think we can compare them to anyone we have played this year."

Third-seeded Penn State and second-seeded Union officially get underway Saturday, March 25 at 4:30 p.m. in U.S Bank Arena. The matchup will stream live on ESPN3. 

Roar Zone Growth
As Gadowsky also noted, with Penn State hockey's growth, it's student section has also grown tremendously. 

"They have been phenomenal from day one," Gadowsky said. "I love college hockey and the student sections are a big part of that. There are some great ones not only in our league but across the nation. I don't mean any disrespect to any of others, but the Roar Zone is the best I have ever seen. As we have improved, so have they. They are unbelievable now."

A proud piece of the Nittany Lion family, the Roar Zone doesn't just keep to Pegula though, often hitting the road to join Penn State on the road.

"We believe that they're top notch and feel fortunate to play in an arena that has fans with that much passion and energy for us, win or lose," Goodwin said. "We've also been fortunate that they travel with us as well. I wouldn't be surprised if we see some of them in Cincinnati this weekend."

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Hockey Hits Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI, Ohio - Set to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, the Nittany Lions boarded the bus in Happy Valley Thursday afternoon before hopping on a charter plane headed for Cincinnati.

Touching down around 5:30 p.m., the Nittany Lions dropped their bags and headed to dinner, feasting at a Brazilian steakhouse.

A second bus also left Happy Valley Thursday afternoon, filled with equipment and headed directly to U.S. Bank Arena. Traveling the nearly 430 miles by bus, the Nittany Lion equipment bus pulled into the arena late at night to get started unloading and prepping the locker room for Friday's practice.

Friday's schedule picks up in the afternoon with press conferences, practice and some behind-the-scenes video shoots.

Folkes Isn't Finished

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's no surprise that many Penn State men's hockey fans will remember freshman forward Liam Folkes' game-winning goal in the Big Ten Championship game for years to come, but the goal wasn't just luck. Rather, it was the culmination of months of hard work, culminating in a moment that will have Folkes' name etched into Penn State hockey history forever.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky spoke highly of Folkes' performance from the championship game, but added that Folkes was able to produce the game-winning goal because he was playing alongside two phenomenal linemates in freshman Brandon Biro and senior Dylan Richard.

Gadowsky specifically credited Richard's ability to back check during that final play and cause the turnover, which allowed Biro to get possession and pass it down the ice to Folkes.

"Playing with both of them is pretty easy," Biro said. "They move the puck well, they're fast players, so I was just trying to keep up with those two guys."

Biro said he saw Folkes wide open on a breakaway, and praised Folkes' ability to put the puck away and end the double-overtime game. Folkes said his game-winning goal was special not only for his teammates that he's worked alongside all season, but also for the familiar faces he had in the stands cheering him on.

"I had a lot of family there, a lot of friends, so that was just amazing to share that with them," Folkes said.

Prior to his history-making play, Folkes was determined to earn his spot in the lineup and make necessary changes in order to maintain a threatening presence on the ice.

"I think just keeping my foot on the gas pedal," Folkes said. "At times I felt like I was coasting when I eventually got into the lineup, but I figured out II had to keep my feet moving and to be fast to add to my game so I just kept working at that this weekend."

The Nittany Lions have played 37 games so far this season and Folkes has played in 25 of them. With six goals and six assists, his role on the team has been a game-changer since day one. Of Folkes' six goals, three have been game-winners, which is good for second on the team, only one goal behind freshman forward Denis Smirnov. 

Two other familiar names also have three game-winning goals each, freshman forward Andrew Sturtz and sophomore defenseman Vince Pedrie.

When it comes to his contributions off the ice, head coach Guy Gadowsky has said before that Folkes is a hard worker in practice, and that culminates in him creating vital opportunities for the Nittany Lions, not just in the Big Ten Championship game. Folkes certainly earned the opportunity to play in the Championship game. 

Folkes was reflective when talking about his game-winning goal, but also said there's more to come from this team.

"The feeling right now is pretty high," Folkes said. "But we know we have to get back to business and take on Union on Saturday."

Nittany Lions Look Toward NCAA Tournament

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUsports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey is headed to its first NCAA Tournament, set to meet Union in the opening game of the Midwest Regional Saturday, March 25 at at 4:30 p.m. in Cincinnati, Ohio.  In preparation for the historic event, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky met with members of the media to preview the upcoming trip to U.S. Bank Arena.

Check out a few updates from the afternoon media session.

Enjoying the Moment
Gadowsky noted that as much of a business trip as the NCAA Tournament will be, the Nittany Lions will still take some time to savor the opportunity.

"I will tell you that it is really hard to get there, we know that, and we're going to enjoy it," Gadowsky said. "It's a business trip but we're going to enjoy it because we know how hard it is to get there." 

For Gadowsky, the key to keeping the balance between business and enjoyment all comes down to easing the mindset into different ends of the spectrum. 

"So today was a little light and lighthearted, but we're getting to work on Wednesday and I think that's what you have to do," Gadowsky said. "They are very tired right now and we have to let them rest and enjoy it, but then we're getting back to it."

An MVP Of The Weekend
Fresh off the program's first conference tournament title, the Nittany Lions emerged from the three-day event, that concluded with back-to-back marathon outings in double overtime wins against top-seeded Minnesota (4-3) and Wisconsin (2-1), with yet another opportunity to make history.

Since earning the program's first NCAA berth on Sunday, the Nittany Lions have hit the ice baths to soothe sore bodies. Still in awe of his team's ability to play essentially more than four games in the short stretch, Gadowsky noted that credit is due to Nittany Lion performance enhancement coach Cam Davidson.

"Cam Davidson was an MVP of that weekend for sure," Gadowsky said. "So we have a ton of faith in him, I know he'll have them ready to go by the weekend."

Making an Impact
By this point in the season, it's easy to see how much of an impact Penn State's newest Nittany Lions have had this season, as Gadowsky pointed to key weekend contributions from Liam Folkes, Brandon Biro and Peyton Jones. Gadowsky also reiterated his point from earlier this season, that the team isn't looking at the newcomers like freshmen anymore.   

"They've exceeded all of our expectations and again, I think just the upperclassmen have really taken them in and made them feel comfortable," Gadowsky said. "Obviously there are no freshmen now and because of that I give a lot of credit to the upperclassmen, to make them, bring them along so quickly." 

Foundation in Work Ethic and Commitment
Since arriving on campus, Gadowsky and his staff set out with the top priority to construct a solid foundation the program could continue to build on as it develops. Within the foundation are principles of work ethic and commitment, two things that Gadowsky noted have been embedded in the program since day one - and not just day one of the 2016-17 season.

"That's something that has been started for five years, it's nothing that just comes around this year," Godowsky said. "So the work ethic that you see, especially in a double overtime game is a result of that, not anything that the coaching staff has done this week or this year." 

Quick Thoughts on Union
With familiarity with the program, Gadowsky noted that what he's most impressed with when it comes to Union is their work ethic and grit.

"The coaching staff has done a really tremendous job bringing in really quality, hard working players," Gadowsky said. "So now that they are getting so many high-end scorers, that's what making them extremely dangerous."

Making their fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last eight seasons, the No. 2 seed Dutchmen are coming off of a 4-1 loss to Cornell in ECAC semifinals last weekend, which snapped a seven-game win streak.

Mike Vecchione and Spencer Foo are atop the team standings in scoring with Vecchione earning ECAC Hockey Player of the Year honors as Union's all-time leading scorer.

Reach Arielle at ans26@psu.edu or follow on Twitter @arielle_sargent

Lions Celebrate NCAA Tournament History

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On Sunday afternoon at Letterman's Sports Bar and Gastro Pub, more than 150 fans packed into the largest room of the restaurant to watch the Penn State men's hockey team learn their fate as part of the NCAA Tournament selection show watch party. The room was filled with community members, the Roar Zone and many more who came out to support the Nittany Lions.

"It's really cool, it was a great turnout," said sophomore defenseman Vince Pedrie. "I can't believe this many people came and it shows the pride we have here in Hockey Valley and what a great fan base to play in front of." 

The Nittany Lions, just hours before on Saturday night, secured their first Big Ten Championship, thanks to a 2-1 double overtime win against Wisconsin. Many players were still in awe of what they had accomplished the night before.

"It hasn't [sunk in yet]," Pedrie said. "I was talking to my parents after the game and I couldn't even put it into words, I just kept saying it was incredible. Back-to-back double overtime games, you couldn't have scripted it any better, it really hasn't sunk in yet."

Penn State learned during the selection show it would be heading to Cincinnati for the first round of the NCAA Tournament, facing Union (N.Y.) Saturday in its first appearance in the event in program history. For head coach Guy Gadowsky, Penn State's hard work is paying off with the selection to the tournament.

"It means that we're going in the right direction," Gadowsky said. "It means that this is a great university, that we have a great athletic department and so much support. I tell you what, if I could go back and be a college hockey player this is exactly where I would go."

Gadowsky also gave a shout out to Nittany Lions strength and conditioning coach, Cam Davidson, for preparing his team so well for the grueling games they've had to play over the last few days, and knows his team will be ready come Saturday. 

"I'm actually in awe of how they were able to skate at all in the first period let alone in the fifth period," Gadowsky said. "Just a tremendous job."

Gadowsky and company are preparing for yet another challenging game ahead of them against a team they haven't faced before, but Gadowsky is confident in his team's ability to come together and fight for a win. 

"You've got to have great goaltending, you have to have great chemistry, you have to have a tremendous work ethic, you have to have great support and a little bit of luck," Gadowsky said. "We'll see if it goes our way."

Jones Superb in Conference Final

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

DETROIT - As the puck dropped for the first period of the Big Ten Championship game Saturday night, Penn State men's hockey freshman goaltender Peyton Jones stared down the ice, knowing he was only one game away from helping secure Penn State's first conference title. Little did he know that Penn State would go on to defeat Wisconsin, 2-1, in yet another a nail-biting 2-1 double overtime victory.

Despite playing all 93:33 minutes in net in the double overtime victory against Minnesota the night before, Jones felt fresh heading into the Championship game.

"I just take it one second at a time," Jones said. "It's tough, it's a mental battle but I just take it one second at a time, keep telling myself to stay focused and keep locked on the puck and just go from there."

Saturday night's contest was challenging, and the Badgers fired everything they had at Jones, hoping to trip him up. However, Jones was ready, and kept a keen eye on the Badgers offense.

After a first period goal Saturday night from freshman forward Liam Folkes, Jones took a deep breath, knowing his offense was doing its job, so he could do his. During the first period, Wisconsin challenged Jones several times, forcing him to make a few close saves to keep the Badgers off the board. With 40 seconds left to play, Jones made his seventh save of the period, securing the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead heading into intermission.

During the second period, both teams were unable to score, but that didn't mean the Badgers didn't test Jones' focus. With eight saves during the second period, Jones once again outsmarted Badgers. As the clock ticked down on the period, Jones denied a couple of the Badgers' offense men at the doorstep, coming in clutch to keep Penn State up by one.

The Badgers tied it up at a goal each during the third period, forcing the game into overtime. As the game continued, and looked as if it would head to overtime, Jones kept a level eye on the task at hand, making 17 saves during the third period. 

"For me, last night and tonight especially, I felt like as we got into the third period and the first overtime I was heating up," Jones said. "I felt really good, I was making a lot of saves, the glove saves were going right into my pocket, shots to my chest I was keeping in and shots to my stick I putting into the corners, so I felt really good." 

From the other end of the ice in double overtime, Jones had a straight shot of Folkes' second, and game winning, goal of the night. Folkes was able to end the game with 6:43 left in the double overtime, thanks to a great feed from freshman forward Brandon Biro that gave him a breakaway. Jones saw the set up and execution, but wasn't able to wrap his head around that the Nittany Lions had won.

"To be honest, I was shocked," Jones said of his reaction to Folkes' goal. "I threw my hands in the air and I didn't know what to do. That was probably the most shocked and just hit with excitement I've been in a while. It was awesome, it's a feeling I can't describe."

Jones was named Most Outstanding Player during the postgame awards presentation, after securing 51 shots on Saturday night, but Jones said he couldn't take the credit for taking down the Badgers. 

"I don't think I won a hockey game for my team," Jones said. "To be honest, I made a ton of saves but I couldn't make those saves without those guys on the team. The defensemen, they're tremendous, every one of them blocking shots, keeping pucks out of the zone, forwards taking hits to get pucks out of the zone, I couldn't have done what I did tonight without them." 

Jones spoke of how the team celebrated the first conference championship for the program, saying it was nice to just take in the moment.

"A lot of fun, everyone's fired up," Jones said. "Everyone's very happy and I'm happy with this team. There's a lot of heart, a lot of character in that locker room and you can tell. Ten periods of hockey in 24 hours isn't easy."

Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Wisconsin (B1G Championship)

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DETROIT - Fourth-seeded Penn State men's hockey locked up its spot in the Big Ten Championship game with thrilling 4-3 double overtime win against top-seeded Minnesota. Now set to meet the Badgers for the second time in a three-month span, the Nittany Lions will square off against Wisconsin in the title game set for 8 p.m. ET at Joe Louis Arena. Follow along for in-game updates and exclusive content.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Gameday Live vs. Wisconsin (B1G Championship)
 

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