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Champions Visit State Capitol

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HARRISBURG, Pa. - Penn State hit the state capitol today for an afternoon of recognition, celebrating Nittany Lion conference champion student-athletes and head coaches following a record-setting 2016-17 season both in competition and in the classroom.

Joined by select head coaches and staff members as well as student-athletes, the group toured through the Pennsylvania House and Senate, stopping in for lunch with Sen. Jake Corman in his office. Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania Senate before remarks from Corman, welcoming the group to the state's capitol following a few early proceedings.

Penn State then made its way to the floor of the Pennsylvania House, which holds all 203 members, including Pennsylvania's Rep. Mike Hanna, Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, Rep. Rich Irvin and Rep. Scott Conklin, who read a resolution to again welcome and congratulate the Nittany Lions on an all-around successful season, one that drew a standing ovation from the members on the floor. 

"I want to congratulate the teams for not only what they do on the field but what they do in the community, the outreach they give, the coaches who oversee them," Conklin said. 

Nittany Lion director of athletics Sandy Barbour only echoed the all-around success in her remarks in the main rotunda later in the afternoon, noting that the individuals surrounding her representing a combined 2016-17 total of nine conference titles, among a few other crowns, are only one part of the story.

Penn State was recently slated fourth in the first spring update of the Learfield Directors' Cup standings following a year that saw seven Nittany Lion squads earn Big Ten Championships or tournament titles in seven sports, the most of any league institution and the third-highest total in school history.

As head coach Cael Sanderson brought instantaneous cheers from the floor of the Pennsylvania house upon his introduction, the room was reminded of Nittany Lion wrestling team's stunning second consecutive NCAA Wrestling Championship, marking its sixth in the last seven years, with five individuals earning NCAA titles along the way.

As Barbour pointed out though, the impact of the Blue and White extends much further than excellence in competition.

Nearly a month ago, a school record 114 Penn State student-athletes graduated, bringing the 2016-17 total to 142, with more students on track to cross the stage in August. Penn State also revealed its 89 percent NCAA Graduation Success Rate this year, which stands just one point below its all-time program mark. 

"Penn State student-athletes, not unlike their student colleagues and their servant hearts, have dedicated themselves to service," Barbour said. "Our student-athletes served over 6,200 hours of community engagement this last year. This comprehensive excellence is embraced by our Penn State and Pennsylvania community. It's truly Penn State's point of difference. It has historically motivated a state and a community, connected passionately to each and every one of our programs and each and every one of our student-athletes who wear the Blue and White."

Representative of just a small piece of a variety of community engagement close to Penn State student-athletes is THON, a beloved annual event that encompasses the entire university and Happy Valley community.

Led by the efforts of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board, SAAB raised $59,679.49 for THON in 2017, which ranked third among the 400-plus general organizations represented. Surging past a fundraising goal of $50,000, the 2017 figure is SAAB's second-largest total in the history of the organization, adding to a career total of $680,000, all for THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, with four Penn State student-athletes joining the 703 dancers on the floor this year.

Among those dancers this year was women's soccer's Megan Schafer, a Big Ten Champion from Langhorne, who joined the group today for her second trip to state capitol, but first as a Nittany Lion. 

"A couple of years ago I got recognized for winning a state championship, so I think it's pretty cool coming back at the collegiate level to get recognized for our hard work all season," Schafer said. "I think it's really cool everything that people put together just to recognize us today."

Prior to Penn State, Schafer scored the overtime game-winner to lead Neshaminy high school (also the alma mater of Penn State head football coach James Franklin) to a Pennsylvania state title.

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The entire group of Nittany Lion coaches and student-athletes were treated to a personal meeting with Gov. Tom Wolf, who stopped by the steps of the main rotunda to greet the champions before heading back to Happy Valley.

Wrapping Up A Historic Season

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Tuesday afternoon, Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky concluded the Nittany Lion 2016-17 season with his final press conference of the year.

Gadowsky started off addressing the team's most recent news: defenseman Vince Pedrie's departure after signing with the New York Rangers.

"It's something that we expect is going to happen more and more, and Vince, he's been a great player for us, and a great person and representative for our program and our university," Gadowsky said. "He's a really good guy. I really enjoyed having him and really I wish the very best for him." 

Gadowsky knew Pedrie signing was a possibility after the Nittany Lions concluded their season, but also noted such dynamic players like Pedrie don't just leave the team simply to sign a contract, they leave when there's a high possibility they're headed to the NHL. 

Despite a loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament and one win shy of the Frozen Four, Gadowsky said there is much for the team the be proud of. Among those items, Penn State's first No. 1 ranking and bringing home the Big Ten Championship, just to name a few. 

Referring to Penn State's staff long-term checklist, Gadowsky noted proudly that this team was capable of taking great strides toward those goals this year, checking many accomplishments off the list.

"There's not very many anymore, which is nice to say," Gadowsky said. "This experience has made us hungry to want to learn more and get better." 

For Gadowsky, the 2016-17 season has been a year where he has learned more about coaching than ever before, and that experience in itself is extremely valuable to the success of the team in the future. 

So what's next for the Nittany Lions? 

Across the next weeks, the coaching staff will meet with each player individually and then meet as a staff to evaluate the program itself and start prepping for next year's campaign. 

"That's what I'm really looking forward to," Gadowsky said. "We already have a number of things we know we have to improve on and that's exciting. Physically, we're a little bit tired but I can't tell you how much we want to get back to improving and I know we can."

As for the departing senior class, forward Ricky DeRosa said he'd like the legacy of the class of 2017 to be that of a group of guys who were hard workers until the very end, and great representatives of Penn State off the ice. Reflecting, DeRosa had some fitting words to end the season, explaining why this particular team has been so special. 

"I'd say it's the people in the locker room," DeRosa said. "You had the younger guys pushing the older guys, the older guys kind of leading the way with the different leadership styles that have been instilled is us over the last three, four years here. Then you throw in Coach Gadowsky and the other coaches in the mix and it's a recipe for success."

A Season to Never Forget

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

CINCINNATI, Ohio - When head coach Guy Gadowsky assumed responsibilities as Penn State hockey's head coach, he didn't arrive with a timeline for program milestones and accomplishments in mind. Rather, Gadowsky and his staff have a checklist, having decided to focus first, on forging a foundation built on the principles of work ethic and commitment. 

On Sunday night, third-seeded Penn State's 2016-17 season officially came to a close in the NCAA regional finals, as top-seeded Denver emerged with 6-3 decision. 

Regardless of the bitter end, there's no denying that the 2016-17 season saw plenty of list-checking worthy moments that filled loyal fans with a palpable sense of pride, leaving enough excitement to pique even the interest of the most skeptical critics.

First there was the program's rise to a No. 1 national ranking, which came January 16th following a pair of wins against Michigan State. Next, a thrilling marathon run through the Big Ten Tournament, culminating in the program's first conference title, a feat that Gadowsky noted postgame, he and the staff didn't think possible so soon.

Just days later, the Nittany Lions earned their first NCAA Tournament berth in program history, making a striking debut with a record-setting 10-3 win against Union before arriving in the regional finals, facing Penn State's toughest test all year long.

"This season can be a very important one," Gadowsky said. "I don't think anyone will forget this season, it was magical."

The Pioneers opened the scoring with a goal 3:17 into the first period before widening the advantage to two, sending a laser through traffic and past Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones at the 7:19 mark.

Nikita Pavlychev's shorthanded goal shaved the deficit to one as the freshmen dished to Ricky DeRosa, who sent it right back just in time for a finish. At 2:02 in the second period, it was fellow freshman Denis Smirnov who scored to tie the game, 2-2, striking up the pulse of the Nittany Lion fans in the stands at U.S. Bank Arena.

Penn State couldn't find its rhythm to settle into though as Denver scored again to recapture the two-goal lead before adding a power-play goal with 1:18 left in second period, stretching the gap to three, 5-2.

"I don't think we were necessarily us, but you have to give them a lot of credit for making us not us," Gadowsky said. 

Although facing a daunting deficit, as DeRosa noted postgame, there was no panic on the bench headed toward the final period of play. 

"We have a saying, don't panic just manage," DeRosa said. "We posted five goals in the third period yesterday so that was the mindset in the locker room, just chip away at it."

Penn State did make every attempt to do just that, as James Gobetz fired a shot from up near the blue line to for his first goal of the year to bring the Nittany Lions back within two, 5-3, at 12:40 in the third period. 

The Nittany Lions wouldn't pull any closer though as Denver continued to stifle the offense, turning away a variety of seemingly promising opportunities with Pioneer goalie Tanner Jaillet finishing with 24 saves. Denver added an empty net goal late in the frame to make it 6-3 before the final blare of the horn. 

As the scoreboard illuminated with zeros, Penn State retired to the locker room with the sting of the season-ending loss setting in. 

"I believe it was Nikita Pavlychev who said thank you on behalf of the freshmen, and James Robinson thanked everyone else," Gobetz said. "Everyone was pretty emotional, kind of consoling each other. I mean, we are brothers. It is obviously a tough loss, but we will bounce back and we are thankful for the seniors for sure."

In early March, Penn State honored a group of five seniors on senior night at Pegula Ice Arena. A group of Nittany Lions who committed to a program in its early beginnings, unknowing of the future or what to expect, they proudly helped shaped an already special legacy from the moment they said yes to Hockey Valley. Seeing everything from the first game in Pegula Ice Arena to their last game, which came in Penn State's first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history, it's a journey that features unprecedented achievement.

"The seniors have really taught me a lot," Gobetz said. "I think we have a lot of freshmen here, and we are all very thankful for what they have done. Without them, we would not be here, that is for sure. They built this program and we thanked them in the locker room after the game and obviously, we could not be more thankful for them."

Strengthened by the 2016-17 seniors and for all those who have come before and for those who are still yet to come, the future for Penn State hockey is undoubtedly bright. 

Among the blazing outlook, Penn State returns 11 from its standout group of freshmen, including Smirnov, who netted the second period equalizer, setting a single-season Penn State freshman record with his 19th goal of the season, breaking Andrew Sturtz's record (18) from last year.   

"We'll remember this team forever, but at the same time, I hope the guys that are returning use it as motivation," Gadowsky said. "We didn't match up great today. I don't think we were us and I hope we get another shot at a Denver. I'm proud of what happened this year, but we use it as motivation. We learned a lot this year, as a program, as coaches, and as individuals as well. It's tough right now, but we'll definitely use is as motivation."
CINCINNATI, Ohio - Second-seeded Penn State men's hockey is back in action, continuing its NCAA Tournament debut with a regional finals matchup against top-seeded Denver. With a trip to the Frozen Four on the line, the Nittany Lions and the Pioneers are set to square off Sunday, March 26 at 6 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. Denver (NCAA Regional Finals)
 

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."

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