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Luke Juha: The Penn State Hockey Experience

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11724016.jpegBy Erica Avallone, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are a variety of things you could say about Luke Juha and the Penn State men's hockey program as a whole - hardworking, relentless, accomplished, only four years into the NCAA.

But that doesn't begin to cover who Juha is as a person or a player and how the Penn State men's hockey team has changed him.

Juha left his home in Mississauga, Ontario, to begin his junior career in 2009. Playing for the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League, Juha dreamed of playing for a NCAA hockey program. When head coach Guy Gadowsky called him and extended the invitation to play at Penn State, that dream wasn't guaranteed.

Juha and his fellow seniors took a leap of faith and committed to play at Penn State, not knowing what exactly was to happen, or if they would have to wait out some "growing seasons".

Having played in its final home game last Saturday, Penn State's first four-year Division I class can now look back and see that coming to Penn State during the building years was one of the best things they have ever done.

"Penn State Hockey is our baby," said Juha. "For me it was incredibly special to have the opportunity to start a program with these eight seniors."

Juha, an accomplished defenseman, did not always have it easy on the ice. Battling through injuries every year as a Nittany Lion took a toll on his game and his mindset. Having to sit out games sporadically every campaign made Juha work that much harder to be an impact player when he did take the ice.

This season Juha, an assistant captain, leads the team with 59 blocks and is second on the team with a plus-16 rating. He has totaled 20 points in 28 games this season.

Juha leads by example, consistently trying to do the right thing and be a role model. Juha and the other seniors only have a few more weeks to leave their lasting impression on the younger guys and the program as a whole.

"I want them to have the same love we do for this program," said Juha.

The Penn State hockey experience is like no other. The culture in Hockey Valley is unprecedented. Juha has said that a huge part of the team's success on the ice comes from their love for each other off the ice.

"These are my best friends," said Juha. "I would do anything for them, and I think that is what fires our chemistry up on the ice."

In just four years, Juha and his classmates have created something magical.

"We have improved so much, so quickly," Juha said. "I think we have a better culture every year and I don't see that changing. With the culture and caliber of recruits improving, I see national championships in the future."

This program and culture have left an everlasting impact on Juha as a person and a player. Juha credits the program to teaching him how to find enjoyment in everything he does, even the more difficult things.

"Having this amazing facility and the opportunity to start this program from a humble beginning at Greenberg has showed me how to appreciate what I have in my life so much more," said Juha.

Juha spoke about how thankful he is that Coach Gadowsky brought him here four years ago.

"Penn State is the best University in the world. There are so many opportunities for us to learn and grow as people and players," Juha said. "There are amazing people all around you. Everyone is so proud to be here and to be apart of what we are doing."

Looking back over the last four seasons, Juha's favorite moment lies in a game against Minnesota at home last year. Juha scored the game winner in overtime against the Gophers, who the Nittany Lions were anxious to beat.

"That will be a day I never forget," Juha said.

This team and senior class started from nothing. They, along with the coaching staff, made it their mission to create something great - and they did. These seniors will leave a legacy that will not soon be forgotten in the hallowed halls of Pegula Ice Arena. Ending this chapter in their lives they all look towards what is next, unsure of what is to come.

"When they was recruited, they were getting feedback on how they were going to lose badly for four years," said Gadowsky of the senior class. "They believed in themselves and believed in the program that they were not going to lose the next four years. And to see how far they have come and what they have accomplished, wow."

Each and every one of the eight seniors can move forward with solstice knowing that they helped mold the Penn State hockey program into what it is today.

"I don't think our team really understands how lucky we are. Once you become a senior and realize your days are numbered, it hits you," said Juha.

As said in one of the most famous hockey movies by one of the most legendary coaches, "Great moments are born from great opportunities", and Gadowsky gave these eight seniors that great opportunity. 

Penn State Athletics THON 2016 Coverage

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IMG_9032.JPGUNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State Athletics was heavily involved with the 44th IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) held at the Bryce Jordan Center over the weekend.

THON's 708 dancers began standing at 6 p.m. on Friday and did not sit down or sleep until Sunday at 4 p.m. to raise awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer in the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Since 1977, THON has partnered with The Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital with one goal in mind: conquering childhood cancer. To date, more than $136 million has been raised by THON. THON revealed a fundraising total of more than $9.7 million for 2016 with 96 percent of THON's all-time funds being donated directly to Four Diamonds. 

Each year, more than 15,000 Penn State student volunteers dedicate their time to THON, making it the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

Members of Penn State's Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB) were active participants in THON, and led run several fund-raising activities once again this year including sending solicitation letters to friends and family and a lip sync competition. In addition to generating financial support for THON, SAAB also provides emotional support to its THON children, Isabella Messina and Colton Buckley, and their families throughout the year.

Four Penn State student-athletes are represented SAAB as dancers in THON 2016: Liisi Vink-Lainas (Wynantskill, N.Y.) and Angela Widlacki (Naperville, Ill.) of women's soccer, Emily Rivers (Washington, D.C.) from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato (Burke, Va.) from football.

"This means the world to us. As athletes you are given a platform that a normal student might not have," said Zanellato. "It's one of those things that when you come in as a freshman, you know that you will have that platform for a few years. I wanted to make the most of it. I realized that THON was something special to me when I came to Penn State. I wanted to use my platform as best I could."

Additionally, Angela Connors and Jessica Spellman from the Lionettes squad and from Penn State cheerleading Kenny Fuhrman, Paige Gentry, Jordan Hinkle, Kylie Tobasco and Mike White danced in THON.

Within Penn State Athletics, strategic communications student assistants Emily Hesidence and Kate Brandell were also among the dancers at THON, as well.

Check out the extensive coverage from THON 2016 weekend.

Friday - 6 p.m. - THON 2016 Begins
The 46-hour dance marathon kicked off at 6 p.m. on Friday evening when the 708 dancers stood. They will remain on their feet until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.


Saturday - 9:30 a.m. - Student-Athlete Interviews
With Bryce Jordan Center buzzing with energy during the 16th hour of THON 2016, spent some time with student-athletes and THON dancers Liisi Vink-Lainas  and Angela Widlacki of women's soccer, Emily Rivers, from women's tennis and Matt Zanellato from football. Representing Student Athlete Advisory Board (SAAB), the group is thrilled to carry the Penn State Athletics banner as dancers in the 2016 THON. Take a look at some of their remarks from the floor at the BJC.

THON 2016_Blog 2.jpg
Saturday - 2 p.m. - Football Hosts THON Explorers Event
Approximately 40 members of the Nittany Lion football team welcomed approximately 30 THON Four Diamonds children and their families to a special event inside the Lasch Football Building on Saturday afternoon as part of the THON Explorers program.

The THON event in Lasch is circled on the calendar for the Nittany Lions every year. The THON families gathered inside the home of Penn State football to take photos, get autographs, participate in athletic stations, tour the facility with the Nittany Lions, eat ice cream from the Penn State Creamery and take a group photo.

The Nittany Lions formed a high-five tunnel for the families upon entry into the building before the student-athletes took the families around the football facility. Take a look at the THON Explorers event at the Lasch Football Complex on Saturday.

Football THON Explorers Event

Saturday - 6 p.m. - Student-Athletes Participate in Athlete Hour
Athletes from several teams on campus spent times with the THON Four Diamonds children inside the IM during athlete hour on Saturday.  Here are a few snapshots and video highlights from the event.

Athlete Hour Photo Gallery

Saturday - 11 p.m. - Football Wins Pep Rally Dance Competition
One of the THON highlights every year comes on Saturday night when the teams of Penn State Athletics hop on stage and compete in a dancing competition during the annual pep rally. In all, 12 different teams competed in the 2016 version of the dance-off.

The pep rally included a speech from former Nittany Lion football great Devon Still and his daughter Leah.

As for the dance competition, the football team claimed top honors in the men's side of the action, while the reigning national champion women's soccer team took top honors on the women's side. The two teams then battled in a dance off, with the football team earning the bragging rights as the 2016 THON Pep Rally dancing champion.

We have highlights of every team dancing on Saturday night at THON. 

THON 2016 Pep Rally Photo Gallery

9185732.jpegTHON 2016 Pep Rally Full Dances
Football (Men's & Overall Champion) 
Women's Soccer (Women's Champion)
Men's Fencing
Men's Golf
Men's Gymnastics
Men's Hockey
Men's Rugby
Men's Soccer
Men's Tennis
Men's Volleyball
Field Hockey
Women's Golf
Women's Gymnastics
Women's Hockey
Women's Rugby
Women's Volleyball

Sunday - 11:30 a.m. - VIDEO: Coach Franklin Addresses THON 2016
Head coach James Franklin took the stage of THON 2016 on Sunday morning to urge the dancers on in the final hours of the 46-hour dance marathon.  Franklin's message epitomized what THON's mission has been since it started in 1977.

"This is special. What you guys do is what Penn State is ultimately all about," said Coach Franklin.

Take a look at his full remarks.

James Franklin at THON 2016 Photo Gallery

4:14 p.m. - THON 2016 Raises $9.7 Million
For the second-straight year, THON's fundraising efforts raised more than $9.7 million. The grand total for THON in 2016 was  $9,770,332.32 for fight against pediatric cancer.  Congratulations to everyone involved in THON 2016.  Here is a look at the reveal from Rec Hall prior to Penn State wrestling's bout against Oklahoma State. The Nittany Lion faithful in Rec Hall let out a big cheer as the total was unveiled.


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McAdam Shines, Lions Keep Buckeyes on Their Toes

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11712784.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thanks to tremendous goaltending by junior Eamon McAdam on Friday, and a mid-game attempted comeback on Saturday, the No. 15 Penn State men's hockey team (19-9-4, 9-6-1-1 Big Ten) split its final home series against Ohio State (9-17-2, 4-8-2 Big Ten).

During Friday night's 6-1 takedown of the Buckeyes, McAdam made 33 saves on the way to improving his record to 11-4-1 this season.

McAdam was a stable force in net during all 60 minutes of play, making several big saves that could have otherwise brought the Buckeyes within several goals of the lead.

"I thought that was a really big part of the game," head coach Guy Gadowsky said of McAdam's performance. "It's often that timely goaltending is really important, and I really thought that we came out really well but then [Ohio State] actually took it to us and Eamon was awesome and made huge saves."

Gadowsky pointed out that often when a team puts up six goals in one game the goaltender isn't thought of as being the reason a team wins. Instead, fans usually look toward the offensive performance of the night. However, Gadowsky credited McAdam with being an integral part of the Nittany Lions' win on Friday.

Gadowsky also pointed out that due to injuries, several players had to step out of their comfort zone and play more ice time than usual, or even a different position. Gadowsky noted having freshman forward Matt Mendelson playing at center, which he's not used to, really helped the Nittany Lions be able to put four full lines out on the ice.

During Saturday's contest, Ohio State got on the board with three quick goals in the first period. However, the Nittany Lions started to mount a comeback attempt as the clock was winding down in the first period as freshman forward Chase Berger found the back of the net.

Following in the second period, the Nittany Lions tied it up thanks to goals from freshman forward Andrew Sturtz and junior forward David Goodwin.

Freshman defenseman Kevin Kerr gave the Nittany Lions the only lead of the night when he got a pass from Goodwin and went top-shelf on Ohio State's goaltender Matt Tomkins to start the third period. However, the lead was short-lived and the Buckeyes scored four unanswered goals, including an empty netter to win 7-4.

In Friday night's performance, Kerr had five shots on net and ended the night with a plus-3 rating. Gadowsky praised Kerr's performance, and noted how Kerr is often overlooked but has become an integral part of the Nittany Lions' defense.

"I think it's pretty amazing when you lose 7-4 and in our eyes the best player on the ice pretty clearly was Kevin Kerr," said Gadowsky. "Right from the very first shift, the breakout in the zone to the end, he's been great."

Lastly, Gadowsky praised the support the team has had at home this whole campaign. Notably, with THON happening across the street at the Bryce Jordan Center, to still have two sold out games and a packed Roar Zone both nights is something that Gadowsky certainly recognizes as a vital support system to have.

"That was very surprising, a phenomenal atmosphere," said Gadowsky of all the students who showed up on such a busy weekend. "The students, when you talk about the seniors and what they'll remember, the seniors they're going to remember [the Roar Zone]. They've been so motivating, and they've been a huge part of all the success we've had."

VIDEO: THON 2016 Pep Rally - Men's Hockey

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Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State (2/20/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. No. 15 Penn State closes out the home portion of its schedule with a matchup against Ohio State.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State (2/20/15)

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State (2/19/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. No. 15 Penn State opens its final home series of the season against Ohio State on Friday.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State (2/19/15)

THON and Senior Day To Spotlight Final Home Series

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11701040.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the No. 15 Penn State men's hockey team (18-8-4, 8-5-1 Big Ten) will be facing off against Ohio State (8-16-2, 3-7-2 Big Ten) this weekend, across the street from Pegula Ice Arena thousands of Penn State students will be dancing on the floor and in the stands for THON.

For the Nittany Lions, THON has become more than just a four-letter word, and has provided the opportunity for the team to develop life-long friendships with their THON child, Colton Buckley.

First paired with the men's hockey team at the age of four, Buckley
fits right in with the Nittany Lions. Now an 8-year-old who loves hockey and is taking skating lessons, Buckley's relationship with the hockey program has grown exponentially.

Over the years, several players have become extremely close to the Buckley's, specifically senior captain David Glen and senior alternate captain Luke Juha.

"He was going through chemotherapy when we first met him and really shy" said Juha. "Now he's eight and in remission, and just being able to see his development and to see him come out of his shell and grow up in front of us is pretty cool."

For Juha, his favorite memory of Buckley, other than his constantly upbeat personality, is all the times the pair has been able to play mini-sticks together.

While the purpose of being paired with a team or organization is so families can have a support system while their child undergoes treatments, the Nittany Lions would agree that the Buckley's have been just as big as a support system back to them.

Over the years, the Buckley's have traveled to games in Hockey Valley, making the two-hour drive from Reading to see the Lions take the ice. That mutual support system is what Glen credits to the close relationship the team has with the Buckley's.

"They come to as many games as they can," said Glen. "I know it's a little bit of a hike but they've been great, they've been so supportive and it's nice to be able to spend time with people like that, that are so courageous and to have the opportunity to give back even just a little bit is nice to have that opportunity."

Buckley has become part of the team in more ways than one. He has a locker in the locker room, right alongside the team. While Buckley's locker might be slightly smaller, it is just a mere puzzle piece representing the large impact such a young boy has had on the program.

"He's always in the back of our minds, he's become a part of our team since day one here," said Glen.

A highlight of THON weekend is the Nittany Lions' participation in THON's "Pep Rally," in which various athletic teams perform dance routines on stage in front of the several thousand students in attendance. Last year's men's hockey team performance was a hit, which included various props, the team wearing highlighter-pink and yellow tank tops, and ended with a pyramid that at the top, was Buckley. The performance won first place.

"Hopefully even just the little things we do make his day," said Glen. "If we can make his day just a little bit better, and his family's a little bit better, then we're doing our part."

With this weekend being the final home series for the regular season, emotions will be high for several reasons, THON being one of them. However, this weekend also is emotional because it will be the senior class' final showdown in Pegula Ice Arena.

Senior Day this year will honor eight Nittany Lions, the first class of Penn State hockey to have worn the Blue and White sweaters for all four years of the program's Division I history.

"I've been pretty emotional these last couple weeks," said Juha. "You try not to have that emotion affect you and try to turn it into a positive but obviously I'm really looking forward to [Senior Day] and at the same time I'm really dreading it because my time here at Penn State is ending and it's something I don't want to give up."

The senior class is looking forward to one final series at Pegula Ice Arena and the possibility of adding a couple more wins to their legacy.

"Penn State has done so much for me," said Juha. "And hopefully at the end of the day [the senior class] has made it a better place."  

Penn State hosts Ohio State on Friday at 6:30 p.m. and again Saturday at 3 p.m.

Nittany Lions Return from Munn Victorious

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11691347.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. - For the first time since the 2012-13 season, the Penn State men's hockey team (18-8-4, 8-5-1 Big Ten) defeated Michigan State (7-20-3, 3-10-1 Big Ten) in Munn Ice Arena.

Friday night's victory was a consistent barrage on the Spartan net. The Nittany Lions recorded 49 shots, and defeated Michigan State, 6-1.

Freshman defenseman Vince Pedrie kicked off the Nittany Lions' strong road performance with a power play goal halfway through the first period. The Nittany Lions have been working on returning to their early season power play success, and they are currently seventh in the nation with a .246 power play conversion rate.

The six-goal performance was the result of all facets of the Nittany Lions' game said head coach Guy Gadowsky.

"This really was a total team win," said Gadowsky. "There really wasn't one area that really out shown another, and there really wasn't another area that needed work."

Senior goaltender Matt Skoff tallied his first win in Munn Ice Arena since a 31 save performance on January 26, 2013, improving his overall season record to 8-4-3.

"We had to kill three power plays in the second and [Skoff] was really big on the power play for us, and made some big stops," said Gadowsky.

Six different Nittany Lions beat Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand Friday night, including Andrew Sturtz who leads the team with 14 goals so far this season.

On Saturday night the Nittany Lions returned to the ice looking to take home another win.

The game that ensued was much closer than Friday night's. Senior forward Eric Scheid netted his second goal of the weekend to kick-start Saturday's contest.

With less than six minutes left in the third period, senior defenseman Luke Juha found the back of the net to force the game into overtime.

With the weekend sweep on the line, the Nittany Lions faced their fourth conference overtime of the season. With both teams playing tremendous defense, the Nittany Lions were unable to end the game in overtime, and instead found themselves in a shootout.

A raucous busload of Roar Zone faithful who made the trip to Munn on Saturday cheered on the team as they prepared for the shootout.

After exchanging missed shots in the first round, Michigan State missed in the top half of the second. Junior forward Ricky DeRosa followed with a successful shootout attempt.

The Roar Zone held its collective breath as Michigan State prepared for its third shot of the shootout. Cheers erupted as junior goaltender Eamon McAdam saved the shot, and the Nittany Lions took home five points from the weekend.

"Well hopefully it speaks to you maybe we're getting a little more mentally tough, more seasoned," said Gadowsky. "I really thought today was a great win because they came out really hard but I thought Michigan State played extremely hard, extremely well, and we really had to fight back hard, a big goal with five-something to go and a great kill and a shootout victory it was a heck of a win." 

Nittany Lions Look to Continue Momentum at Michigan State

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 16 Penn State men's hockey team (17-8-3, 7-5-0 Big Ten) will travel to East Lansing this weekend to take on the Michigan State Spartans (7-19-2, 3-9-0 Big Ten). The Nittany Lions are looking to continue their momentum from last Saturday's 5-3 win at Minnesota.

Penn State first faced off against Michigan State on Jan. 25 and 26, 2013. The series, which Penn State split with Michigan State, was part of the Nittany Lions' inaugural Division I season.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky noted how memorable the matchup between the Nittany Lions and the Spartans has been over the years and is eager to get another notch in the win column at Munn Ice Arena.

"We know what we have to do regardless of our opponent to be successful and we know what they do," said Gadowsky. "They played a little bit of a different style last year as compared to this year but I think that once we look at their game where they beat Michigan on Friday night we'll probably see some similarities. So we know what to expect but it's really a matter of playing our best game."

To date, the Nittany Lions are 2-6-2 against the Spartans and on the road, have only taken down Michigan State once. However, this season Penn State has already matched its road wins from the 2014-15 campaign, and has surpassed its win total away from home, with five.

The Nittany Lions swept the Spartans in December in Pegula Ice Arena as part of their first Big Ten matchup of the season. With two wins against Michigan State already this season, the Nittany Lions are prepared for the battle that the Spartans will give them this weekend.

"I think it was a really encouraging win [against Minnesota]," said junior forward Zach Saar of the team's performance last weekend. "It's tougher on the road in the Big Ten but we want to get that win in Munn."

Saar also noted how he has seen the freshman class step up during this second half of the season. Saar pointed out how players like freshman forward Chase Berger have settled in nicely this season and have impacted the outcome of many games in favor of the Nittany Lions.

"I think everyone is pulling their weight, everyone is stepping up to do their part and contribute in the way that they specifically can as a player," said Saar.

The freshman class has come a long way since the first game of the season back in October, and most have developed a consistent style of play that has helped their class bring success to the team.

On the offensive end, two freshmen lead the pack in goals scored this season for the Nittany Lions. Forward Andrew Sturtz leads the team with 13 and fellow forward Chase Berger is in second place with 12.

Having been able to successfully win at both Ohio State and Minnesota this season, the Nittany Lions are looking forward to keeping the pattern strong this weekend at Michigan State and work hard toward another challenging but rewarding win.

"We're not expecting anything easy," said Saar.

Penn State faces off at Michigan State Friday at 7 p.m. and again Saturday at 7 p.m.

Lions Come Back Strong, Beat Gophers

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11673061.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- For the first time in program history, the No. 16 Penn State men's hockey team  (17-8-3, 7-5-0-0 Big Ten) beat Minnesota (14-13-0, 9-3-0-0 Big Ten) in Mariucci Arena by tallying a 5-3 victory on Saturday night.

Despite a 4-1 loss on Friday night, the Nittany Lions bounced back and fought through every minute of Saturday's game to come out on top.

"It means a lot, I thought it was great, the guys just had a heck of a game and our trainer had a heck of a game," said head coach Guy Gadowsky. "Our equipment manager [Adam Sheehan] was the one who said it was offsides to challenge it, so it was a pretty good win for the program."

During the third period, momentum seemingly shifted in favor of Minnesota as the Gophers scored their fourth goal of the night. However, the goal was ultimately overturned by a coach's challenge due to offside, giving the Nittany Lions the boost they needed to finish the period strong.

In the 5-3 victory, four Nittany Lions had multiple points, with junior forward Zach Saar's goal giving the team the game winner. Saar was able to get the puck off an offensive zone faceoff and find the back of the net with less than four minutes left in the third period.

"Right before I think we had a media time out before faceoff and Chase Berger, he called the shot," said Saar. "He said we're going to run me off the wall, it's a faceoff play we do, and he said he was going to win it and he said that if he won, step off the hash mark and sure enough he did it."

In a night of history making, another milestone was met for the Nittany Lions as freshmen forward Matt Mendelson notched his first collegiate goal. The Pittsburgh native has come dangerously close in several matchups before, but finally found the back of the net on Saturday night against the Gophers.

"I was super happy for him," said Saar. "I was really lucky to be on the ice. "You never forget your first goal and he's been working very hard lately and unfortunately has never really got a good bounce, so getting that first one out of the way is always good."

The Nittany Lions never trailed on Saturday night, and kept the pressure defensively on the Gophers throughout all three periods of play.

In net, junior Eamon McAdam made 34 saves on his way to his 10th win of the season.

For the upperclassmen on the team, Saturday night's win was a long time coming.

"I think for the seniors and juniors who've played in Mariucci for three years now, it's a really tough environment to play in, so I think it was an awesome step for our program to get a win there," said Saar. "It felt really good."

As the Nittany Lions continue on in their season, they will once again be on the road as they faceoff against Michigan State on Feb. 12 and 13. With only one home series left, getting vital wins on the road will be the key to keeping up momentum throughout the coming weeks of play.

"Personally, I think it's just playing as a team," said Saar. "It's a long season so we have to play games as they come but for now it's just sticking to our identity and playing together and for each other."