By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four teams. Three points. One Big Ten Regular Season
With one final weekend series separating the Penn State men's hockey team and
the Big Ten Tournament, it's safe to say the Nittany Lions have yet to play two
games this season as important as those upcoming against Minnesota.
Currently, the team sits in fourth place among the conference standings;
however, it is only three points behind Michigan State, the first place team.
Sandwiched between Penn State and the Spartans are Minnesota and Michigan. Both
second-place teams currently have 33 points.
To make matters even more interesting, these top four programs will all face
each other this weekend as the Lions take on the Gophers and Michigan State
goes head to head with Michigan.
Anything is possible this weekend. Big Ten hockey is unpredictable.
"We have an opportunity to for sure put ourselves in a bye situation, but we
could also even win the league this year," said forward Casey Bailey. "To be
able to accomplish that in our second year in the league would be something
we'd love to do. We're just going to take it one game at a time."
In order to attain either of those feats, this series with Minnesota is crucial
for the Blue and White. With two wins, the Lions have a chance to either steal
the No. 1 seed in the tournament or claim the No. 2 spot. The top two teams in
the conference secure a bye on the opening day of the tournament.
The Nittany Lions are playing for a top spot and that bye.
"It kind of has a playoff mentality toward the games," Bailey said. "You're not
necessarily playing for your life, but you're playing for where you're going to
sit in the tournament. You could either be getting some rest that first night
or you could be playing. A lot is on the line, and I think we're looking
forward to the opportunity. It's pretty exciting that two wins this weekend
could possibly give us the win and for sure give us the bye."
For Penn State (18-12-4, 10-7-1 B1G) to grab that top spot, it needs to sweep
No. 15 Minnesota (19-12-3, 10-5-3 B1G). Two victories would give the Lions 37
points, but they would still need luck on their side. Even if the Blue and White
earn six additional points, winning the league and earning the No. 1 seed would
come down to the series between the Spartans and Wolverines.
Michigan State must lose and win a shootout against Michigan for the Lions to
have any chance at grabbing the top seed. If that scenario occurred, the
Spartans would finish with 35 points, and Michigan would finish with 37. Penn
State would win the tiebreaker with the Wolverines, thanks to a winning record
over its biggest conference rival.
"We're just trying to approach this like any other weekend," said captain
Patrick Koudys. "We've had a good week of practice, and we just need to
mentally stay focused. It was kind of nice this week we had spring break so we
could focus a little more on hockey. It's a big weekend for us, and we're ready
No matter what the results are in East Lansing and Ann Arbor, if the Nittany
Lions come away with two wins or a win and shootout victory, the No. 2 spot
will be theirs for the taking.
It will all come down to the team's performance in Minneapolis.
"We know we're going into a big ice surface in Minnesota," Bailey said. "It's
tough to win in anybody else's arena, but I think after how we played this past
weekend again Michigan, we're going in with a lot of confidence. Everything is
on the table, so we're really looking forward to seeing what we can do."
In the last meeting between Penn State and Minnesota, the two teams split. The
Blue and White fell, 2-1, on Friday night but rebounded and downed the Gophers,
4-3, in overtime the following evening.
The victory marked the first time in program history that the Nittany Lions
defeated Minnesota. They know they can compete with the Gophers, and they're
ready to play their best version of Penn State hockey at Mariucci Arena come
"I feel like they're not too difficult to play against, but it's hard to beat
them," Koudys said of Minnesota. "That kind of contradicts itself a little bit,
but they're definitely a good team. They have been for years, and they're known
for being a great team. I think when we did beat them, we were doing what makes
us great. When we did those things the right way, we were able to beat them."
Knowing what's at stake, Penn State is prepared to battle for sixty minutes.
These games have a bigger, more significant meaning. No one on the team is
taking that lightly.
"It's not just another two games," Koudys said. "This is it. If we win these
two games, we get something more than just two wins. We're excited about that.
I know I'm really excited, and we just want to get down there and do well."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the last time this season, the Penn State
men's hockey team skated over to the Roar Zone, arms around each other, and
sang the alma matter after a victory. With two wins over No. 16 Michigan,
arguably the team's biggest rival, the Nittany Lions could not be happier with
their final weekend in Pegula Ice Arena.
Friday, with sophomore Eamon McAdam in net, Penn State (18-12-4, 10-7-1 B1G) downed
the Wolverines (19-13-0, 11-7-0 B1G), 6-4. The team made sure to stick to its
winning ways in front of PJ Musico, who made the final home start of his career
the following afternoon on senior day. Once again the Blue and White emerged
victorious, holding on in the final seconds by a score of 4-3.
With the two wins, not only did the senior class finish in Hockey Valley on a
high note, but the team also secured its first winning season.
"We certainly didn't think it would happen this quickly, so it's
something that feels pretty good," head coach Guy Gadowsky said of the winning
record. "I'm really glad that the senior group that is here now got it because
a lot of people told them when they were making the decision to come to Penn
State that they'd lose for four years. So, to have them be the class that did
it feels really good."
The fact that this winning season was finalized after two big performances
against Michigan has not gone unnoticed by the team. The Nittany Lions have
always found success when facing the Wolverines.
Last season, Penn State knocked the team out of the Big Ten Tournament during
the first round, which also ended Michigan's chances to make the NCAA
Tournament. Now this season, the Blue and White beat the Wolverines in three
out of the four games they've played.
For some reason, the Nittany Lions consistently have Michigan's number.
"We always seem to play our best when we're against them," said captain Patrick
Koudys. "I don't know what it is. We just play well. It's great to see PJ
[Musico] make all those big saves, especially at the right times. But, we do
find success against them, so we've got to just keep rolling with it."
Sophomore David Goodwin, in particular, had a tremendous weekend for the Blue
and White. He finished with five points, two goals and three assists, and a
plus-four rating. His line was also incredibly successful, racking up 10 points
over the two games.
With the absence of Taylor Holstrom due to injury, many wondered if Goodwin and
junior Casey Bailey would successfully generate the same amount of offense.
Both forwards knew they would need to make some adjustments, but with the
addition of Tommy Olczyk, they were confident and ready to take on Michigan.
"Casey Bailey and I talked before the weekend started, and we knew if we were
going to have success we were going to have to pick it up a little bit, trying
to fill that big hole in the lineup," said Goodwin. "But, Tommy Olczyk was a
phenomenal addition to our line. He brought energy and speed, which is what we
needed, which is what Holstrom brings for our line. It was a great weekend for
our line, and I'm looking forward to building this week in practice with Casey
However, Goodwin credits the dominant play against Michigan to one other
aspect, which the entire team can also agree with.
"I just really don't like them," Goodwin said of Michigan. "It really kind of
lights a fire under me a little bit. It's just one of those things where they
kind of get under my skin a little bit, and I like to retaliate by putting the
puck in the net."
Overall, the weekend proved to be a big bounce back for this Penn State squad,
which has struggled a bit as of late. The two wins helped boost team confidence
and morale. Going into a weekend against Minnesota, positivity is exactly what
the Nittany Lions needed.
"This is something that we won't forget," said Gadowsky. "I mean any time
that you're able to sweep Michigan is huge. It feels great. I think it is
something to look back on down the road and gain a lot of confidence from this.
The fact that it happened on senior night, and at a time that we're in the
conversation, it becomes an important time for both teams. It feels really
good. I feel really good about what the guys were able to accomplish in very
The weekend was an emotional one, especially for the senior class, a group of
student-athletes who have done so much for this program. Nevertheless, even
with these victories, the entire team knows these next two weeks will be the
biggest of them all.
This squad wants to continue to leave its marks on Penn State hockey.
"It was awesome," said Koudys of the sweep. "I mean, even looking back the
first game us seniors played here we won and then the last game. So, it's
pretty awesome. A lot of emotions in the locker room, that's for sure, but
there's still lots to do."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live coverage of Penn State men's hockey. Today, the Nittany Lions will close their series against the University of Michigan. The game is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. and marks the team's final time home this season. Seven seniors, including Jake Friedman, Taylor Holstrom, Max Gardiner, Nate Jensen, Patrick Koudys, PJ Musico and Peter Sweetland, will be honored prior to the start.
Live Blog Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (3/7)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live coverage of Penn State men's hockey. Tonight, the Nittany Lions will open their series with the University of Michigan. The game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Live Blog Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (3/6)
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Three years ago, Jacob Friedman, Taylor
Holstrom, Nate Jensen, PJ Musico and Peter Sweetland were all playing hockey
for Penn State's club team, the Icers. When Max Gardiner arrived the following
season, all six student-athletes partook in the team's inaugural Division I
season. Last year, with the addition of Patrick Koudys, they dressed for the
first season of the Big Ten Conference, the first season in Pegula Ice Arena.
Now, their time at Penn State is coming to a close. This weekend, all seven
seniors will see the final home games of their careers as Nittany Lions.
Nevertheless, this class is incredibly special to the program. The mark they
have left on Penn State hockey will remain intact forever.
"This was really the first guys that were sort of recruited, and if you
remember, when they were recruited, when they committed to us, when they said
yes, we weren't even Division I at the time, let alone in a league," said head
coach Guy Gadowsky. "They said there was going to be a league, but there
wasn't. They said there was going to be this beautiful building, but there
wasn't. There wasn't even a shovel in the ground.
"These guys, they had to have a lot of faith in Penn State and what this staff
was sort of saying would happen. More importantly, they had to have a lot of
faith in themselves because we recruited a lot of players. A good portion of
those would come back and say, 'Jeez. I just don't want to lose for four
years.' These guys never said that. Anybody that came from this class, they
never said that."
These athletes didn't come to Happy Valley solely to win. The road ahead was
going to be tough, but they wanted to build a program. They wanted to be the foundation
of Penn State hockey.
That is exactly what they have done.
This group includes players with tremendous leadership abilities, players with
a strong presence both in the locker room and on the ice, players with true
"I've learned that you just have to take things as they come and help everyone
stay focused on the tasks at hand," said Jensen, the team's assistant captain.
"There's always going to be ups and downs. It's not easy, but that's part of
hockey and being a leader."
The determination of the senior class is a big part of the reason the Nittany
Lions have found what some may call unexpected success this season. Yet, these
seven knew there was magic in Hockey Valley. It just had to be uncovered and
During their time at Penn State, the class has combined for 150 career-points.
Holstrom currently leads the way with 67, followed by Gardiner's 28 and
Koudys blocked 137 shots for the team in his 68 appearances. Muscio has
registered a .904 career save-percentage, and Friedman and Sweetland have
appeared in 41 and 42 games for the Blue and White, respectively.
The class continuously provides depth for the team, but they also add
"Goofballs," said Jensen when describing his fellow seniors. "No, but really,
we're a hard working group. We may not be the most skilled class, but we
definitely have a lot of heart. We like to lead by example and give it our all
every time we're out there."
The final games in Hockey Valley for these seven will not be an easy task. With
Michigan coming into town, emotions will be high. The history between Penn
State (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B1G) and the Wolverines (19-11-0, 11-5-0 B1G) always drives
up the level of play and the level of physicality.
With such few points separating the top four spots in the Big Ten Conference,
the Lions know they'll need to dig deep and focus.
"There's definitely a rivalry between Michigan and Penn State that started from
last year and earlier this season," Jensen explained. "Our two teams don't like
each other. It's definitely going to be good hockey games, and I'm excited. I'm
looking forward to the weekend."
Although Friedman, Gardiner, Holstrom, Jensen, Koudys, Musico and Sweetland
will all be honored in a senior ceremony this weekend, the seven will have one
final series against Minnesota and the Big Ten Tournament to prepare for
following the last two games in Pegula Ice Arena.
With such tough weekends ahead, the Nittany Lions know playing their best hockey is even
more important now.
"What I like is that we're facing the top two teams going into playoffs," said
Gadowsky. "I like that. To face the best going into playoffs I think is a
positive experience. You're going to be forced to play at such a high level
that I feel that can only help you going into the Big Ten Tournament."
These seven seniors have experienced all the ups and downs of this program.
They played in club games. They played in the first Division I season. They
played in Greenberg Ice Pavilion. They played in Pegula Ice Arena.
Most importantly, these seniors gave their hearts and souls to Penn State
hockey. That kind of dedication is rare and can never be forgotten.
"I will definitely always remember," said Gadowsky of this class. "Always.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State men's hockey team prepared for
its final regular-season series against Ohio State, it knew the importance the
outcome would have on the overall season. With two weekends left before the Big
Ten Tournament, winning conference matchups is crucial.
Every team is looking for points. Every team is hungry for victories.
However, the results of the weekend were not what the Nittany Lions had hoped
for, as the team was swept on the road for the second time this month. Both
Friday and Saturday nights, the Buckeyes (11-17-2, 6-10-0 B1G) downed the Blue
and White (16-12-4, 8-7-1 B1G), 5-3.
think our biggest problem this weekend is we kind of got away from our game,"
said sophomore Mike Williamson. "We started off having pretty good first and
second periods but then ended up leaving the game we've been having success
with. That ended up coming back to haunt us toward the end of the games and
cost us two wins."
Although the Nittany Lions went up early Friday night with a Tommy Olczyk goal
30 seconds into the game, the team struggled to maintain a lead as Ohio State notched
three unanswered tallies. Dylan Richard scored Penn State's second goal, cutting
the deficit to one, but the Buckeyes answered with two more in the third
period. Penn State was unable to recover.
Working to put Friday night behind them, the Nittany Lions took the ice
Saturday ready to get to work. Surprisingly, much of the crowd was on their
side, as the Roar Zone made the trip from Hockey Valley to Ohio. The presence
of Penn State's student body in enemy territory helped the Blue and White
"The Roar Zone coming all the way to Ohio to watch us play on the road is
another reason why they're the best student section in college hockey,"
Williamson said. "They allow us to gain some energy in an opponent's building,
which is a pretty rare thing. They're always loud and rowdy. It really helps us
light a fire in our game."
Penn State started strong, scoring twice in the first period. Casey Bailey put
away his 21st goal of the season, and Taylor Holstrom nabbed his seventh. At
the end of the opening 20 minutes, the Nittany Lions had a 2-1 lead over the
Ohio State tied the game on a power play goal in the second, but less than three
minutes later, Williamson grabbed his first goal of the season to put the Lions
on top once again.
"Obviously, that's an exciting time, scoring a goal," Williamson said.
"Basically, I was just putting the puck on net and there was a lot of traffic
in front. Our forwards did a great job getting in the goalie's way, and it
ended up going in."
Things were looking up for the team as it sustained the lead. Unfortunately,
that positivity abruptly came to an end.
Holstrom, who has been a major leader for this Penn State team, left the ice
with an injury. His absence was very noticeable, as the Blue and White seemed
to break down without the senior in the game.
"He's obviously a key asset to our team's success," Williamson said of Holstrom.
"He's a great player who really brings an aggressive attitude that rubs off on
the whole team. So, losing a guy like that has a big impact, but we can't let
it affect us in the sense that we've got playoffs coming up. We need to be
mentally tough and make sure that we maintain a high level of play without him
if he's not able to go."
Following Holstrom's departure, the Buckeyes tacked on three goals in just over
four minutes, sealing the Lions' fate.
Leaving Ohio with two losses in hand was the exact opposite of what the Nittany
Lions wanted. Nevertheless, the team knows staying positive at this point in
the season is a must.
Penn State needs to leave the series behind and focus on the two upcoming
"It's something that as a hockey player you kind of learn to do," Williamson
said. "You're going to have bad weekends, bad games, bad shifts, whatever the
case is. It's just about being able to cancel out the past. You have to use it
as a learning tool as opposed to a negative influence.
"We're just going to look toward Michigan and Minnesota to finish off the
season as a good stepping-stone to playoffs. It's going to be two good weekends
of hockey, which will prepare us for the level of hockey that we need to have
going into the Big Ten Tournament."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Earlier this season, a lack of defensive scoring
was a bit of a concern, but the Penn State men's hockey team remained confident
in its blueliners. They continued to contribute in other ways, day in and day
out. The scoring would come.
Now, the team's defensemen have recorded at least a point in 11 of the last 12
games. This Nittany Lion defense is clicking.
"I think it comes with
confidence," said junior Luke Juha. "The forwards are doing a great job of
passing to us when we're open, and we're trying to play a forward game. We're
trying to move it to the forwards and make good passes for them to do their
thing. We love shooting the puck as a team, and I think we've just been doing a
better job of getting pucks through and making good decisions in the O-zone."
Juha leads defensemen on the team in points with 14 this season. He scored two
goals, the most recent of which was the game winner against Minnesota on
Saturday, and has 12 assists.
The junior is not afraid to join the offensive rush. In fact, doing just that
is a big part of his game.
"I used to be a forward, and I transitioned to defense when I was a little
older," Juha said. "I think it's important to get some offense and stay in the
game offensively as a defenseman because you just play a more aggressive game,
and I think as a whole, you play a better game."
Juha is not the only blueliner helping on the offensive side of the game. Erik
Autio has nine points this season, and Connor Varley and Nate Jensen both have
Varley is also plus-11, which is the best plus/minus rating among the team's
defensemen. It's also one of the best on the team. His efforts this season have
been another reason for this successful defense.
"Just doing things hard, making a lot harder play, I think that's something I
talked about with the coaches after last season where my plus/minus wasn't very
good," said Varley. "So, I think just focusing on that and moving the pucks
quick and making strong, hard, smart plays has been key."
In addition to joining the rush, another factor contributing to the defense's
success is the D-pairings. At this point in the season, the majority of these
parings are set and stable.
The players know their partners, know their tendencies and know what to expect.
"It helps with being familiar, and it's good to have some chemistry with
whoever you're playing with," said Varley. "In my case, I've been playing with
Nate [Jensen] for the last couple months here, and it's been going really well.
We both like to skate, move the puck and play in their end as much as possible."
This weekend, the Nittany Lions defense looks to continue its dominant play
against Ohio State. The Buckeyes (9-17-2, 4-10-0 B1G) have speed, which is an
aspect Penn State (16-10-4, 8-5-1 B1G) is prepared for.
With such few games remaining, this matchup is very important. The Lions know
what is at stake.
"We have to be aware," said Varley. "They have some pretty fast forwards, so
keep our feet moving, but other than that just make hard plays, play strong and
try and generate some offense when we get the chance."
Playing on the road has not been overly successful for the Lions, who are 4-5-0
away from Pegula Ice Arena. Nevertheless, the team is ready to focus on playing
its game, playing Penn State hockey.
"I think we just have to be ready to play a hard game for 60 minutes," said
Juha. "I think every team lacks that sometimes, and I think we've struggled a
little bit more with that on the road. Being focused from the drop of the puck
to the second period because we've had weak second periods this year. I'm not
really sure why, but we just have to be focused and ready to go every shift."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a disappointing Friday night loss to No.
15 Minnesota, the Penn State men's hockey team knew winning Saturday's game was
a necessity. With such few series remaining in the regular season, the Nittany
Lions wanted to get back on track, break their three-game losing streak and get
their first program win against the Gophers.
The Blue and White immediately put the 2-1 loss behind them and began focusing
on the task ahead. The Gophers (17-10-3, 8-3-3 B1G) had not been beaten in
seven games, but a few Penn State (16-10-4, 8-5-1 B1G) adjustments and one
hard-fought rematch was about to change that.
Penn State downed the Gophers, 4-3, in thrilling fashion with an overtime, power
The Nittany Lions struck first when Curtis Loik capitalized on the man
advantage seven minutes into the game. Five minutes later, they extended their
lead to two after Scott Conway, who assisted Loik's tally, scored a
highlight-reel goal, the first of two on the night for the freshman.
"I think that might have been his best
all-around game, and that was a big, big, big time goal," said head coach Guy
Gadowsky of Conway. "The first one of his was just big time. The second one was
nice too, but he really played one heck of a hockey game. He's a confident kid,
and he was just so obviously not satisfied to just be on the same ice. He
played to win that game."
The strong play from Conway was exactly what Gadowsky was looking for after
benching the forward last weekend against Michigan State. With some time to
think, Conway knew he needed to refocus.
The changes he made led him to a plus-two, three-point night.
"I think Coach made a good decision putting me in the stands," said Conway. "I
took a step back and just thought about stuff, what I should be doing and what
I shouldn't be doing. That mainly brought my focus to these games, and I tried
to do my best."
Although the Lions maintained a lead throughout the majority of the game,
Minnesota refused to go down easily. The Gophers battled back and scored their
third and tying goal in the final minute of the play.
While the goal was disappointing, Gadowsky and the Lions remained confident.
The team had played a strong game, and it was ready to continue on. For the
Nittany Lions, this was a must win.
Not even two minutes into the overtime, Minnesota took a penalty. Luke Juha got
the puck and stuck to the Penn State hockey mentality.
The defenseman shot the puck.
"Minnesota was all over us for a little while there," said Juha. "They had a
bunch of momentum, and we got a power play. So, we knew we had to capitalize on
that to get three points. [Casey] Bailey got it on the far wall and passed it
to me. I had tons of time and was looking for sticks."
With David Glen screening the Gopher's goalie, the puck found its way into the
back of the net. With the win, Penn State officially beat every team in the Big
Ten Conference this season.
As for Juha, Gadowsky was thankful to have him in the lineup. The blueliner was
questionable for this matchup against Minnesota after an injury sidelined him
for much of the week.
"He had a lower body injury that kept him off the ice until Thursday actually,"
Gadowsky explained. "It's funny because we had a discussion after Thursday's
practice, and we were touch and go whether we would have him play. Good thing
While the win was important,
the team also played for more than itself this weekend.
With THON in full swing across the street in the Bryce Jordan Center, the
Nittany Lions wanted to be victorious for the kids, for every child and family
that has dealt with the effects of pediatric cancer.
"As hockey players, you have to battle through injuries sometimes," Juha said.
"It was a little tougher for me. I didn't feel like I had a full stride. But,
at the end of the day, especially on THON weekend, these kids battle so hard,
and I think for this weekend we did the same thing. We're lucky that we got a win
at the end of the day. So, it's a great weekend for us. THON is such an
inspirational thing for our school, and it's an uplifting event. After this,
we're going to go practice our Pep Rally dance and hopefully win that too."
Merely hours later, they did just that. Men's hockey was crowned the THON 2015
Pep Rally champions, raking in its second win of the night and making the
weekend one to remember for the entire team.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Just hours after knocking off No. 15 Minnesota in Pegula Ice Arena, the Nittany
Lion men's hockey team won the annual THON Pep Rally dance competition. Take a
look at the winning dance.
Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live coverage of Penn State men's hockey. Tonight, the Nittany Lions will close their series against the University of Minnesota. The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Live Blog Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (2/21)