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Nittany Lions Prepare for B1G Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the Penn State men's hockey team, it's time for a fresh start, a clean slate. What the Nittany Lions accomplished earlier this season is no longer of importance. It's time for the Big Ten Tournament, and every team has an even chance. Anything can happen in the playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (18-14-4, 10-9-1 B1G) will face fifth-seeded Ohio State (13-8-3, 8-11-1 B1G) Thursday. The team's spot in the bracket was finalized following its two losses against Minnesota last weekend; however, those loses are in the past. The Blue and White are only focused on the future.

"Literally two seconds after the game Saturday it was playoff time," head coach Guy Gadowsky. "What happened Friday didn't matter. What happened Saturday didn't matter. In fact, what happened this year didn't matter. I think down the road, a lot of the guys are going to look back at this with incredibly pride on what they accomplished. But as of right now, all they're thinking is it's playoff time."

After such a successful regular season, the team is headed into the tournament with confidence. The Lions know what they are capable of, and it's only a matter of playing their best brand of hockey.

Penn State is not ready for the season to end, and these athletes are going to battle for victories one game at a time and come out strong for this final push.

"You want to leave it all out there," said junior forward Casey Bailey. "You've got seniors that this is their last chance. They came here to play for a program that everybody said was going to lose. To be able to go out there and win and to have that possibility of picking up the Big Ten playoff championship your second season and your third season as a Division I team is a huge accomplishment. It's something we'd love to do."

Gadowsky Named B1G Coach of the Year

In addition to preparing for the tournament, the team had a major accomplishment to take pride in this week as the conference named Gadowsky the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

In just its third season as a Division I program, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to a winning record. The team more than doubled its win total from last season, showing how quickly the program has grown.

"It's great for this program," said Gadowsky of the honor. "I mean that award is really for when players exceed expectations. But, I think in this case it goes even further. It's not just about that. I think it's a lot about the atmosphere we have in the building, how well the ticket sales went, just a number of things. This is a program award."

While many questioned the legitimacy of Penn State hockey last season, there were signs that this team would accomplish large feats. The team's first round victory over Michigan in the 2013-14 Big Ten Tournament is merely one of those examples.

With a presence like Gadowsky on the bench, the team is more than capable of continuing its success for years to come.

McAdam Gets the Nod

Sophomore Eamon McAdam will mind the crease for Nittany Lions in the Thursday's first-round matchup. McAdam posted a .911 save percentage during his 11 games played and earned a 5-3-1 record during the regular season.

Furthermore, the sophomore is the Lions' lone goaltender to defeat Ohio State this season. McAdam was in net for the team's 5-1 victory over the Buckeyes, a game in which he made 35 stops.

"We've had a very nice home-ice advantage here at Pegula Ice Arena," said Gadowsky. "This game is not going to be at Pegula, and between the three, [McAdam] has by far the highest winning percentage away from Pegula Ice Arena. That's another reason. He also actually if you look at it both in conference and overall play does have the highest winning percentage, along with highest save percentage.

"I feel that he's actually probably faced the toughest opponents when you look at goals per game. I mean he played Michigan three times. He's played Minnesota. So, when you look at the opponents he's played, that he is our only goaltender that's played more games away than home, he's probably more prepared for this experience."

Scouting the Buckeyes

This season, Penn State fell in three of the four games it played Ohio State. The team was swept when it traveled to Columbus and split the series played in Hockey Valley.

Nevertheless, the Blue and White are not focused on what happened this season, instead preparing mentally and physically for what will happen Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

"It's not like we come in very, very confident and this is how's it's going to go and this is what we have to do," said Gadowksy. "I don't think either coaching staff feels that. But, I certainly give them a ton of credit and Coach Rohlik in terms of the discipline his team here has shown in this stretch. I think they've gone the last ten they've only lost three, last eight they've only lost two. I think their discipline has been a big part of that, and we certainly respect that. But, looking back at the season series between us, you really can't say this is what to expect. This is what we have to do. So, I think it makes it fun."

If the Nittany Lions want to succeed, they will have to find a way to end the Buckeyes' recent success. The team will need to shut down Ohio State's leading scorer Tanner Fritz, who had 26 points in the regular season, and find ways to get the puck by goalie Christian Frey. Frey has played in seven games against Penn State, posting a .936 save percentage and a 2.55 goals allowed average against the Blue and White.

Additionally, the Buckeyes have experience on their side. Although the Nittany Lions advanced to the semifinals in last year's tournament, Ohio State made it to the championship game. The Buckeyes eventually fell to Wisconsin in overtime, but they know what it takes to get to the finals.

"We're going to have to win three games to win the Big Ten, and I think it doesn't really matter who we're playing," Bailey said. "If we play our style of hockey, Penn State hockey, we can beat anybody. As long as we stick to our game, we're not really worried about who we're playing against."

PreviewGraphic_OhioState_B1G.jpg No. 1 Minnesota (12-5-3 B1G)

Points Leader: Mike Reilly, 42 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Kyle Rau, 19 goals
Assists Leader: Mike Reilly, 36 assists

Heading into the tournament, Minnesota is fresh off its sweep of the Nittany Lions and its second-straight Big Ten Conference Title. The Gophers also nabbed all three conference weekly honors, as Hudson Fashing was named First Star, Kyle Rau grabbed the Second Star and Adam Wilcox secured the Third Star. In addition to these honors, Minnesota's Mike Reilly was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year and a All-Big Ten First Team selection. The No. 1-seeded Gophers will play their first game of the tournament Friday afternoon, taking on the winner of the Penn State/Ohio State matchup.

No. 2 Michigan State (11-7-2 B1G)

Points Leader: Matt Berry, 28 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Michael Ferrantino, 12 goals
Assists Leader: Matt Berry, 17 assists

Like Minnesota, the second-seed Spartans earned a bye in the first round of the tournament. They secured their spot in the bracket with a split last weekend against Michigan. Michigan State has won four of its last five games, all of which were backstopped by goaltender Jake Hildebrand. This week, Hildebrand was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and an All-Big Ten First Team selection. He has played in all 34 games for the Spartans and leads the league with a .930 save percentage and a 2.12 goals allowed average.

No. 3 Michigan (12-8-0 B1G)

Points Leader: Zach Hyman, 49 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Zach Hyman, 19 goals
Assists Leader: Zach Hyman, 30 assists

Splitting its final series of the season, Michigan earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament for the second consecutive year. The Wolverines had a bit of a messy end to the season, falling in three of their final four. However, with numerous offense weapons, such as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Dylan Larkin, and the Big Ten Scoring Champion, Zach Hyman, this team is sure to bounce back. Michigan will take on Wisconsin Friday night at 8 p.m.

No. 4 Penn State (10-9-1 B1G)

Points Leader: Casey Bailey, 40 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Casey Bailey, 22 goals
Assists Leader: Taylor Holstrom, 26 assists

The Nittany Lions had a disappointing end to the regular season, falling to Minnesota last Friday and Saturday. Nevertheless, the Lions are moving ahead, getting ready to face Ohio State. The team will look to its points and goals leader, Bailey, on Thursday. The junior has four goals and an assist against the Buckeyes this year. This week, Bailey was named an All-Big Ten First Team selection, and freshman Scott Conway was named an All-Big Ten Freshman selection. Bailey, Conway and the rest of the Lions will take the ice Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

No. 5 Ohio State (8-11-1 B1G)

Points Leader: Tanner Fritz, 26 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Anthony Greco, 15 goals
Assists Leader: Tanner Fritz, 15 assists

The Buckeyes ended their season in Madison, taking five of the six possible Big Ten points against Wisconsin. Now, they will face Penn State, a team they swept at the end of February. Furthermore, Ohio State has only lost three of its last ten games, which gives them confidence moving into the postseason. Following the end of the regular season, Matthew Weis was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team. The Buckeyes are set to play the Nittany Lions Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

No. 6 Wisconsin (2-15-3 B1G)

Points Leader: Grant Besse, 22 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Grant Besse, 11 goals
Assists Leader: Joseph LaBate, 12 assists

The Badgers are coming off of a tough season. Having only won four total games, two of which were conference matchups, the team is certainly entering the Big Ten Tournament as the underdog. However, Wisconsin has huge potential and it has shown glimpses of that throughout the year. The team took down then-No. 5 Michigan Tech in January and tied then-No. 2 Boston University the following week. They can play and keep up with the best in the country when it is least expected. The Badgers will take the ice Thursday at 8.pm. to face Michigan.

2014-15 B1G Hockey Tournament Bracket.jpg

Nittany Lions Head to Minnesota with Much on the Line

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four teams. Three points. One Big Ten Regular Season Champion.

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 to go."

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 Friday night.

"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."

Lions Sweep Michigan in Final Homestand of the Season

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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 and Tommy."

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 meaningful games."

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."

Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (3/7)

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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)

Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (3/6)

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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)

Seven Seniors Set to Play Final Home Games

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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 character.

"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 recognized.

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 Jensen's 26.

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 personality.

"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. Forever."

Michigan 2.jpg

Lions Fall to the Buckeyes on the Road

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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.

"I 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 immensely.

"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 Buckeyes.

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 weekends.

"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."

Nittany Lion Defense Finds Its Offensive Touch

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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 seven.

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."

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Conway, Juha Push Penn State Past No. 15 Minnesota

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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 play goal.

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 we did."

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.

VIDEO: THON 2015 Pep Rally Dance - Men's Hockey

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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.

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