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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team loves playing in Pegula Ice Arena. Head coach Guy Gadowsky talks about the building and the energetic crowds after every game in Hockey Valley, and the team's 10-1-3 home record speaks for itself.
Yet, the Nittany Lions do not take all the credit for their dominance on home ice. The support the student section gives each and every weekend motivates them to play their best hockey. In a way, the Roar Zone gives the Blue and White an extra edge, an extra advantage.
"It's amazing," said forward Curtis Loik of the atmosphere. "It's why I came here. When you first see this place and you see what Pegula built and the infrastructure and the whole Roar Zone, it's unbelievable to play in. They're loud, and they motivate us to get going. If we're down, they bring us up."
The Roar Zone, which many believe to be the pride and joy of Pegula Ice Arena, is always filled when the Lions are in town. The students cheer, make signs, dress up and are constantly involved with every aspect of the game.
The Penn State student body is a source of inspiration for the hockey team, as it constantly feeds of the section's energy.
"I think every game they've gotten better with the chants, even Wisconsin when they had that massive banner," Loik said. "You know, that's exciting to come out and see that. It just fires us up."
This weekend as Minnesota comes into town, however, the student section's makeup may look a bit different. With THON, and 46 hours of dancing, taking place across the street in the Bryce Jordan Center, many students will be unable to attend the games.
Nevertheless, that does not mean their tickets will go unused. Instead of empty seats, the Roar Zone will be filled with THON families. The students decided to donate their tickets to those affected by pediatric cancer.
Following the games, the Nittany Lions will also be joining the Penn State student body, and their THON child Colton Buckley, over in the BJC. The men's hockey team has been heavily involved with THON since before its days as a DI program.
"Everybody, I think, falls in love with Penn State in their own ways, and really for me, THON was just so amazing," said Gadowsky. "I personally believe it's the best thing that any university does. It's such a great cause. You know, everybody talks about the passion of our student body, our alumni, our supporters, and I think THON builds a lot of that."
The Lions will take part in the annual Pep Rally, showing off their dance moves to all in attendance at THON, but they understand the bigger picture. They want to do all they can for the kids.
"Colton, our THON child, he's been around us for a few years now," Loik said. "He's such an inspiration to us. To have someone of that character and what he's been through around us, it really make you think how much we have to appreciate. Coming up, it's going to be a lot of fun, and it's a big weekend for our school."
Before the excitement of THON can begin for the men's hockey team, it will have to face No. 15 Minnesota. The Lions (15-9-4, 7-4-1 B1G) are looking to snap their two game losing streak, while the Gophers (16-9-3, 7-2-3 B1G) want to keep their dominant play rolling.
"I think last weekend will tell you all you need to know," Gadowsky said of the Gophers, who most recently swept Michigan. "The team that's scoring more goal than anybody in the NCAA they held to two goals on the weekend. They held them to, I believe, 49 shots. So, defensively they had a tremendous weekend. They're very tough to play against. On the other hand, they scored eight goals.
"You are going to see high-quality hockey. You're also going to see pretty hockey, and you're going to see fast hockey. So, to give you a preview in terms of what we're looking at, you can't say we're going to stop this line because they're very deep. We can't say if we just don't take any penalties we're going to be ok. They are really deep. They are very skilled at every position. They're going to come at you with speed and with skill, and you have to beat them with good hockey."
Even if the Roar Zone does not take on its usual composition this weekend, the Nittany Lions will feel the support. The students have strengthened the team time and time again, but now the team will look for inspiration in the young fans, like Colton Buckley, who are in attendance.
Penn State is playing for more than just itself this weekend. The Lions are playing for the kids.
"It's amazing what those kids do, and they deserve everything in the world," said Loik. "To give a few tickets away to these special people, it'll inspire us even more. Even if the Roar Zone's not as full, those families coming to those games, we play for them. We play for what they've been through."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Leaving the confines of Pegula Ice Arena for the first time in over a month, the Penn State men's hockey team hit the road for a series against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions were confident and ready to play as they arrived in East Lansing looking to lengthen their eight-game unbeaten streak.
That confidence, however, was not enough as the team was swept for the first time this season.
The Spartans had every answer Friday night, blanking Penn State, 3-0. Despite a strong final push, the Lions (15-9-4, 7-4-1-0 B1G) also found themselves on the losing side Saturday. Michigan State (12-12-2, 6-4-2-2 B1G) grabbed its second win of the weekend by a final score of 3-2.
"Friday, we just had a mental lapse," said defenseman David Thompson. "We just didn't play our game. We knew we were really disappointed with the way we came out and played on Friday. We knew we had to get back to doing the things that made us successful through this point in the season. So, Saturday we just focused on playing Penn State hockey again."
Prior to this weekend, Penn State averaged 41.6 shots per game, a much higher statistic than the 28 shots it managed Friday night. The performance marked only the fourth time this season the Lions were outshot by their opponent, and it was the first time the team was shut out.
Saturday, the Blue and White knew changes had to be made. The Lions needed to get back to their roots. They needed to play Penn State hockey.
"I think the second game we got back to our game and responded well after how we played the first night," defensemen Connor Varley said. "We played more in their end and generated a lot more offense."
The junior opened the scoring for Penn State with a power play goal in the second period of Saturday's game. Varley's goal continued the recent scoring trend for the Lions' blueliners.
The defensemen all enjoy the freedom to join the rush when opportunities arise. Earlier in the year, they were not getting bounces, but as of late the pieces have fallen into place. The goals are beginning to come.
"Obviously, it's really exciting and unbelievable to have things going our way," Thompson said of the blueline's offensive production. "We just have to make sure that we keep doing everything possible, working hard day in and day out on and off the ice to make sure the success for us continues down the stretch here."
Even with scoring from a defenseman, the downfall for Penn State on Saturday was penalties. The Lions were called for seven throughout the game, and MSU capitalized twice.
Late in the third, the Blue and White trailed by two. Forward Casey Bailey helped bring his team within one with his 20th goal of the season, but the comeback fell short. Penn State was unable to nab the tying goal in the final seconds.
"I think we have to continue to build off last night," Varley said. "We didn't get the result we wanted, but we played better and got back to our game. So, we're going to continue to work on our game, play the way that gives us success and good things will happen."
With a dangerous Minnesota team coming to Hockey Valley this upcoming weekend, Penn State know its needs to learn from the mistakes made in Michigan. The team also knows, it needs to keep those games in the past and focus on this next series.
"We just know that it's behind us at this point," said Thompson. "We're going to watch some film. We're going to figure out some stuff and what we can do, but at the end of the day we just need to make sure we're committed. It's a huge weekend coming up here when it comes to standings and of course our place in national rankings.
"We know that Minnesota is a great team. They have been for a very long time. It's going to be a great weekend coming in here, so we need to make sure that we take some lessons from this past weekend. If we do that, we'll be able to piece it together."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Many freshmen student-athletes must learn how to balance college and their teams when first arriving on campus. For Penn State men's hockey defensemen Erik Autio, however, the process proved even more difficult as he worked to grow accustomed to not only the university, but also the country.
Now, a month into his second semester as a Nittany Lion, the freshman is comfortable, and he is slowly starting to feel as though he is home.
"It's going better every day," said Autio. "I feel like I'm getting used to eating the type of food. Language is a lot better right now than it was when I got here, so I feel like it's getting better day by day."
One of the biggest changes Autio had to make involved the very thing he moved to the United States for, ice hockey. Used to playing in bigger rinks, the defenseman had to buckle down and learn how to maximize his skills on a smaller surface.
"It was a big adjustment for him coming over from Finland," said assistant coach Keith Fisher. "It's a different game because they play on international ice over there, so it's a bigger ice surface. So, it was an adjustment to him for just the speed of the game, and things happen a little bit quicker on NHL ice surfaces here."
Nevertheless, even with a faster style of hockey, Autio has emerged as one of the team's best puck movers. He thinks quickly and passes efficiently.
Game in and game out, the freshman is consistently smart with the puck, which is a quality his coaches and teammates greatly appreciate.
"I feel like that's one of my strong sides of my game, moving the puck well, giving good passes," said Autio. "That's something I try to do every game, and I try to help the team out by doing that."
"It's always flat, hard and on the tape, so I know the guys like to receive it," Fisher added of Autio's passing. "That's why he's so good on the power play because of how well he passes the puck, and he sees the ice very well, has a very good feel for the game. He's come a long ways."
Autio has appeared in 25 games for the Lions and is second on the team in points scored by a defensemen with one goal and seven assists. The freshman's first collegiate goal came in last Saturday's victory over Wisconsin, and he was a relieved to finally put one in the back of the net.
"It felt good for sure," Autio said. "I've been waiting for that for such a long time, and to help the team out with my goal felt good."
This weekend, Autio and the No. 19 Lions (15-7-4) are looking to extend their unbeaten streak as they travel to take on Michigan State (10-12-2). Penn State and the Spartans met merely weeks ago in Pegula Ice Arena, where the Lions settled for a Friday night tie. Michigan State nabbed the extra point in a shootout, but the Blue and White dominated Saturday's game and came away with a commanding 5-2 victory.
These two teams know what to expect from one another and are ready to close out their regular season matchups.
"It helps because they're fresh in the mind," said Fisher. "You know what they do. We know what we have to do to counter that to play them, and we feel comfortable with our game. I think we've played pretty well here over the last three, four weeks. We just have to kind of sustain our game going into the next with Michigan State and Minnesota coming in. But, we're excited where we are as a program, as a team right now."
The Lions are fully aware of the importance of this weekend. Autio and the rest of the Blue and White know exactly what they have to do.
"Two wins," said Autio. "That's what we need. That's what we're going to get."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nine goals. Nine different scorers. One season sweep of Wisconsin.
The Penn State men's hockey team was at it again this past weekend as it extended its unbeaten streak to eight consecutive games. The Lions continue to prove themselves dangerous, but more importantly are showing their depth, as Penn State is a team that sees production from all four lines and defensemen.
Friday night, the Blue and White (15-7-4) downed the Badgers (2-18-4), 5-2, with goals from Tommy Olczyk, Eric Scheid, David Goodwin, Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom. The following afternoon, Penn State dominated in a 4-1 victory. Not only did forwards Dylan Richard and James Robinson notch tallies Saturday afternoon, but defensemen Luke Juha and Erik Autio scored their firsts of the season as well.
"This is our first time all year that we've had two d-men score in the same game, so that's real nice," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "We've talked a lot about how we need other lines scoring, other than the Holstrom line, to really be able to be effective, and when you get scoring from the back that's awesome. It's a great weapon to have. I hope it continues."
Although scoring among the defense has decreased this season compared to last, the forwards know this team's blueliners can score. In the last two weeks alone, three defensemen have found the back of the net, another advantage for the Nittany Lions.
"We always knew they could score," Richard said of the defensemen. "It's just not getting bounces or guys tipping it or what not, but we always knew they could score. We have full confidence in them in shooting from the backend, so it's just a matter of time before they start going in."
Even with the increased scoring among all forwards and defensemen, the Lions' top line has remained effective. Goodwin, Holstrom and Bailey all notched goals in the Friday night win and were a combined plus-four in the game.
Bailey recorded three points on the night with two assists and a rocket of a goal from the slot.
"The line played very well," Gadowsky said. "I really liked how they got things going with David's [Goodwin] goal. All three of them were buzzing around the net and had shots, and David was able to clean it up, Taylor [Holstrom] going hard to the net. But, that was a big time goal by Casey Bailey. That's just a big time goal, man."
Time and time again, the forwards have been asked how they continue to produce. No matter what team or line they go up against, Goodwin, Holstrom and Bailey find ways to produce.
"We all want to be offensive guys, but we know that to get the offense we're going to have to play both ways," Bailey said. "I think we're getting rewarded for doing the little things. You know, Holstrom worked his bag off to get that empty-netter, and Goodwin dove to put that one in. I got my goal without the line, but I think they gave me plenty of opportunities to put one in while I was with them. We're very comfortable with each other. We know each of our roles."
With the two wins this weekend, the Lions completed the season sweep of the Badgers. The accomplishment was no easy feat, and the Blue and White are proud to check another achievement off their list of firsts.
"I think we caught them at a good time," said Gadowsky. "They're a lot more talented than their record shows right now, but they're very, very young and I think everybody knows that. Trust me, they're going to be Wisconsin soon, but they're young and it sort of goes to show how tough this league is. It is. To have a sweep of anybody in the Big Ten, you should be proud because that's really hard to do."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's ice hockey team has been dubbed the comeback kids, especially following its three most recent games. No matter how far behind, the Nittany Lions battle back. Although each game has had its differences, one thing remained constant. The team found inspiration in its goalie, PJ Musico.
Coming in for relief during both Northern Michigan games, Musico led the Blue and White to a comeback win and a comeback tie. Those two performances showed head coach Guy Gadowsky that the senior was ready to make his first start of the season. The following weekend, Musico was once again a source of strength for the Lions as he put on a 33-save performance in a win at the Wells Fargo Center.
"PJ absolutely deserved that start because of what he's done individually, and then what he's done for the team," said Gadowsky. "Coming into those two situations, down three goals, and playing very well and shutting the door but also inspiring the team to go on and win one and tie the other, I think he absolutely deserves to start. It was great to see him play such a strong game. I mean, he's hot right now. It's a good thing for our team."
With two other goaltenders on the roster, Musico has not seen as much playing time, so he is more than excited to finally get this opportunity. Nevertheless, the goalie always puts his team first. No matter who is in net, the senior only wants what is best for the Nittany Lions.
In five appearances this season, Musico has earned a .926 save percentage and is allowing an average of 2.23 goals. He has been playing some of his best hockey, but the goalie still makes sure to take things one day at a time.
"I think I've said it before, I'm a pretty big day-to-day guy," Musico said. "Try to just focus on what you can control at that moment, making sure you're always trying to get better each day and whenever you do get that nod, you've got to be ready."
Every goalie has his own style, but Musico's is vastly different from the Lions' other two netminders. He is not afraid to come out of the net to play the puck. In fact, Musico prides himself on that part of his game and is often found along the boards as opposed to in the crease.
The goalie has practiced his puck handling abilities all his life. Growing up with idols like Marty Brodeur and Partick Roy made him want to be the best in that area of goaltending, and that passion for playing the puck as a child carried over into the way he defends the net today.
"The running joke back home is that I would rather be a forward from guys that have grown up playing with me," Musico said. "I have fun playing the puck. I know that our defensemen love it. One of the reasons I do play the puck so much is to take a little bit of the bumps and bruises off of them for pucks in the corner. If I can make their job easier, they're making my job easier. I enjoy it."
Looking ahead to this weekend, Musico and the Lions (13-7-4) will take on Wisconsin (2-16-4) for the second time this season. Penn State swept the Badgers in the first meeting between the teams, but the goalie knows this series will be a much different set of games.
Both teams have grown over the past two months.
"Obviously Wisconsin's been having a different year than they usually have been in the past years," said the goalie. "So, I'm definitely aware of the situation I should say, and I definitely don't think it will be as easy of a weekend as we had there earlier in the year. I mean, obviously come Friday we're going to be ready to play. We're going to focus on Friday, but we'll just kind of take it from there."
Musico will make his second start of the season on Friday night against the Badgers, looking to go undefeated in his fourth consecutive game. Both Gadowsky and the team have tremendous faith in the goalie's abilities, and they think yet another strong outing is inevitable.
"I think it's impossible to take him out of the net right now," Gadowsky said. "It's impossible."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With just over three minutes left in Saturday's game, the Penn State men's hockey team desperately tried to get the go-ahead goal as it took on No. 15 Vermont in the City of Brotherly Love.
As "We Are" chants erupted among the 11,674 fans packed inside the Wells Fargo Center, Ricky DeRosa moved the puck back to David Thompson at the point. Thompson ripped a shot that flew past the Catamount goaltender and put the Lions up, 3-2.
The goal, which was Thompson's first collegiate tally, ultimately decided the game. The Blue and White (13-7-4) defeated UVM (15-9-2) in the third annual College Hockey Faceoff thanks to the late score set up by two Philadelphia natives playing in front of their hometown crowd.
"I think it's pretty awesome, but we're roommates too, which is pretty funny," said DeRosa. "That's a play that we used to run. You know, we were both here in the summer, so we just practiced all the time me getting the puck quick, turning and ripping to Dave, then going to the net. It's something we definitely have been going over, but we just like to shoot pucks on net and usually good things happen."
The team totaled 39 shots throughout the three periods and scored three of its four goals in the final frame. Headed into the third, the Lions worked to complete yet another comeback. They were down by one, until a Scott Conway power play goal evened the scoring at two.
Almost 13 minutes later, knowing the game in Philadelphia could be on his stick, Thompson stuck to the Penn State hockey mentality. He took the pass from DeRosa and shot.
"As a team we just really like to shoot pucks," Thompson said. "So, I just knew that it was late in the game, and I just wanted to get it on net. We contribute in different ways on this team, but obviously it's always good to get some offense from the back end, which is how you make a complete team and a dynamic team come together."
The sophomore's goal marks only the third scored by a defenseman this season. With dominant, productive forwards like Casey Bailey, who notched his team leading 18th goal in Saturday's win, the lack of points from the blueliners has not been a concern for the Lions.
Nevertheless, head coach Guy Gadowsky was more than happy to see a defenseman nab the game-winner, especially a defenseman from Philadelphia.
"We've been waiting, and it was nice," Gadowsky said of the goal. "We got one recently from [Nate] Jensen, but a huge one right now from Thompson, a Philly kid who scores the game winner at Wells Fargo. It doesn't get much better than that."
With the crowd on their side, the Lions added one more, an empty-netter from David Goodwin, to seal the 4-2 win. The Penn State faithful only added to the team's overall experience in Philadelphia, and the overwhelming support certainly helped fuel the comeback.
"We love it for a couple reasons," Gadowsky said of playing in the Wells Fargo Center. "One, it's a tremendous facility, absolutely tremendous. It's fun any time you get to play in an NHL building, but we have such great alumni here that love Penn State and love what we do. To come and get a chance to play away from Pegula Ice Arena but have such a great crowd and a passionate Penn State crowd is awesome."
"The fan base we have supporting us everywhere we go - Penn State students, alumni - is just unbelievable," added DeRosa. "I mean, especially to combine that with family and friends, that's why we love coming here every year. It's a great experience."