Recently in Men's Hockey Category

VIDEO: Pegula Ice Arena Playing Surface Set for Year Two

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The playing surface inside Pegula Ice Arena was a hub of activity on Wednesday as a crew worked to paint the lines and center logo in preparation for the 2014-'15 season.

Led Chris Whittemore, head of facilities management at Pegula Ice Arena, the line painting on the surface took roughly four to six hours, while the intricate process of putting the ice back into the arena takes a few days before it is at the ideal thickness for competition.

Whittemore said the crew of six to eight people installs four to five layers of water (ice) before applying three coats of white paint. Another five to six layers of water are added before the lines, logo and creases are painted. From there, the crew seals the playing surface before adding an inch to an inch and a half of ice to build thickness, a process that takes three to four days. The ice then strengthens over time as more skating takes place on the surface.

Penn State's second season inside the sparkling facility begins in the fall.







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2014 Coaches Caravan Day VIII - East Stroudsburg & Lehigh Valley

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VIDEO: Highlights from Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

East Stroudsburg Photo Gallery | Lehigh Valley Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration


BETHLEHEM, Pa. - The 2014 Coaches Caravan rolled through East Stroudsburg and the Lehigh Valley on the penultimate day of the 17-stop tour through the region.

Wednesday's lunch stop was a special one for head football coach James Franklin, who returned to his alma mater, East Stroudsburg University.  Head coaches Rob Cooper (baseball), Guy Gadowsky (men's hockey) and Mark Pavlik (men's volleyball) joined Franklin in East Stroudsburg.  Nittany Lion basketball coach Patrick Chambers paid a visit to the Lehigh Valley event on Wednesday evening.  Take a look through highlights of the eighth day on the road.


Stop No. 15 - East Stroudsburg (East Stroudsburg University)


 
Coach Franklin returned to his old stomping grounds for the first stop on Wednesday.  When the Fullington tour bus exited Interstate 80 it moved past the Budget Motel, which is owned by Barth Rubin.  Rubin is the man who provided the financial backing for Franklin's scholarship to play football at East Stroudsburg.

Franklin recognized Rubin as the man who provided the opportunity to kick-start his playing and coaching careers.  A 1995 graduate from ESU (psychology), Franklin was a four-year letterman at quarterback and a two-time All-PSAC selection at East Stroudsburg. He set seven school records as a senior to earn team MVP honors and was a Harlon Hill Trophy nominee as the NCAA Division II Player of the Year. Among the records he set were for total offense (3,128 yards), passing yards (2,586) and touchdown passes (19).

"It's awesome to be home.  Since we got the job, it's been great to be able to get back here on a couple of occasions," Franklin said.  "I just felt like this made a lot of sense for the Coaches Caravan to visit.  And I thought it would be great for one of our state institutions and a place I am really proud of.  I'm glad that we were able to be here."

caravan_esu_1.jpgFranklin played under legendary head coach Denny Douds, who spent some time with Franklin on Wednesday during the Caravan stop.  Douds has been at ESU for 37 years.

"Denny has been a father figure to me for a very long time," Franklin said.  "Denny has been a mentor as a father and a mentor professionally."

"The thing that makes James special is his passion for what he does," Douds said.  "He cares so much about everything he does."

In the shadows of Eiler-Martin Stadium, more than 100 Penn State and East Stroudsburg alums filled Mattioli Recreation Center to hear from Franklin and the other Penn State head coaches on Wednesday.

"To think 20 years ago that I would be sitting here in this position right now, I would have had no idea," Franklin said.  "I think what we did do is wake up every single morning and try to be the best we could possibly be, learn and ask a lot of questions.  I've always been a passionate, driven, motivated guy."

caravan_esu_2.jpgCooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik each took time during their speeches to honor Franklin during his visit to his alma mater.   

"It's really cool to see the imprint Coach Franklin is going to leave on Pennsylvania football," Cooper said.

At the conclusion of the event, East Stroudsburg president Marcia Welsh presented Coach Franklin with a resolution of recognition for his career accomplishments.  The recognition was voted on by the board of governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

The Coaches Caravan bus paid a visit to Rudy's Tavern in East Stroudsburg before the group left town.  Franklin treated the group to the infamous pork roll and cheese sandwiches at Rudy's, one of his college favorites.

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Stop No. 16 - Bethlehem (Sands Bethlehem Event Center)


 
Nearly 600 fans were treated to a show inside the Sands Bethlehem Event Center on Wednesday night.  For the first time in the Caravan's three-year history, five head coaches were on stage for the festivities at stop No. 16.  After the introductions, Coach Chambers was the leadoff man to get the crowd fired up.

"I'm saying this right now.  This is going to be the best night of the Caravan," Chambers yelled.

As the crowd rose to its feet, the tunes of Pharrell Williams's "Happy" began playing.  From there, Chambers moved away from the podium and began dancing to the beat across the stage.  The other coaches on stage and the fans in the crowd erupted.

caravan_lv_1.jpgChambers is made for the Coaches Caravan setting.  He loves interacting with the crowd, and he has a knack for filling the room with energy every time he steps to the microphone.  The leader of Nittany Lion basketball spoke about the progress the program made during the 2013-'14 season, including a sweep of Ohio State for the first time since 1998.

Additionally, Chambers said that he lived in Allentown 20 years ago when he started in the workforce.  He was a medical salesman with his home region being in the Lehigh Valley.  Chambers also hinted at a possible Penn State hoops game in December at the PPL Center in Allentown, which is slated to open in the fall.

The first speech closed with Chambers urging the crowd to show unrivaled support for Coach Franklin and the Nittany Lions inside Beaver Stadium.

"Let's make sure Beaver Stadium is packed every single time his team takes the field in the fall," Chambers said.

With the sports season rapidly coming to a close, the 2014-'15 campaign is just around the corner.  Fan support in Beaver Stadium provides an atmosphere unlike anything else on campus.  The same is true for each venue in Happy Valley.  Success on the field of play is a byproduct of a number of factors, and the fan atmosphere is a big piece.

"You guys create more passion and more pride than any other University in the world," Gadowsky said.

caravan_lv_2.jpgIn true hockey player form, Gadowsky closed out the speech at his final stop in the Caravan by ripping out his front tooth and screaming into the microphone.

"Get to Beaver Stadium and rock that joint!" Gadowsky said.

Coach Franklin walked to the podium to a standing ovation.

"Now that is a hockey coach!" Franklin said.

It's rare to get the head coaches of football, men's basketball, men's hockey, baseball and men's volleyball in the same room.  The fans inside Sands enjoyed an evening of entertaining speeches.  The coaches feed off of a great crowd, and the Lehigh Valley fans were superb.

"The pride and passion within the Penn State fan base in unbelievable," Franklin said.  "All the success we are having is a credit to you."

The 17th and final stop of the 2014 Coaches Caravan will take place on Thursday evening at Penn State Behrend in Erie.  



Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles
Day VIII - 261 miles


Total - 1,760 miles


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Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2014 Coaches Caravan Day VII - Williamsport & Wilkes-Barre

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Williamsport Photo Gallery | Wilkes-Barre Photo Gallery | Coaches Caravan Registration


WILKES-BARRE - The final leg of the 2014 Penn State Coaches Caravan kicked off with a sold out lunch stop in Williamsport and a dinner event in Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday.

Week three will feature a new lineup of Penn State head coaches joining James Franklin on the road.  Baseball's Rob Cooper, men's hockey's Guy Gadowsky and men's volleyball's Mark Pavlik boarded the modified Fullington bus on Tuesday morning when it rolled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot shortly after 9:30 a.m.  Take a look through highlights of day seven on the Penn State Coaches Caravan.


Stop No. 13 - Williamsport (Pennsylvania College of Technology)


 
A sold out crowd of 270 Penn State fans filled the Field House on the Pennsylvania College of Technology campus for the first of five stops during week three.  What makes the Caravan so unique is the variety of head coaches who entertain the crowds.  With the addition of Cooper, Gadowsky and Pavlik to kick off this week, nine head coaches have now been a part of the 13 total stops.

Fresh off leading the Nittany Lion men's volleyball team to a 25-7 overall mark and a spot in the NCAA semifinals, Pavlik is on the Caravan for the third-straight year.  The men's volleyball squad battled eventual national champion Loyola to a 3-2 setback on Loyola's home floor during the semifinals.  That being said, Pavlik has firsthand experience of what a home crowd advantage can do for a team.  He can relate to Franklin's vision of a sold out stadium during every home game.

"I know what a great home crowd can do for a team.  We experienced it," Pavlik said.  "A sold out venue makes it so much more of a challenge for an away team."

williamsport_1.jpg Cooper, who finished up his first full season as head coach of the Nittany Lion baseball team on Saturday, addressed the sold out crowd following Pavlik.  The Lions made significant progress from 2013 to 2014, and Cooper is excited for what is ahead.

"Being a part of the Penn State family is unbelievable," Cooper said.  "This coaching fraternity is an amazing thing to be a part of."

It was fitting for Cooper's first stop to be in the home of the Little League World Series.  Cooper joked with the crowd that his two young sons both asked him immediately after being hired at Penn State if they could attend a game at the Little League World Series in August.

"Here we are in the epicenter of youth baseball," Cooper said.  "You know what it is like to be a part of a championship event...There are good things ahead (at Penn State)."

Gadowsky stepped to the microphone following Cooper.  Still fired up after his first season of leading the Nittany Lions inside Pegula Ice Arena, Gadowsky could not be more appreciative of what the fan base does for the men's hockey program.

"The atmosphere you created in Pegula made me a cool dad again (with my kids)," Gadowsky joked.

"The best part about Pegula is that it takes a little piece of Beaver Stadium and puts a roof over it," Gadowsky said.  "It's awesome.  I love being in there...The reason it is so addictive is because of Nittany Nation."

williamsport_2.jpgCoach Franklin headlined the 13th stop with the final speech of the afternoon.  The fan response to his message has been superb during all three weeks, and Tuesday's lunch was no exception.

"This has been great getting out here on the road and connecting with as many people as possible," Franklin said.

The bus moved east across the state to Wilkes-Barre for the first evening stop of the final leg.


Stop No. 14 - Wilkes-Barre (Genetti Hotel & Conference Center)


 
The second stop of the day took place inside Genetti Hotel & Conference Center downtown Wilkes-Barre.  Nearly 400 enthusiastic fans filled the Grand Ballroom on Tuesday night.  Luzerne County is home to more than 8,500 passionate Penn State alums.

Wilkes-Barre will forever have a place in Penn State hockey history.  Coach Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to their first victory as a Division I program on Oct. 13, 2012 against American International.  David Glen's goal 38 seconds into overtime sealed the first win.  That game took place inside Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre.

"Forever, this place will have a soft place in my heart," Gadowsky said.

wilkesbarre_2.jpgIn 2013-'14, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to three victories over Michigan and one over Ohio State during the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey.  The fans inside the room on Tuesday are excited about Penn State hockey's future, and Gadowsky's peers are tremendously impressed with the progress the program has made in such a short period of time.

"These coaches are ordinary people who do extraordinary things with their programs," Pavlik said.

"To compete in this conference, we need all of your support," Gadowsky said.

The fan base plays a paramount role in supporting all of Penn State's teams.  Pavlik, Cooper and Gadowsky each reminded the fans in attendance of what a full Beaver Stadium every Saturday in the fall does for their programs.  The atmosphere inside Beaver Stadium during a game before a sold out crowd speaks for itself.  The same is true for Pegula Ice Arena, Rec Hall and Medlar Field, in the case of the other coaches on the Caravan Tuesday night.

That being said, the Coaches Caravan is an opportunity for the coaches to not only talk about their programs, it is a way to say thank you to the fans for their support.  Like Coach Franklin has said throughout the Caravan, the people make Penn State special.

"Penn State is like a community...It gives us an opportunity to interact with you," Franklin said.

wilkesbarre_1.jpgFranklin took time to recognize offensive coordinator and tight ends coach John Donovan and passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, who were in the Wilkes-Barre area recruiting on Tuesday and stopped by the event to say hello to the fans.

The Caravan rolls into Coach Franklin's alma mater, East Stroudsburg, on Wednesday for lunch before an evening reception at the Sands in Bethlehem.
    



Miles Traveled:
Day I - 165 miles

Day II - 130 miles
Day III - 387 miles
Day IV - 175 miles
Day V - 245 miles

Day VI - 267 miles
Day VII - 130 miles


Total - 1,499 miles

caravan bus_williamsport.jpg

Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Gadowsky Sees Improvement at Season's End

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Not much has changed for men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky since the season ended. With the first season of Big Ten play under the program's belt, Gadowsky's demeanor and energy hasn't changed, nor has his level of excitement about the direction of the Nittany Lions' program.

Simply put, Gadowsky is anxious to start next season, and he's hungry for wins.


There were no "what ifs" when the bench boss reflected on the 2013-14 campaign, only "we did" and "we are." Since the season ended for the men in blue and white, Gadowsky has had a chance to sit in his office at Pegula Ice Arena and think about the moments and the plays that defined his second season at the helm of the Nittany Lions.

Although the season is technically over, Gadowsky knows it never really ends. There are still objectives, and dreams to pursue, and a team to get ready for another long season just a few months away.

GoPSUsports.com caught up with the head coach to talk about the season that was, and the future that is.

Battling The Best
On April 14, USCHO.com released their final poll for the 2013-14 season. Of the 20 teams ranked in the poll, the Nittany Lions played eight of them, including four of the top five. The tough schedule was a key component of their growth, and is something Gadowsky thinks will help prepare them for next season.

"This was our second year of Division I hockey and we played a tough, tough schedule," said Gadowsky. "The first year we played a smattering of games all over the board. Obviously, it wasn't our goal to play the second toughest strength of schedule in the nation this year. It just happened to worked out like that. It wasn't by design, but I think we learned a lot, and I think we really benefited from it.

"You can look at the games we played against the Big Ten- Minnesota was ranked No. 1 all year long - and team's like Boston College, who was a top-two team when we played them, and Union, who won the National Championship."

Penn State will need to continue to grow as a program considering the Big Ten Conference won't get any easier. The strength of the 2013-14 schedule will be extremely beneficial to the program as they move forward.


Focusing on Hockey
There were a lot of firsts for the Nittany Lions this season. Whether it was the first Big Ten season, the first of several games against ranked opponents, or the first season in Pegula Ice Arena, these players were still settling in and trying to refine their game under a bright spotlight.

Olczyk-Tommy (3).jpegNow that the Big Ten, ranked opponents, and Pegula Ice Arena are the norm, it will be nice to just focus on playing hockey and getting down the game plan from week to week.

"We are looking forward to playing at more consistent level earlier [next season]," Gadowsky said. "We had to get used to a new building. We moved into the building, had to learn how everything worked, and we had to get ready for opening [night]. There was a lot of buzz around it [the building] and that might sound simple but it was a little distracting. We are very hungry [for next season] and know we have to be ready to play a much more consistent hockey right off the bat."

Pegula Ice Arena is one of many advantages for the Nittany Lions and now that one season in the building under their belt, it is all about hockey from here on out.

Respecting the Process
Because of all of his experiences, Gadowsky knows exactly what goes into building a contender and contending in a tough conference. He has been through it before at previous coaching stops and he's pleased with the progress he has seen from his Nittany Lions.

"We have a long, long way to go and we will always have it in our minds that we need to continue to build our foundation," Gadowsky said. "That's very important to us. We respect the process; we also understand how important it is.

"We will always be cultivating the foundation of this program and making sure that we improve. That is what has made us good in the first place. That had to do with [our players and coaches] pulling the same way and that takes constant cultivation. It's not just like, 'okay we did that, now let's move on.' That's always going to be a focus."

Building a program takes time and effort. Gadowsky knows that all too well, and all signs point that this Penn State team is heading in the right direction.

Fan Base Connection
It's no secret that Pegula Ice Arena is a state-of-the-art arena with top-of-the-line fans. The arena sold out 17 of their 18 home games and every opponent commented on the exceptional supporters that fill the arena. The fans are what drove the team this year and Gadowsky said throughout the season that he believes they are the best fans in college hockey.

Goal_Celebration_Opening_Night_A-13-Army-MS_1919-1.jpg"It is fun to play in Pegula, I can't tell you that," said Gadowsky. "Playing games here is a blast and it's motivating, it's the most fun I have ever had coaching. I just love seeing the students dance, and dressed up and the amount of energy they bring. We love it and it is a big part of what makes Penn State such a great experience. You see it in other Big Ten venues, as well, but I'm optimistic that Penn State will be known for its fan base. I sure there is no better student body."

The connection between the team and their diehards is outstanding. Before, during, and after every game these guys know they have the support of their fans through it all. The fans inspire excellence from the team, and the team wants to give those fans an excellent product on the ice.

Taking Momentum Into Next Season
The 2014-15 season can't come fast enough for Gadowsky and his team. They are just six months away from the opening of the 2014-15 season in Pegula Ice Arena, and the energy around the program is still very high.

Before our chat ended with Gadowsky, we asked the coach to reflect on the season and where he thought Penn State hockey was as a program.


"We are thrilled with the improvement we made last season," Gadowsky said. "We're really happy with the vast improvement that we had from the start of the year. It was a unique year; it was a really fun year. We moved into Pegula Ice Arena, opened the building with a win and started play in a new conference. There are a lot of things that were new and exciting, but at the same time it was a challenge to make sure we stayed focused on what we had to do.

"We're thrilled with the improvements we've made, but are looking forward to being 100 percent hockey moving forward."

--NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions' Return Strong Nucleus

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - At his final press conference of the season, it was easy to hear the excitement in Guy Gadowsky's voice when the Penn State head coach talked about the group of players returning to the ice for the men's hockey program next season.

It's a strong group, one now filled with experience, desire and plenty of talent. Outside of senior Mike McDonagh, Gadowsky and his coaching staff expect to have back all 26 of the Nittany Lions with remaining eligibility and they believe they are set to build off their strong 2013 season.

"We lose a tremendous person in Mike McDonagh, but we don't have significant other losses," Gadowsky said. "I think that's encouraging. If we continue to improve individually and as a team, I think it's very safe to say that we should only expect to get better."

Ask any one of the Nittany Lions, be it a player or coach, and they will tell you the experiences they took away from this season will be part of what goes into the preparations for next season and the next 10 seasons.

Whether it is working hard against a team like No. 1 Minnesota or battling ranked opponent after ranked opponent, the Nittany Lions went through a lot of growing pains over the past two seasons and that will only help them moving forward.

"The biggest thing for us is to keep those lessons in mind," sophomore netminder Matt Skoff said. "It's good that over 90 percent of the team is coming back with those lessons learned. I think that when you have so many guys coming back the only way we can go from here is up."

Part of the key for the Nittany Lions heading into next season is to remember how hard they worked this season. The last few games Penn State played this year - a 4-2 win over Ohio State and a 2-1 double overtime win over Michigan - will be on the minds of the players as they start to cool down from this season and prepare for next.

"From the beginning, we didn't know what to expect entering a new league with such historic programs," Skoff said. "Now we know that we can play against all of them, we can compete; we can beat them on a night-to-night basis. I think that is what we have to prove next year. We proved at the end of the year that we can compete with anyone at the most important time of the year."

The core of the team is what defines Gadowsky's unit. Part of what makes them special is the leadership the men in blue and white discovered over the season. Student-athletes like Skoff, Tommy Olczyk, Nate Jensen, and David Glen all now know what it takes to be successful at this level. They have been through the ups-and-downs of a rigorous season and are now prepared to take them on again.

"At any level of hockey, experience counts for so much," Olczyk said. "Having guys on your team that have found a way to win big games, and just win games in general is big in college hockey. Whether they are conference or non-conference games, they are all still really important. Having a lot of guys in the locker room that know how to win is very key and experience and chemistry count for a lot, too."

With that experience, and the knowledge of how of how to prepare and compete, the Nittany Lions are armed with lessons learned. Those lessons will help them against the elite teams on their schedule next season, including the Big Ten opponents they will see on a yearly basis.

"We played ranked teams like UMass Lowell, Union, Boston College in our [non-conference games], and we were able to compete with those teams," Olczyk said. "So I think that gives us a great piece of mind moving into next year and the [results] we had in Big Ten play were very positive and something to build on moving forward."

It won't be long before Hockey Valley is piling back into Pegula Ice Arena to watch the Nittany Lions once again. The foundation is being built, and the right pieces are in place. The Nittany Lions' nucleus is strong and ready for whatever challenges may come.

"We still have a long way to go, but I feel it's a great start," Gadowsky said. "I thought the guys proved [they could be competitive] when they really played their game. When we perform at a high level we can go blow-for-blow with the best teams in the nation and that was extremely encouraging for our team and our coaching staff."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Postseason Press Conference - Players

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.- With their season wrapping up after an exciting trip to the Big Ten Tournament in St. Paul, Minn. the Penn State men's hockey program met with the media to wrap up the 2013-14 season. We caught up with some players and asked them about the season and what their success can do heading into the offseason.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

What To Watch: Big Ten Semifinals

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off their double-overtime win over No. 12  Michigan to open the Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament, the Penn State men's hockey team is now set to square off against No. 6 Wisconsin in the semifinals today at 3 p.m. 

The sixth-seeded Nittany Lions enter the game with a record of 8-25-2, while the second-seeded Badgers enter the game with a 22-10-2 record. The game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.

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Pregame Reading

What To Watch - Penn State
Shutdown Skoff: In yesterday's win, sophomore goalkeeper Matt Skoff played lights out for the Nittany Lions against the Wolverines, stopping a career-high 52 shots while keeping Michigan off the scoreboard for the game's final 41 minutes. In three starts against the Badgers, Skoff has recorded 86 saves - including 26 in an overtime loss the last time these two teams met on March 8.

Shoot To Score: Penn State comes into this game after recording a program-high 65 shots against the Wolverines. Casey Bailey led the charge with 11 rips on net, while four other Nittany Lions logged at least four shots of their own. In the four games vs. Wisconsin this season, Guy Gadowsky's squad improved their shot total game-by-game, putting 43 pucks on net in their last contest.

Holstrom Hitting A Stride: Redshirt junior Taylor Holstrom has been very effective as of late for the Nittany Lions. Over the last two games, the Yorba Linda, Calif., native has two goals on seven shots, 26 faceoff wins and continues to push the tempo on offense. He currently is third on the team in points with 17.

What to Watch - Wisconsin
Reliable Rumpel: Joel Rumple has been the man between the pipes for the Badgers this season and he has not disappointed. The junior goaltender has led his team to 19 wins this season, racked up 691 saves, and is second in the Big Ten conference with a .931 save percentage.  In four starts against the Nittany Lions this season Rumpel has registered 119 saves.

Quick To Assist: The Badgers main emphasis on offense this season has been their ability to effectively move the puck and generate scoring chances. They enter the Big Ten semifinal with 200 assists on the season, good for second in the conference behind only Minnesota's 210. Senior Mark Zengerle is Wisconsin's assist leader with 30 on the season.

Sound Defense: To go along with netminder Joe Rumpel, the Badger's defense has been a very stingy unit this season. They enter their contest with Penn State as the second-ranked team defense in the Big Ten allowing 2.50 goals per game. They are ranked first in the Big Ten in penalty killing, keeping opposing power play units off the scoreboard 83 percent of the time.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

 

Skoff Focused on One Game At A Time

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The regular season has come to an end for the Penn State men's hockey team, but that doesn't change much for Guy Gadowsky's team and goalie Matt Skoff. For the men in blue and white, the Big Ten Tournament is just another opportunity to collect some wins.

Since their win over Ohio State on Saturday night, the Nittany Lions have been preparing to travel to Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul, Minn., for the first inaugural Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament. It's a one-and-done situation for all six teams, and the Nittany Lions will matchup against No. 12 Michigan in today's opening round.

When postseason action comes around, some teams and players will change their thinking and start to focus on the tournament as a whole, but not these Nittany Lions. They are only looking at their contest against the Wolverines.  

"We have to just focus on our objectives," Skoff said. "We don't change the way we play for anyone, so no matter if it was Michigan or any other team in the Big Ten, we don't change the way we play."

Skoff was echoing the sentiment from his head coach. Penn State has seen Michigan four times this year, but they are only focused on this matchup. Skoff hasn't even thought about his shutout against the Wolverines 40 days ago. Nope, the sophomore goaltender and his team know it's all about this game.

"I'm not even thinking about [the shutout]," Skoff said. "I'm just worried about keeping them off the scoreboard and doing what I have to do to help my team win.

"I think you have to take it as just another game. At end of the day, we're playing Michigan again, so it's nothing out of the ordinary. We've played them before and we've had early games before, as well, so that's good. It is a bit of a short week which is a bit out of routine, but I don't think that will affect us."

Over the course of the season, Skoff has gained the trust of his head coach and there was no hesitation when Gadowsky and his staff thought about a starter in net for this weekend. The McKees Rocks, Pa., native has played well all season and earned the chance to start in net, according to his coach.

"We're going with Matt Skoff," Gadowsky said at his Tuesday press conference. "We made that determination after the season based on results. As always, we look at how you are as a teammate, your work ethic, your commitment to yourself as an athlete, and Penn State University, and our program. But he also has the results to back up the decision."

Skoff is the only Nittany Lion goalie with a win to his name this season, and his 572 saves are the most on the team. The sophomore goalie reiterated how excited but focused he is for this opportunity when he met with the media.

"It's nice to that the coaches have the confidence in me," Skoff said. "I know it's been a long year; it's been a battle between all three of us. That being said, I just have to focus on what I have to do to get the team a win just like any other game that I would start."

One of the x-factors in this game is the experience against Michigan and the fact that the game is in a National Hockey League arena. Skoff has experience in these arenas, and although his coach doesn't know if that affects much, he knows Skoff's overall experience - including in NHL buildings - can only be helpful for his goalie.

"I don't know [if experience in NHL buildings matters.] I wouldn't feel any differently if we were playing in a college arena," Gadowsky said. "He would be our choice regardless of who we are going against.

"I think all his experience helps. I mean [experience in NHL buildings] will help. He certainly has had that experience, but he has also won huge games against great opponents. Whether it's Pegula Ice Arena, on the road or on neutral ice in a NHL building, I think he'll play well."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions Closes Out Regular Season In Style

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions wrapped up their regular season with a 4-2 Big Ten victory over Ohio State on a special day for the men in blue and white and their lone senior, Mike McDonagh.

It was a sellout crowd and the energy was high in Pegula Ice Arena and head coach Guy Gadowsky's squad was hungry for a win after falling in the series opener. They scored two early goals and with the Buckeyes on their heels, never took their foot off the gas.

On the day the Nittany Lions were celebrating the career of McDonagh, the team captured the energy of the senior forward and left everything on the ice. One of those players, in particular, was Nate Jensen.

Over the weekend the defenseman made his first appearance on the ice since suffering an injury in early February. He scored the first goal of the game, and assisted on two others, marking his first career three-point game.

"He played well and it's very tough to be out [injured] that long and come back like that," Gadowsky said. "Tonight he was skating hard. [He had] a tremendous goal, and a couple of nice assists to go with it. He was making very calm passes right on the tape and it's great to have him back."

After looking tentative in the series opener - his first night back in 42 days - it was clear that Jensen found his swagger and helped lift the Nittany Lions to a win in the regular season finale.

"I got my touch back," Jensen said. "I got my confidence back [on Saturday]. The game was a lot slower for me tonight and it just felt good out there.

"There was just a buzz in the locker room before the game. You knew the guys are ready to play and we were going to come out flying. As soon as the puck dropped, I knew we were going to win that game."

Throughout the game, Penn State was clearly setting the tone and keeping their speed up. They manufactured strong offensive possessions and were putting pucks on sticks with their passes, a recipe for success for any hockey team.

It's small things like passing crisply that the team has been working on throughout the year and developing as a part of their game. Captain Tommy Olczyk knows how hard his team has had to work to earn a win like this, and he couldn't be more proud.

"It's [winning as a young program] isn't easy and our guys have done a good job of keeping each other focused this season," said Olczyk. "Thankfully you don't have to have a letter on your chest to be a leader. [Patrick] Koudys and [Matthew] Skoff have been two of the more vocal guys and we need guys like that. We have learned a lot from up to this point and I believe we can play with anyone. We've proved that to ourselves and moving forward that will be a big key."

Along with Jensen, the Nittany Lions got goals from Curtis Loik, Olczyk, and Taylor Holstrom. It was a complete team effort to earn the victory, and it sets the Nittany Lions up for a good week of practice before the Big Ten Tournament this weekend. According to Gadowsky, however, the whole season has set the team up for success next weekend, not just this one game.

"In my mind, [the win over Ohio State] is not what is spring-boarding us," he said. "The future success that we have comes from a lot of hard lessons and was a lot of hard work along the way that's helped us improve."

As we close the doors on the 2013-14 regular season, the progress and improvements made by this team have tremendous. The Nittany Lions have improved day-by-day, and it's fitting they end with a win.

"I think it's a fitting ending because of how far we have come," Gadowsky said. "We have improved in a lot of areas and this was a great win for us. It's also very fitting for McDonagh to go out a winner. He's a great guy who has meant so much to this program and I'm really happy for him."


They now turn their attention to Michigan, as they prepare for their first round game in the 2014 Big Ten Men's Hockey Tournament in St. Paul, Minn.


"We're still trying to improve every day," Gadowsky said. "We have three more practices to improve before we head to the Big Ten Tournament. We feel good about ourselves and it's nice to have a good result and a fairly good performance going into the postseason."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

LIVE BLOG: Men's Hockey hosts Ohio State

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