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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.

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

Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota

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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 close their series against the University of Minnesota. The game is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (2/21)

Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota

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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 against the University of Minnesota. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

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

THON and the Roar Zone Inspire the Lions as Minnesota Comes to Town

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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."


Lions Look Ahead Following Weekend in East Lansing

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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."

Autio's Adjustments Spark Success

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
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."

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Depth Key in Lions' Season Sweep of the Badgers

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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."

Men's Hockey Blog - PSU vs. UW (2/7)

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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 University of Wisconsin. The game is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Wisconsin (2/7)

Men's Hockey Blog - PSU vs. UW (2/6)

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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 take on the University of Wisconsin as they return to Big Ten play. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Blog - Penn State vs. Wisconsin (2/6)