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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."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For two years, Tommy Olczyk captained the Penn State men's hockey team. He wore the "C" for the first Division I game in Greenberg Ice Pavilion, and he wore it again as the Nittany Lions took the ice for their first game inside their new home, Pegula Ice Arena.
This year, however, there is not an extra letter on the front of Olczyk's jersey. He is no longer a captain, as the "C" was given to senior defenseman Patrick Koudys, but the lack of a letter means little to Olczyk. He knows his place on the team and remains one of the Lions' most effective leaders both on and off the ice.
"He, in my mind, is as much of a leader as he's ever been," said head coach Guy Gadowsky. "Part of the thought process of making the change is to have a great example that you don't need a letter to be a very strong leader. I think it's paid dividends. I really think it's created a more inclusive atmosphere in the locker room."
Olczyk's example has had a major effect on the entire team, as others have realized they too can step up and take leadership roles. For instance, Gadowsky has noticed individuals like David Goodwin, Eric Scheid and Taylor Holstrom all speak to the team when necessary. More importantly, when these forwards talk, everyone listens.
The coach believes this increased comfort level to speak up and have a voice on the team may have emerged due to Olczyk's leadership this season. The forward understood the decision to change captains from the moment it was made, especially because he is more aware of team dynamics and the big picture than most having grown up around hockey at the highest levels.
In a way, Olczyk has also benefitted from the change. He is relaxed in his game and is enjoying Penn State hockey more than ever before.
"On the ice and off the ice, this is the most fun I've had playing hockey in a long time and being part of the team," said Olczyk. "I think it was the right decision. I mean, you see what we're doing this year as a team. I think Dice [Koudys] is definitely the guy for the job. He's an animal on the ice, and he's done a great job with our team, especially with the help of Jense [Nate Jensen] and Glener [David Glen], but as far as personally, I still haven't changed anything about the way I play.
"I may be a little more loose and goofy around the locker room now. I'm definitely not as serious as I was, but I think it's for the better. Everything happens for a reason, and like I said, this is the most fun I've had playing hockey in a while."
The fun Olczyk is having can also be attributed to the accomplishments the Lions have experienced in their short time as a Division I program. No one expected this team to perform at a high level this quickly, but Olczyk and his teammates believe in Penn State hockey and believe in what they can achieve together.
That strength and passion for their team has brought them to where they are today.
"I told him [Gadowsky] when I was here on my visit when I look back when I'm done five, ten, fifteen years down the road, I want to be proud of what I personally left behind and what I helped all these guys leave behind," Olczyk said. "When I'm an alumni one day, this team is going to win a national championship. Not saying we're not going to do it soon while I'm here, not saying that at all. I'm just saying it's going to happen when I'm not at this school, that this university's going to win a NCAA hockey championship, and I am going to be ecstatic that I was once a part and helped to start this."
If the Lions continue to play with determination the way they have all season, the team has a chance of reaching the NCAA tournament. In order to do that, the Blue and White have to buckle down and take each game one at a time, starting with Saturday's matchup against No. 15 Vermont at the Wells Fargo Center.
For the third consecutive year, the two teams will go head to head in the College Hockey Faceoff. In last year's game, the Lions blew a two-goal lead, falling to the Catamounts, 5-2. Olczyk and the Lions are not looking back on that game. This Penn State team is too different.
"I think every game at this point of the year is a showdown," said Olczyk. "We want to win every game. We want to give ourselves the best opportunity possible to make the NCAA tournament, and more so probably at this point of the season, every game is crucial. But at the same time, Vermont obviously is having a good year, but we're not going to change the way we play. I'm sure coach has said it, but we don't change our game depending on our opponent. We play Penn State hockey all the time. Come Saturday afternoon, it's just going to be another one of the games playing Penn State hockey."
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When a team is down by three goals in a game, it usually finishes on the losing side; however, that is a thought the Penn State men's hockey team refuses to accept. When the Nittany Lions are down, they dig deep and never give up.
This fighting mentality is exactly what led the Lions (12-7-4, 5-2-1-0 B1G) to battle back from three-goal deficits in consecutive games against Northern Michigan (9-9-6, 6-8-4 WCHA). The team emerged victorious on Friday after four straight goals and forced a 5-5 tie on Saturday.
A Casey Bailey tally late in the second period sparked Friday night's comeback. Entering the third, the Lions were only down by two, and they were ready to score.
Just over three minutes into the start of the period, forward Dylan Richard brought the Nittany Lions within one when he scored a short-handed goal. With two more goals by David Glen and Scott Conway in the final seven minutes of the game, the Blue and White were able to roar back and take down the Wildcats, 5-4.
"That's playing with fire," said Richard of playing from behind. "That's really something we cannot keep doing because as the season goes on, we might not be able to keep that up. We really need to get away from that and not take any shifts, periods off and play a whole game."
Even with the team desperate to get away from playing from behind, the Lions found themselves in a hole once again Saturday afternoon. For the second day in a row, the team was down, 4-1, but this time head coach Guy Gadowsky was not upset with the efforts.
A few bad bounces in the first left the Lions trailing by three. They pulled within two, bringing the score to 3-1, but gave up a goal to widen the margin to three once more.
"I thought we were still playing very, very, very well, and I think the guys knew that," said Gadowsky. "They just sort of had faith that if they kept playing the way they played that we had a chance to score goals, and they did. I feel good about this game."
Again, the Lions rallied and used the atmosphere inside Pegula Ice Arena to their advantage.
Leading the way for Penn State was Eric Scheid. The forward, who played a phenomenal game on Friday night, was once again on fire. A pair of goals, one of which was short handed, helped inch his team closer to a win, and his final point of the night, an assist on Richard's tying goal, completed the second comeback in as many days.
"Right now, he's playing at a different speed than everybody else," Gadowsky said of Scheid. "I mean, he just, I don't know how. Honestly, it's like he just plays at a different level right now, and his speed is phenomenal. He's, boy, he's something to watch. When he's skating like he's skating now, he's incredibly dangerous."
A physical third period was not enough to declare a winner, so the two teams battled in overtime. Following the extra five minutes, the Lions and Wildcats remained tied at 5 goals each. The teams participated in an exhibition shootout, in which the Blue and White fell to Northern Michigan, 3-2.
In both games, goaltender PJ Musico was called off the bench to relieve his teammates, and in both games, Musico put on a dazzling performance.
"He kept us in there," said Gadowsky of the goaltender. "He gave us a spurt, like he gave us a bit of a kick in the pants and made a huge save right out of the gate and then a few huge ones later. I mean, I just give that guy a lot of credit. He's a great athlete, I think that's really his biggest attribute but he loves mental challenges and boy, we needed him tonight. He was exceptional."
Musico, who has only played in four games this season, grabbed his first win of the year on Friday. He stopped all 11 shots he faced and carried that momentum into his performance on Saturday.
In his second appearance of the weekend, Musico saved 19 of 21 shots and even registered an interference penalty. The goalie's name was all over the box score, and his efforts truly made all the difference.
"A lot of people say it's tough, but I try not to really focus too much on that," said Musico of being called off the bench. "I just kind of go out and play and have fun. Having fun is something that I've always really stressed with myself."
Known for his humor and personality, Musico brings much more to this Penn State squad than solid goaltending. His positive attitude is something the team and Gadowsky do not take for granted. He is someone that makes everyone on the team better.
"You have a real soft place for him, and he has taken a very interesting road," Gadowsky said. "He loves Penn State. He just loves this university so much, and he wants to give so much. The culture of the team and the environment of the team is just so important, and he's a guy that is in a tough position and he makes it fun. He's got a great attitude, and he comes in and is able to perform under the hardest of circumstances."
Start Toward Overcoming Shootout Struggles
For the fourth time this season, the Lions participated in a shootout. Although the team once again fell to its opponent, it is clear that Penn State is making strides in this area of the game.
Both Scheid and defenseman Peter Sweetland scored to keep the Lions alive. The shootout went to four rounds, which is the best performance the team has had this season.
"I haven't been doing too well picking guys, as you've probably noticed," Gadowsky said. "So, Skoffer [Matthew Skoff] and Eamon [McAdam] picked the shooters, and they did a whole lot better than I did. They're the ones that get shot on every day."
Looking Ahead - Philly Bound
Next up for the Lions is a game at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, home of the Flyers. This will be the third consecutive year the Lions will take on Vermont in the College Hockey Faceoff.
The game is set to begin Saturday at 1 p.m.
By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sitting in the stands at Pegula Ice Arena, fans watch as sophomore David Goodwin appears on the jumbotron. As his voice echoes through the stands, he introduces himself as the "other" guy that plays on a line with Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom, two current Hobey Baker nominees. While many chuckle at the forward's joke, his teammates and coaches know those words could not be farther from the truth.
Goodwin is much more than the "other" guy to this Penn State hockey team. He is a key component of the Lion's offense, a key component of the trio that is Bailey, Holstrom and Goodwin and a key component of his line's success this season.
In the past four games alone, the top line combined for 20 points. Of those points, eight belong to Goodwin, who scored four goals and notched four assists. With so much offense coming from the three, it's easy for the sophomore, Bailey and Holstrom to stir up some friendly competition with one another.
"It's kind of like an unsaid competition almost," said Goodwin. "When you're playing with other guys who like to score, we have a phrase. Iron sharpens iron. When you're playing with each other, you're making each other better, so obviously there's going to be some competition. You ask me, Holy or Bailey, we're all going to say the same thing that we don't really care who scores as long as our line is producing and not getting scored on."
Goodwin is currently third on the team in points, behind only Bailey and Holstrom. However, his 10 goals and 12 assists come with a plus-10 rating on the ice, which is best among the Nittany Lions. In fact, the sophomore has not been a minus player in a game since the team's Dec. 6 matchup in Wisconsin.
Last weekend specifically, the sophomore's play earned him recognition in the Big Ten. Goodwin was named the conference's second star of the week following the Michigan State series, but the forward was quick to call the award a line honor. He knows all too well the importance of thinking and playing with a team mentality.
"I wouldn't be able to do any of that if it wasn't for Casey or Taylor," said the sophomore of his success. "It's a good accolade, but the credit goes to my linemates. They're the reason I'm getting these easy goals, back door tap ins and assists. I'm honored that I received it, but at the end of the day it's about the three of us, not just myself."
While Goodwin may look at the recognition as a line award, head coach Guy Gadowsky is pleased to see the forward finally getting credit for his efforts. Sometimes overshadowed by his linemates, Goodwin's impressive on-ice vision can be overlooked by the causal fan. He's a playmaker, something Gadowsky knows fully.
"David Goodwin got the puck and Casey Bailey was in such an easy position," Gadowsky explained of a goal-scoring play during the Michigan State series. "I think everybody in the rink knew that was a simple pass, and he has such a good vision in his mind that he went all the way across crease to Taylor [Holstrom]. That's a really high-level, quick-thinking play. It was really great to see. Taylor ended up, I mean the goaltender made a great save, but it went to Bailey for a goal. But he does things like that that really make a huge difference. Sometimes he doesn't get enough credit, so it's nice to see."
No matter the team, the top line is confident it can still contribute. Goodwin, Bailey and Holstrom truly believe they can take on any defense and any forward line. They're working hard, playing an honest game and doing what they love, scoring goals.
Playing with linemates like Bailey and Holstrom has also provided Goodwin with numerous opportunities to learn and grow as a college hockey player. Together, the three are confident in their abilities, and the sophomore is using this experience to soak up as much as he can from his teammates.
"They've been very instrumental in my success I've had this year and my development," Goodwin said. "Just every day in practice getting the opportunity to skate next to them and learn from them, just kind of talk to them in between periods and pick their brains about some of their past experiences. They've both been playing college hockey a little bit longer than I have, so it's been great. I've been very fortunate to have linemates like them, and I'm very proud to be on their line."
While some may consider Goodwin to be the "other" guy on the top line, his play speaks for itself. He is doing and will continue to do big things for Penn State hockey.