By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writers
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a home sweep of Wisconsin last weekend, the Penn State men's hockey team (15-4-3, 5-1-0 Big Ten) is looking forward to its first conference road trip of the season, facing Ohio State (6-12-2, 1-3-2 Big Ten) in Columbus. This weekend's games are vital for the Nittany Lions as they inch closer towards the stretch run of the season.
While head coach Guy Gadowsky constantly raves about how good of a home ice advantage the Roar Zone gives his team, the Nittany Lions will be without their most vocal and loyal fans this weekend. Instead, the Nittany Lions will need to manufacture their own energy.
"I think it's something I believe that the guys are sort of looking forward to the challenge," said Gadowsky on playing in Columbus this weekend. "We love playing in Pegula, we love the Roar Zone, they're huge for us, they're huge for enjoyment, they're huge for motivation, I think they've been a big part of the strong home ice advantage we have and the strong home record."
The Nittany Lions are 11-3-1 at home this season, and went 13-2-3 at home during the 2014-15 campaign. In contrast, the Nittany Lions are 2-0-2 on the road this season, and look to improve on that record this weekend.
"I think any time you play in the Big Ten it's going to be hard, whether it's home or on the road and I think if you want to be a good team you have to learn how to win on the road," said Gadowsky.
Senior forward Curtis Loik knows that any away game is an opportunity for the team to focus in on what the team refers to as a "business trip." Away games allow for players to focus in on their task at hand, rather than all the distractions game day at home can provide.
Rather than be entranced by the Roar Zone's chants, or the blaring of "Timber" through the speakers, being behind enemy lines provides an atmosphere of work instead of play.
Loik mentioned that although home games are a different atmosphere, each player enters every game with the same level of seriousness, whether on the road or not.
"You have to come to each game with the same mentality," said Loik. "It's a challenge on the road but we're going to get there early, get ready and be prepared for Ohio State."
As the season digs deeper into conference play, matchups become more important for rankings and the possibility of a post-season, especially seeding in the Big Ten Tournament.
Last March, the Buckeyes ended the Nittany Lions' season by defeating Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, 3-1.
Penn State has faced Ohio State 10 times in its short history as a varsity program, and has come out on top three times. Gadowsky is confident that after this weekend the Nittany Lions will be closer to evening the record.
The Nittany Lions look forward to putting all their hard work to use this weekend, and come home with two vital wins.
"Every game is a business trip for us," said Loik. "Each one of these games coming to the end of the season, it's so important for the rankings and for our personal success, so it's going to be a big weekend for us."
Penn State takes on Ohio State on Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 7 p.m. in Columbus.
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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writers
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the third-straight series, the No. 15 Penn State men's hockey team (15-4-3, 5-1-0-0 Big Ten) swept the Wisconsin Badgers (4-10-6, 1-5-2-1 Big Ten). On Friday night, the Nittany Lions won in a dramatic 4-3 overtime win, while Saturday's game ended 4-1 in favor of the Blue and White.
Senior forward Eric Scheid made his mark during the third period of Saturday's game, notching two goals against his father's former team.
Scheid's father, Jim, played varsity hockey at Wisconsin between 1977 and 1981.
"It's pretty awesome," said Scheid of his two-goal game. "I think any time you score a goal it's going to be great but obviously it's a little special place in my heart for Wisconsin with my parents both going there. It was nice to have my mom here to be able to see it and overall it was a great weekend for us."
Scheid found the back of the net twice during Saturday's contest, while also picking up an assist on senior forward Curtis Loik's first period goal.
Freshman forward Andrew Sturtz also had a hard-hitting weekend. Known for putting his whole heart out on the ice, Sturtz scored two goals over the weekend, one during Friday's contest and another during Saturday's matchup.
Sturtz's goal on Saturday was the game-winner.
"[David Goodwin] battled through and then I found the puck great slot and I put a little toe drag on the first defender and I just saw the opening up top, short side, and let it fly and the puck went in," said Sturtz.
On the opposite end of the ice, head coach Guy Gadowsky remained confident of both his starting goaltenders throughout the weekend. Senior Matt Skoff and junior Eamon McAdam split time over the weekend between the pipes.
Friday night's contest saw a change in the typical goaltender rotation, as senior Matt Skoff got the nod in net for the Nittany Lions. Skoff made 22 saves and improved his record to 6-2-3 this year.
On Saturday, junior Eamon McAdam (day-to-day with a lower body injury heading into the weekend) returned to the lineup and made 39 saves in front of family and friends who were in attendance.
Gadowsky made it clear that McAdam's injury was not a problem, and that the coaching staff and trainers would not have allowed him to play had he not been fully prepared physically.
Gadowsky also noted that if it isn't broken don't fix it, in regards to continuing the rotation of starting goaltenders.
Looking ahead to this weekend at Ohio State, Gadowsky stated that he would still like to work on odd-man rushes, and keeping up team momentum throughout all 60 minutes of play.
Gadowsky also spoke about his team giving up short-handed chances and what needs to be done to make corrections.
"We do know that in one of the units why, and we're going to have to sort of correct them, they've only had a week to practice so we've switched things up, sometimes when you have a lot of movement from the back and from the point that you give up on any shots and we know that. We have to practice it more and it's something we have to address for sure."
Penn State will face off against Ohio State next weekend in Columbus. This will be the Nittany Lions' first conference road trip this season.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While the Penn State men's hockey team (13-4-3, 3-1-0 Big Ten) will be taking the ice on Friday against Wisconsin (4-6-8, 1-3-2 Big Ten), there is a team behind the scenes that makes sure no item is missed when it comes to preparing the ice and facilities for game day.
Alan Wiser, a rink supervisor for Pegula Ice Arena and Penn State graduate, spoke about the diligent duties his employees perform the week leading up to home games. He discussed the many details the average hockey fan may not know about, and what it takes to create the home ice advantage for Penn State.
Wiser stated that all rink staff members on duty during games have thorough checklists they must follow to ensure everything is done efficiently and correctly. The checklist is essentially a manual to game day operations for all the behind the scenes team members that make the magic happen at Pegula.
It begins with ice preparation, and making sure the surface stays around 19 degrees.
"We monitor the temperature of both the community rink and the varsity rink throughout the week as well as during the games," said Wiser. "There's one person whose job it is to just monitor the ice, making sure it stays around the temperature we want."
Wiser said this duty is typically given to an employee from Penn State's Office of the Physical Plant.
When it comes to what fans see on the ice, Wiser explained that some of the lines below the surface are painted, while others are pieces of fabric laid down during the ice building process. The largest logo, the Nittany Lion at center ice, is a hand-painted design.
"That's quite a process," Wiser said of the time it takes to paint the Nittany Lion logo. "If you're ever up here during the summer when we do take the ice out and put it back in, try your best to be here."
The staff melts down the ice once a year, often in the springtime, to allow for maintenance. Pegula hosts several high school graduations and other events that don't require the presence of ice during the maintenance window.
When it does come time for ice to return to the main stage of Pegula, the rink staff knows just how much there needs to be. Something that the typical fan may not know is that the thickness of the ice is based upon the preference of the program skating on it.
"Between the [end zone faceoff spots], the ice is one and a quarter inch thick," said Wiser. "We like to have at least an inch and a half around the goalie area because that's where you get a lot of activity."
A frequently overlooked aspect of the rink is the color of the boards where it meets the ice. Often, teams choose a color that matches team uniforms.
Originally the Nittany Lions chose gray for the baseboards. However, on a television broadcast, the gray baseboards did not provide a great enough contrast with the black puck. After further thought, the baseboards were painted a shade of light blue to provide better contrast. During the process of choosing a new color there was one color that was off limits.
"[Head coach] Guy Gadowsky didn't really want to go with yellow," Wiser joked.
While Wiser oversees the many small details of maintaining Pegula Ice Arena, he credited his hard working staff that helps makes it all happen. Many of the members of rink staff who work game days are students.
Kaila Lessner, a senior science major, is one of the Zamboni drivers on game days.
"I figured skated for a long time," said Lessner. "Then I worked at a rink back home all through high school, so I kind of picked up where I left off. After three months [on rink staff in Greenberg Ice Pavilion] I started driving the Zamboni."
Lessner spoke about how her schedule varies, depending on the day, but spends many hours at the rink during the week and how the staff goes into "game mode" about two hours before puck drop.
"You get to see a behind the scenes look of it all," said Lessner. "On game day I rarely ever go up to the concourse, but when you're down here you don't really see that, but you know why everything is happening, what's happening where, and you get to be a part of stuff other people might not know about."
One item those on the concourse won't be able to see is the "mini Zam," an old shopping cart transformed by rink staff to hold the equipment used on the ice, such as the pegs that hold nets into the ice.
A new aspect to the rink staff's job this season is the addition of a "ride along" seat on one of the Zambonis. The seat allows a child under the age of 12 to sit alongside the Zamboni driver as they cut the ice between periods.
This new viewpoint was introduced during last weekend's home series against Minnesota and Wisner said it received immediate positive feedback. The first ride in the new seat was given to a THON child.
Other duties during the game that staff are responsible for are making sure the ice crew gets on and off the ice during timeouts, that any repairs to nets are attended to, and being prepared in case any panels of glass along the boards shatter or become dislodged.
While having many responsibilities, the rink staff is an essential part of the game day process, setting the stage for the growing program. Their roles may vary widely, but it's all in a day's work at Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State hosts Wisconsin Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 6 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 15 Penn State hockey team (13-4-3, 3-1-0 Big Ten) took down Minnesota (9-10-0, 4-2-0 Big Ten) Friday night in its first Big Ten matchup since before the winter break en route to a weekend split with the Gophers.
On Friday, The Nittany Lions successfully killed off a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty, ultimately winning 3-2 in overtime.
The Nittany Lions held back a lengthy and relentless 5-on-3 man-advantage from the Golden Gophers in the second period. Junior goaltender Eamon McAdam powered through the penalty kill with numerous highlight reel saves to keep Minnesota off of the scoreboard through the second period.
As time ran down towards the end of the Gopher's 105-second span of two-man advantage, those in attendance for the 25th consecutive Pegula Ice Arena sellout rose to their feet. Fans cheered on the team's ability to withstand Minnesota's unforgiving offense and praise the game's eventual No. 1 star, McAdam. The Penn State penalty kill successfully defended against four penalties total Friday night, in a herculean effort.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky praised McAdam's performance in net Friday night, noting the score could have ended in Minnesota's favor had McAdam not been such a dominating presence between the pipes. McAdam made 40 saves during his almost 64 minutes in the crease.
"We were down, for 5-on-3 for a minute and 45 seconds and they were zipping the puck around, making great plays and he was unbelievable," Gadowsky said of McAdam's performance.
Heading into overtime, the Nittany Lions looked to take maximum points in the conference matchup. With less than two minutes left in overtime, freshman defenseman and Minnesota native Vince Pedrie fired a low shot from the blue line, through a screen, ultimately finding the back of the net.
"Feels pretty good, not going to lie," Pedrie said of getting the game-winning goal. "But we have another game tomorrow, quick turn around with a 3-o'clock puck drop so it's kind of short-term memory and you know, get another win tomorrow."
Another notable performance was from junior forward Zach Saar. Saar motivated the team throughout the game with his unforgiving hits on Minnesota and remaining a stable force on the ice.
However, the Nittany Lions were unable to pull out a sweep of the Golden Gophers for the weekend. Penn State would fall to Minnesota 7-1 Saturday afternoon.
"They're a very good team, it's Minnesota," said Gadowsky. "That's a level that I think this program would like to rise to at some point and this is a good reminder that we're not there yet."
Senior captain David Glen was pleased that his team left it all on the ice this weekend, though he noted improvements need to be made before facing Wisconsin in a matter of days.
Glen said of Penn State's weekend performance against a program with five national championships is a good motivation tool for the team to keep improving every day at practice, but also a reality check.
"We've got to battle," said Glen. "We lost some key battles and like coach said, that's a good team, that's one of the best programs in the nation and it shows how far we've come but how far we have to go in order to be a top team like that every night."
The Nittany Lions continue Big Ten play when they face Wisconsin in Pegula Ice Arena Jan. 15 and 16.
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Now that winter break is over, the Nittany Lions (12-3-3, 2-0-0-0) look ahead to their matchup against Big Ten foe Minnesota (8-9-0, 3-1-0-0) and the coming second half of the season, with a slate of numerous matchups against ranked conference rivals.
Most recently, Penn State defeated Clarkson as part of the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh. Following the tournament, the Nittany Lions had a brief break before returning to Hockey Valley ready to work and prepare for the second half of their season.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased with his team's performance at Three Rivers, but notes significant improvements are needed if the team wishes to continue their first half success.
"...We have to get back to not giving up odd man rushes and not giving up or taking penalties," said Gadowsky.
The Nittany Lions, little by little, have improved every season in every aspect of the game. At the same point in the 2014-15 season, the Nittany Lions had only notched nine victories, this season they've surpassed that total, racking up 12 wins.
Another record set already this campaign is Penn State has achieved its highest ranking in program history in the United States College Hockey Online (USCHO) rankings. The Nittany Lions currently occupy the No. 14 position, and with points up for grabs this weekend look to keep improving their ranking.
Gadowsky has noted a few key aspects of this year's team that have helped in the first half of the season.
"I think with their synergy I think that from day one the freshmen that came in really fit in really well, I think they're really high quality guys and I think our upperclassmen really appreciate them and I think they gelled really quickly. I think that's one reason," said Gadowsky. "Then another big reason for the success we've had the first half was we've had excellent goaltending, so we had a good feel. We have a good locker room and we've had excellent goaltending and when those two things come together you tend to have success."
Turning towards Minnesota this weekend, Gadowsky and company are excited to be back on home ice taking on five-time NCAA champions, Minnesota. In the 320 days that have passed since the Nittany Lions defeated the Golden Gophers in an overtime upset last February, Penn State has graduated players, seen Casey Bailey off to the NHL, and developed a phenomenal freshman class made up of eight talented individuals.
The game last February is now a memory for the players on the team, but now it's time to make new memories. It's all about the next game on the calendar. Minnesota, without some of its big names on the roster from last season, is looking to find its identity within Big Ten hockey during the second half of the season.
"They always have, because of their success, turnover, and they're young," said Gadowsky of Minnesota's team this year. "Usually if you look at their track record their second halves are always fantastic, so we're expecting nothing other than a great hockey team."
Penn State hosts Minnesota Friday at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena. Friday's game will be aired on the Big Ten Network.
PITTSBURGH - After losing to Robert Morris, 6-4, on Monday, No. 15 Penn State (12-3-3, 2-0-0 Big Ten) rebounded to defeat Clarkson (7-2-2, 0-5-2 ECAC Hockey) on Tuesday afternoon in the consolation game of the Three Rivers Classic in CONSOL Energy Center. Behind a tremendous performance from goaltender Matt Skoff, the Nittany Lions soundly defeated the Golden Knights, 5-1.
Skoff, a Pittsburgh native, made 36 saves in front of his hometown fans on the way to his fifth victory of the season.
"This is my last game in Pittsburgh as a Nittany Lion," said Skoff. "And to go out with the win in that fashion, feels pretty good. Moving forward that feeling is going to help us."
Skoff also noted that his participation in the Pittsburgh Penguins development camp this past summer helped him prepare for his return to the CONSOL Energy Center ice. Skoff credited working with the Penguins coaching staff for helping him to enhance his existing skills and to enable him to compete effectively at college hockey's highest level.
Five different Nittany Lions scored during Tuesday's victory, including senior forward Kenny Brooks. Brooks played his 100th game with Penn State on Tuesday, joining fellow seniors David Glen, Curtis Loik, Tommy Olczyk and Eric Scheid, who have also reached this milestone.
On the defensive end, senior Luke Juha notched one goal and three assists in the two-game tournament. Juha represented the Nittany Lions on the Three Rivers All-Tournament Team.
With the tournament coming in the middle of winter break, the Nittany Lions had limited ice time prior to their arrival in Pittsburgh. However, head coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased that even with some unexpected injuries, his team was able to make necessary adjustments and get back on the winning track. Prior to the tournament, the Nittany Lions were on a ten game unbeaten streak.
"I really like the fact that they found a way to play a great third [period], I think things were just hard for us, I don't know if we were tired, the lines were all mixed up, but they found a way, so I think that's a really important step," said Gadowsky. "They showed some real, I think, some mental strength, to play a great third period."
Juha was able to sum up his final thoughts on the tournament.
"I think the guys are really excited to come here, obviously we have exams and we're not on the ice as much as we want and we come back from Christmas break ready to go and I think all the guys are excited to get back and start the second half of the season," said Juha. "There's always been great competition in this tournament and this year wasn't any different."
Gadowsky knows the toughest part of his team's season is right around the corner, but he also knows his team will do whatever is necessary to find success on the ice.
"I think that's something that we can build on as far as now we get into the bulk of the Big Ten conference and we know it's going to get tougher and I don't think we're at a level yet that we are to have the success we want but we're going to work hard at a number of things," said Gadowsky. "But it's nice to see that we finally got a game like this that I think was a great testament to the mental strength that we have."
The Nittany Lions return to Hockey Valley with a start of a new unbeaten streak and will face Minnesota in Pegula Ice Arena Jan 8 and 9.
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