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Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Wisconsin (1/16/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State caps off its two-game series against Wisconsin.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (1/16/16)

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Wisconsin (1/15/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State hosts Wisconsin in the first of a two-game series.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Wisconsin (1/15/16)

Behind the Glass of Penn State Hockey

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11610583.jpegBy Maria Canales, 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. 

Nittany Lions Win in Overtime, Split Minnesota Series

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11603205.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
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. 

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (1/9/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State caps off its two-game series against Minnesota.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (1/9/16)

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (1/8/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State hosts Minnesota in the first home game of 2016.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Minnesota (1/8/16)

Lions Ready for Minnesota and Second Half of Season

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10743894.jpegBy Maria Canales, 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. 

Lions Bounce Back at Three Rivers

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11583989.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
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.

Freshman Feature: Pittsburgh's Mendelson Ready For Three Rivers

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman forward Matt Mendelson, along with the rest of the Penn State men's ice hockey team, is prepared to head to Pittsburgh next week for the Three Rivers Classic. A Pittsburgh native, Mendelson is excited to be back in his hometown playing on one of the biggest stages in hockey, the CONSOL Energy Center.

Mendelson grew up in the City of Bridges and enrolled at Penn State as a fourth-generation Nittany Lion. Mendelson's great-grandfather, grandfather and mom all graduated from the University. Cara, Mendelson's sister, was a 2015 graduate of Penn State, as well as a member of the women's ice hockey team.

"[Cara] told me that she had the time of her life playing here," said Mendelson. "She loved being a student-athlete here and couldn't say enough good things about it. She's a big reason why I ended up here."

Another significant influence for Mendelson when deciding on where to play college hockey was proximity to his home and family.

"It's been really good being close to home," said Mendelson. "I get a lot of support from people from Pittsburgh, from family, from friends and it's obviously easy for them to get up to State College to see me play which is really nice."

Prior to coming to Penn State, Mendelson spent two years in the USHL playing for the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Lumberjacks alumni include former Penn State men's ice hockey captain, and current Indy Fuel (ECHL) defenseman, Patrick Koudys.

Mendelson credits his time in the USHL as helping him develop as a player and allowing for an effective transition into college hockey.

"I like to think of myself as a fast playmaker," said Mendelson. "I try to be responsible at both ends of the ice. A guy I really look up to is Brendan Gallagher, of the Montreal Canadiens. He's kind of a smaller, scrappy player."

The 20-year-old has played in ten games for the Nittany Lions this season and has recorded one assist. Mendelson is looking forward to the Three Rivers Classic as a potential momentum builder for the Nittany Lions, who look to add to their unbeaten streak. Penn State is 7-0-2 in its last nine games.

Mendelson is also excited to be playing in front of a hometown crowd.

"It's really cool," Mendelson said of the opportunity to play in the Three Rivers Classic. "I actually practiced there all the time when I played U-18 for the Penguins Junior team. I never actually got to play a game there so it'll be pretty cool, especially in front of family and friends."

Penn State hockey also has another Pittsburgh native on the roster. Senior goaltender Matt Skoff hails from just outside the city limits in McKees Rocks.

Mendelson joked there is friendly competition between himself and Skoff in regards to having the biggest contingent of hometown fans in attendance during the tournament.

"Skoff and I are definitely going to have to battle for tickets," Mendelson said.

Penn State will face Robert Morris in the first round of the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh on Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m.

Freshman Feature: Funkey Learning the Ropes

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11563878.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Freshman goaltender Chris Funkey has dedicated himself both on and off the ice to the Penn State men's hockey program and has displayed his natural ability in the crease.

The Illinois native, however, didn't start his hockey career between the pipes.

"I actually haven't always played goalie," said Funkey. "When I first started out I was a forward, then I started playing goalie in my cousin's basement. I was the youngest of us and they used to put me in the net and I just ended up falling in love with it."

Funkey's love for goaltending and the sport of hockey is clear to his teammates and coaches. Head coach Guy Gadowsky often talks about Funkey's passion for the sport and how it's great having someone with Funkey's positive attitude on the ice. 

Before playing for the Nittany Lions, Funkey's previous team, the New Jersey Hitmen, won both the EJHL title in 2013-14 and USPHL Championship in 2014-15 under Funkey's leadership in net. Both memories, Funkey says, will be with him forever.

However, now playing at the collegiate level, Funkey has made new memories of his own.

"Playing in Pegula for the first time was probably my favorite memory I've ever experienced," said Funkey of what has stood out most about his time so far at Penn State.

Funkey has only played one game in net for the Nittany Lions, tallying just shy of 15 minutes between the pipes during Penn State's Oct. 16 matchup against Notre Dame. Funkey didn't allow a goal and made three saves for the Nittany Lions in the contest.

"The first time we stepped out after warm ups when we were playing Notre Dame and the Roar Zone had the big banner, that was honestly the coolest thing I've ever experienced in my life," said Funkey.

His first time playing in net for the Nittany Lions, Funkey explained, was made easier knowing he had done everything necessary to prepare both mentally and physically.

As a freshman behind two veteran goaltenders, junior Eamon McAdam and senior Matthew Skoff, Funkey has had ample opportunity to learn from the experienced duo.

"They've been tremendous, they've taught me so much about being a professional both on and off the ice," said Funkey of McAdam and Skoff. "Those guys help me out so much. They're always suggesting extra workouts after practice or getting out on the ice early."

Funkey explained that the goaltenders are all good at pushing one another to be better every day and that each of them bring their own unique playing style to the table.

Funkey noted that he likes to model his playing style after two current NHL goaltenders.

"I try to play a little bit of a mixture of Marc Andre Fleury and Jonathan Quick," said Funkey. "They're both extremely athletic goaltenders and I try to play like that. Me not being as big of a goalie, and Jonathan Quick kind of plays a little bit smaller than he really is, so I try to model my play after him."

Although he may be a smaller goalie, Funkey has big goals for himself and the team this season. On top of continuing to develop his skills in net, Funkey explained how he believes the season can develop in Penn State's favor.

"As far as the team I feel our goals and expectations are still the same," said Funkey. "I feel we have the opportunity to win the Big Ten championship and compete for a national championship, that's our goal. We don't want to set our sights lower than that."

With the hope of a Big Ten championship and competing for a national title in the future, Funkey is prepared to step in whenever needed and help put his own mark on defining Penn State hockey for years to come.