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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. 

Lions Head Into Break with Momentum

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11557483.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 16 Penn State men's hockey team (11-2-3, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten) ended the first half of its season triumphantly with a 6-3 win over Princeton (4-9-0, 3-5-0 ECAC) Friday night in Pegula Ice Arena.

With the victory, head coach Guy Gadowsky notched his 50th win with the Nittany Lions, since joining the program in 2011.

The undisputed standout player of the game was fifth-year senior forward Tommy Olczyk. Olczyk had his fist multi-point game for the Nittany Lions, on his way to scoring the program's third hat trick.

"It was a pretty special moment," said Olczyk regarding his hat trick. "More importantly, especially after a little let down during the third period, we found a way to win there."

Olczyk credited his hat trick to his team's ability to communicate and work together on the ice. Olczyk's first two goals he deflected into the net off shots from two freshman defensemen, Erik Autio and Vince Pedrie, respectively. His third goal of the night came as an empty net goal with less than a minute remaining in the third period.

Three other Nittany Lions scored in Friday night's win. Senior forwards David Glen and Curtis Loik, along with freshman forward Chase Berger all found the back of the net.

Looking at the bigger picture, Gadowsky is pleased with where his team has ended the first half of the season, but that doesn't mean he wants to slow down.

"I have to congratulate the guys on a great start," said Gadowsky. "...I do think this was a good win because it was a tough set up as I said, having a great weekend in the Big Ten to start and then having them, really a lot of their focus is on exams and academics, so this was a tough game to play and we started out tremendous and ended tremendous."

Gadowsky also wants to continue the early success of the special teams, especially on power play performance. During Friday night's game alone, the Nittany Lions score two goals on the power play and successfully killed three penalties, including a five-minute major.

With finals and a holiday break upon them, the Nittany Lions are looking forward to spending time with family and friends, but are also looking forward to continuing their current momentum.

"...We've had a good start to the year," said senior captain David Glen. "We're happy about it, but we're not going to be complacent either."

Next on the radar for the Nittany Lions is the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh on Dec. 28 and 29. This tournament will be a test for the Nittany Lions as they take on Robert Morris in the first round, and either No. 8 UMass Lowell or Clarkson in the second round.

After the break, as Big Ten play gets into full swing, Penn State will faceoff at home against Minnesota Jan. 8 and 9. During the 2014-15 season the Nittany Lions went 1-3 against the Golden Gophers, and will look to turn the tables come the spring semester.

In regards to their first half of the season performance, Glen is pleased with where the team is at now, but looks forward to continued success.

"I think we know it's just the start and like I said we're happy," said Glen. "It's as good as we could hope for going into [the break] but we're looking forward to a little break over Christmas and spend some time with the family, then get back at it in Pittsburgh." 

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Princeton (12/11/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State hosts Princeton in the final home game inside Pegula Ice Arena this semester.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Princeton (12/11/15)

Gadowsky, Lions Set to Face Princeton

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11553583.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The No. 16 Penn State men's hockey team is poised to take on the Princeton Tigers this Friday night. Head coach Guy Gadowsky finds himself, for the first time in program history, coaching against his former team.

Before taking up residence in Pegula Ice Arena, Gadowsky was the head coach of the Princeton men's hockey team from 2004-11. During his time with the Tigers, Gadowsky coached the Orange and Black to several ECAC hockey tournament appearances as well as an Ivy League Championship title in 2008. Most notably, Gadowsky coached the Tigers to two NCAA Tournament appearances in 2008 and 2009.

Gadowsky had taken the previously struggling program and molded it into a successful name within the hockey realm, leading the Tigers to a 105-109-13 record during his time in New Jersey. The Edmonton native has since then taken his talents to Hockey Valley, which he has happily called home since 2011. 

This weekend's matchup will reunite Gadowsky with some familiar faces, both on the ice and behind the scenes of Princeton's program.

"There's still players that we recruited [on Princeton's team]," said Gadowsky. "There's a lot of really good people involved in the program that we've been in touch with. Obviously we have a ton of great memories, I'm very proud to have been part of what went on at Princeton."

Although he reflects on his time in the Garden State fondly, Gadowsky emphasized that his chief focus for this weekend's game is notching another win with his Nittany Lions.

"I think this is a really important game for us and I don't care who we're playing, that's just the honest truth," said Gadowsky of the matchup. "This is just all about us playing the best game that we can, they happen to be the opponent, but that's not going to play in our minds at all."

Turning towards this weekend's matchup, the Nittany Lions will only take on the Tigers in one contest due to scheduling rules within the Ivy League. As an Ivy League member, Princeton is only allowed 29 regular season matchups on its schedule, with one contest as a stand-alone game against one opponent. 

This stand-alone game against Princeton was purposefully scheduled for Friday due to finals week at Penn State starting on Monday. While Gadowsky is confident in his players' abilities to balance schoolwork and hockey, he wanted to do his best to provide them the best schedule for individual success off the ice.

The players themselves are also looking forward to finishing the first half of the season on a high note and getting another win before the break. After Friday's contest, the Nittany Lions won't see game time again until the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh on Dec. 28 and 29.

"It's not like with two games you're going to leave anything out there," said freshman forward Matt Mendelson. "With one game you have to really bear down and win it because it's not like you can bounce back on Saturday, you have to make sure you take care of business on Friday."

Penn State hosts Princeton on Friday at 7 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena. 

Red-Hot Nittany Lions Sweep Spartans in Big Ten Opener

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11545655.jpegBy Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thanks to tremendous performances from its goaltenders and outstanding effort from the offense, the Penn State men's hockey team (10-2-3, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten) marched past Michigan State (4-8-2, 0-2-0-0 Big Ten) over the weekend at Pegula Ice Arena.

With head coach Guy Gadowsky's plan to continually rotate between junior goaltender Eamon McAdam and senior goaltender Matt Skoff working to the Nittany Lions' advantage, Gadowsky has left the system in place, yielding tremendous results.

Skoff, who started in net Friday night, recorded 31 saves on the way to a 4-2 win for the Nittany Lions. McAdam, taking up residence between the pipes Saturday afternoon, recorded 28 saves in Penn State's 6-1 victory.

"...Matthew Skoff with a huge save in the second period," said Gadowsky of Skoff's Friday night performance. "It's too bad, with a save like that I think he deserved better in the outcome. I feel bad that we couldn't have played better for him in the third."

On Friday night, Penn State got the first goal of the night, just 10 seconds into the second period, thanks to freshman forward Andrew Sturtz. The goal was the fastest to start a period by a Penn State player, overtaking Casey Bailey's 13-second goal to start a period in 2013. 

Sturtz scored a second time Friday night, a backhand-forehand play with 4:52 remaining in the second period. Penn State peppered the net with shots, leaving the second period of play with four goals. Junior forward David Goodwin and freshman defenseman Vince Pedrie also found the back of the net.

"He's got such a big heart and he's so fun to watch," said Gadowsky about Sturtz. "There's just different guys you watch, like Eric Scheid and his speed or David Glen and his grit, and the way that David Goodwin sees the ice, you watch [Sturtz] and you see a big heart skating around. He's so fun to watch and I love watching the guy."

Saturday's performance was another offensive display for the Nittany Lions. Senior forward Eric Scheid scored twice for Penn State in the first period, both goals only coming a minute apart.

"I think it's obviously huge, we knew [the Spartans] were going to come out hard, set the tone early, and to score two goals early like that, that's a huge weight off our back to get the early lead," said Scheid.

Scheid talked about what worked well for him and his line mates, Dylan Richard and David Goodwin.

"I think it's just that we all play pretty similar," said Scheid. "I think that we've been a lot better down the line getting offensive zone time, any time you can get the puck in the O-zone and work it around a little bit it gives you confidence and it leads into other chances coming off the rush and stuff like that."

Communication was on point for the offense Saturday afternoon, as the team looked comfortable taking on Michigan State senior goaltender and 2014-15 Big Ten Player and Goaltender of the Year, Jake Hildebrand. Hildebrand's few mental mistakes over the weekend allowed some shots on net that resulted in goals for the Nittany Lions.

Getting a sweep to start Big Ten play is a huge boost for the Nittany Lions. This weekend's momentum will build the groundwork for the rest of Penn State's conference play this season, which resumes in January. The Nittany Lions host Princeton on Friday. 

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan State (12/5/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State hosts Michigan State in Pegula Ice Arena during the second game of the initial Big Ten series of 2015-16.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan State (12/5/15)

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan State (12/4/15)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live coverage from the 2015-16 Nittany Lion men's hockey season. Penn State hosts Michigan State in Pegula Ice Arena during the first game of the Big Ten season on Friday.

Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan State (12/4/15)

Nittany Lions Ready for Big Ten Opener

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By Maria Canales, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a successful string of non-conference games to open its schedule, the No. 19-ranked Penn State men's hockey team (8-2-3) looks to hit the ground running in conference play when the Lions host Michigan State this weekend.

A big piece in Penn State's hot start has been the pair splitting time between the pipes

Senior Matt Skoff and junior Eamon McAdam have been superb of late, holding opponents to zero goals in the last 50 shots and 122:37 of game time. Head coach Guy Gadowsky is confident with the system he has in place behind his two goaltenders.

"...We'll let it play out as it may," said Gadowsky. "As it turns out, if this month is any indication it's working very, very well, so right now if it's not broken we're not going to fix it."

Gadowsky was quick to praise each player for their individual dedication to their craft, noting both players have made the effort to constantly be improving.

Over the course of the 2015-16 season to date, McAdam has tallied six wins and a .929 save percentage. Skoff has recorded two wins and a .900 save percentage.

Gadowsky noted that friendly competition between the goaltenders is what he wants out of them, and that it is useful for not only improving individual skills but also useful for the team. 

"Actually I think it's very important, and I think it's becoming an important part of their success," said Gadowsky. "They have a very healthy respect and admiration for each other for sure and I think that when you have two guys that are pushing each other it's advantageous to both of them and I really like having that situation." 

As for this weekend, the Nittany Lions will host Michigan State this Friday and Saturday, a team known for their success behind senior goaltender and Pennsylvania native, Jake Hildebrand. The Spartans arrive in Hockey Valley 4-7-2 this season.

Since the 2013-14 season, behind Hildebrand, the Spartans are 5-1-2 against the Nittany Lions. Two of those five wins came as shutout wins.

The Nittany Lions are eager to begin their Big Ten matchups, even if this one is a little earlier on the schedule than others. After this weekend, Penn State won't see conference play again until January.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Michigan enters the weekend as the only other Big Ten program currently ranked by the USCHO, at No. 12. With a history of powerhouse programs, the Big Ten has yet to break out successfully this season, to which Gadowsky finds both surprising and expected at the same time.

"If you look at the players that we have coming into the Big Ten, yes, but if you look at the players that have left the Big Ten early, no," said Gadowsky. "It's a little bit of the nature of college hockey right now, that when you get some of these higher profile student-athletes which a lot of the Big Ten schools have been getting, they leave early."

Both Michigan State and Minnesota each have only four wins each so far this season, with Wisconsin and Ohio State raking in three wins apiece. With Penn State leading the conference in wins, Gadowsky hopes that this is a good place to start Big Ten conference play. 

"I think every year is an opportunity and we're going to do the best with what we have," said Gadowsky. "...There's a lot of young teams [in the Big Ten] that have a lot of great players that are going to be a lot different after January than they are before."

When asked about how getting wins this weekend would propel the Nittany Lions into further conference play in January, Gadowsky had a simple answer.

"I think so, it certainly always helps," said Gadowsky. "But you know, because the bulk of the non-conference games are played early, certainly it always helps to start well." 

The No. 19-ranked Penn State hosts Michigan State this Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. Saturday's game will also feature Penn State's annual Teddy Bear Toss.