By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Over the weekend, No. 9 Penn State men's hockey bounced back from two tough losses at No. 5 Minnesota, this time against No. 20 Wisconsin. For head coach Guy Gadowsky, Penn State's dominant performance comes from a collective effort, with a few Nittany Lions also skating to standout weekends.
Freshman forward Denis Smirnov scored three goals against the Badgers, stepping up after a few games without an appearance on the score sheet. Having Smirnov back performing at the level he was earlier in the season has provided a big boost for the Nittany Lions.
"With Denis, he's gone through a few bumps and bruises and is getting healthy, and I think it showed this weekend," Gadowsky said. "He was able to move a lot better."
Gadowsky also noted that the contributions from freshman forward Nate Sucese over the course of the season has also impressed him. Sucese has put up 10 goals, tallying 11 assists so far this season, currently sitting at a plus-10 rating.
Outside of the individual performances though, it was the whole team effort that also impressed Gadowsky and the staff.
"That win on Saturday was really a tremendous team win," Gadowsky said, adding that the third period is where he really saw the team come together.
Looking ahead to the Golden Gophers this weekend, Penn State does have an advantage, having played Minnesota just two weeks ago, despite losing both contests.
For Gadowsky, he's realistic when reflecting on the previous Minnesota series, noting the Nittany Lions played well, but still emphasizing there's always room for improvement.
"It is fresh in our minds and I think there's a feeling that we believe we can play well against Minnesota because we have," Gadowsky said.
Historically, the Nittany Lions are 3-11-0 against the Gophers, but the Nittany Lions have pulled out a few tremendous wins in the series, including a thrilling 3-2 overtime win last season.
Gadowsky is still expecting Minnesota to come out fighting though, even with the home ice advantage playing at Pegula Ice Arena this weekend. He is also determined to have the Nittany Lions come out strong from the puck drop, skating all 60 minutes confidently.
Gadowsky will also be looking toward veteran leadership to motivate Penn State both nights. He spoke highly of senior forward David Goodwin and how he has evolved as a leader during his final campaign. For Gadowsky, he has seen Goodwin keep Penn State focused on the here and now rather than getting caught up in the possibility of a bye the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
"Yes, it's something we very much would like," Gadowsky said of the possibility of a first round bye. "But I don't think that will change any preparation or strategy until possibly the very last weekend. It's nothing we're looking at now."
The Nittany Lions are remaining focused on the next game ahead, looking for redemption against Minnesota. Gadowsky is sure the Nittany Lions will be able to forge ahead and use the momentum from last weekend's wins to propel them to success this weekend.
"I thought we got confidence that we played a very good game," Gadowsky reflecting on the last Minnesota outing. "But we would love to prove to ourselves that we can finish it."