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By Tom Shively, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - To say five months of college hockey can take a toll on the body and mind would be an understatement. Having to be your best at all times and going out to battle twice a week begins to leave its mark after a while.
Luckily for the Nittany Lions, they have a chance to step back this week as they prepare for their final six games of the regular season. The bye week give the team an opportunity to recuperate and get set for that final push towards the conference tournament.
"We really took advantage of this opportunity to continue the flow and the pace that we've been working with all year," interim head coach Dean Jackson said. "It's an opportunity to continue to work on our game plan moving forward."
The coaching staff took the time to work on the specifics during the off week, working with the players on skills such as trying to play the puck out of the defensive zone.
"It's certainly a skill. A lot of times our opponents are going to pinch us so we need to protect [the puck] and pull off the wall, because that's a space that's going to be open. That's where you're going to make your play," Jackson said.
Abby Welch was the player working on the drill during press time, but it's something several players on the team have gone through over the past few days.
As far as consistency is concerned, the team hasn't let up at all in practice, trying to maintain their high level of performance that they have done so far throughout the season. This week is seen as a time to really focus in on the team's goals and gear up for the final stretch.
"We're not really doing anything different than what we've done in the past," Jackson said. "We'd like to enjoy our time out here for sure. Obviously with a purpose, whether it's defensive zone aspects, offensive zone, neutral zone and scoring drills. Every week, we always focus on certain points so this week wasn't any different. There's a consistent theme throughout this week as there has been on weeks of games. The big thing is to keep the message positive and keep it flowing, we still want to make sure they are enjoying their time on the ice."
While the team is enjoying its time on the ice, the group will still be goal-oriented.
"We still have some goals that we've had previous to the break," Jackson added. "This gives us an opportunity to continue working on the little aspects of our game that will make a difference. What we want to do is be prepared for every opponent that we have coming up. We definitely want to make a big run in the playoffs. When you get to the playoffs, anything can happen. Whatever happened in the regular season doesn't apply, so it's a lot of fun."
Four of the last six games are on the road, including trips to Lindenwood and Robert Morris. The Nittany Lions host Syracuse on Feb. 24 and 25 before the conference tournament begins on Mar. 2.