Icers Back on the Road at URI
One thing is for sure about the early portion of Guy Gadowski’s tenure as Penn State’s ice hockey coach; the No. 1 ranked Icers have certainly been acquainted with a coach bus often thus far, and the Icers will climb back aboard the bus for a two-game set in Rhode Island this week as they continue ACHA play this weekend with a 7 p.m. game Friday and a 4 p.m. tilt Saturday at Brad Boss Ice Arena in Kingston.
Penn State has enjoyed success against the Rams, as the Icers own a 27-10 advantage in the series, but there will be an element of revenge in the air right away Friday night. Penn State’s season concluded last winter with a 2-0 loss to URI in the first round of the ACHA tournament, marking the first time Penn State has lost in the first round of the tournament. It was also Penn State’s fourth loss in five games to the Rams last winter.
Rhode Island is ranked No. 10 in the country, but is extremely young (the Rams started nine freshmen in their last game) and they’ll be looking to get back on track after being swept at the University of Delaware a weekend ago. It was the first time URI (7-3) lost two in a row since February of last year.
The Icers, on the other hand, are off to a flying 5-0 start which has mirrored the Icers quick style of play, as the top line of Tommy Olczyk, Justin Kirchhevel, and Taylor Holstrom have already combined for 13 goals and 23 assists thus far. The key to success has been scoring early and often, however, in the Icers 5-3 win over Ohio to close out their second weekend sweep of the season, Penn State had to score three goals in the third period, two of which completed a hat trick on the night for Collins, to seal the victory. If that showing is a sign of how this club will handle adversity in the future, Gadowski and Co. certainly will be in good shape when the ACHA tournament roles around in the beginning of March.
If you’re looking for a key in this weekend set, it will undoubtedly be special teams play, and how Penn State freshmen Tim Carr will respond as he draws his first start in net Friday night.
Penn State has yet to fully capitalize on the power play, as Gadowski has rolled lines to no great effect, as Penn State is just 20% on the power play through five contests. This is an important note because URI has racked up 190 penalty minutes already, far more than the Icers 36, and even though URI has played five more games, it’s safe to say Penn State will get plenty of power play opportunities. If they can convert them, and stay out of the box and stay away from the retaliation penalties as often as they have so far this year, they should have no problem staying atop the ACHA rankings for the second week in a row.