Penn State Hockey Eager To Learn From Saturday’s Loss Against UMass-Lowell
Penn State hockey moved up to No. 6 in the USCHO poll following a weekend trip to Massachusetts in which it blew out Merrimack 7-0 then lost because of a costly penalty in overtime against UMass-Lowell, which actually moved down one spot to No. 16 when the poll released Monday.
Reflecting on the trip, it was the close loss — not the statement win — that head coach Guy Gadowsky was most excited about.
“Interestingly enough — this doesn’t happen all the time, especially when you play well on both sides of the puck — but we just got great information from our loss,” Gadowsky said with a palpable sense of excitement. “Great information and really well-defined things that we’re going to work on this week.”
Gadowsky cited offensive zone play and neutral-zone transitions as the key areas of focus after a game in which his team outshot the River Hawks 36-18 in a losing effort
Even though Penn State doubled UMass-Lowell’s shot total, Gadowsky was critical of the quality of the shots his team took, saying “not always does amount of shots correlate with chances.”
It was an interesting sentiment to hear about a team that prides itself on playing fast and getting a high volume of shots on net. But it served as an important note about the fine balance between quality and quantity.
The shot total told one story about Saturday’s loss, but for Gadowsky, the amount of odd-man rushes the River Hawks were able to produce — five to the Nittany Lions’ one — was his biggest takeaway.
While the season is still young, UMass-Lowell is another team vying for a spot in the NCAA tournament. Losing that game in that way taught Penn State a lot about how it can improve against opportunistic teams.
Forever students of the game, Gadowsky and his staff are constantly evolving their style of hockey based on their experiences. However, great learning experiences like Saturday don’t come along often.
“You know, usually it’s refining the details of what you do,” Gadowsky said. “Then every once in a while, because of information you gather, you get an epiphany of easy ways to…greatly improve what we do, and this was one of those weekends. It’s exciting to have a weekend like this where we all are very excited about some possible changes to make,” Gadowsky added.
Fans of the program should be excited, too.
Penn State’s offense is already dominating college hockey. The Nittany Lions have lit the lamp 69 times this season, which equates to 4.6 goals per game. Technically, that’s good for the second best goals per game average in the country, trailing only Harvard, which has scored five goals per game in a much smaller sample size of seven games to Penn State’s 15.
The rest of the Big Ten — and college hockey as a whole, really — should be mortified by Gadowsky’s optimism about the amount of information his team gained this weekend.
The offensive output has been almost identical to last year, which is when Penn State paced the NCAA in goals. The most noticeable difference this year has been on defense, where the Nittany Lions are averaging 2.38 goals allowed per game — a little more than a goal less than their mark of 3.56 last year in 2018-2019.
The thought of this team having an “epiphany” that will help it improve on both sides of the puck is going to give opposing coaches nightmares.
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