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Penn State Hockey Hits Reset Button After Dismal Friday Loss To Michigan

Lineup tweaks and adjustments from game to game are a fairly standard practice in hockey. Although that’s a simple reality of the sport, the changes made by Penn State hockey between the first and second games of its series against Michigan are very much unheard of.

The Nittany Lions lost 6-0 to the Wolverines on Friday night, and the final scoreline absolutely reflected the run of play at Pegula Ice Arena. Michigan completely outplayed Penn State on Friday night, and a stellar 41-save performance from Peyton Jones was the only thing standing in the way of a worse drubbing for the Nittany Lions.

In response to the loss, Penn State changed every single line combination and defensive pairing for Saturday night’s tilt. Oskar Autio also got the starting nod in goal in Jones’ place, but the move wasn’t a damning statement about the senior’s performance. Gadowsky didn’t necessarily plan on using Autio all week, but he wanted to get his sophomore backup some more game action.

As junior center Evan Barratt put it, the lineup changes “kind of paid off in the end.” The Nittany Lions avoided an outright sweep thanks to a 4-4 tie, but Michigan picked up an extra point in the Big Ten’s standings thanks to Garrett van Wyhe’s goal with 11.1 seconds remaining in 3-on-3 overtime.

Penn State led 3-2 after 40 minutes, but a pair of Michigan goals put Penn State’s backs against the wall. Barratt managed to shovel a rebound past Wolverine netminder Strauss Mann to even the game at 4-4 with 1:22 to play. The Nittany Lions were definitely better on Saturday, but their head coach thought his team got more than they earned with the single point in the Big Ten’s standings.

“We played a lot more like us — a lot more of what we expect — but after what we did yesterday, I don’t know if we deserve to get more than this point tonight because of how we started the weekend,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said postgame. “We were very disappointed in things that we can control — particularly how we competed for each other. I’m really happy that we came out much better.”

The adjustments to Penn State’s line combinations didn’t magically fix the team’s flaws that were exposed on Friday night. Gadowsky made wholesale changes to the lineup to give his team a much-needed spark instead of shaking things up for tactical reasons.

Although his team definitely needed a kick in the ass after being well and truly beaten on Friday, Gadowsky was definitely concerned about over-correcting his lineup.

“This isn’t something that’s normal for us. Yesterday felt like something we were forced to grasp at a little bit,” he said. “We thought it was really necessary. It sort of feels like you’re hoping for a magic pill. There was a lot better effort overall, but it’s not because we put together some line combination. It isn’t. [The players] made the decision to play for each other a lot better than they did last night.”

“I didn’t really know what to think,” Barratt, who scored two goals in the tie, added. “Obviously, Coach felt like we needed a spark or something. He did it for a reason, and I thought all four lines played really well. At the end of the day, we need to figure out how to finish those games off up one in the third period.”

Penn State currently sits in third in the Big Ten’s standings following last weekend’s results. The Nittany Lions will travel to East Lansing for two games against Michigan State, which is level with Penn State on 25 points in conference play this year, at Munn Ice Arena.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a senior majoring in journalism who's a Senior Editor for Onward State. He's from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, Mikey is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. You can follow Mikey on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino in order to fill your timeline with all the hockey/golf content you'll ever need. You can also send all hate mail, death threats, and your vote for the best chicken parm in State College to [email protected]

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