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Close-Game Prowess A Sign Of Penn State Men’s Hockey’s ‘Maturity’

The days of 7-6 and 9-5 games seem to be in the rearview mirror for Penn State men’s hockey.

Following Thursday night’s 2-1 overtime victory over Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions have won six straight one-score games. Traditionally, head coach Guy Gadowsky’s teams rely more on outscoring the opposition than keeping them off the scoreboard. However, this season’s been anything other than ordinary.

“Possibly it comes from maturity at a program standpoint,” Gadowsky said. “You grow a little bit every time you’re in those games, win or lose.”

Just two victories this season have come by more than one goal, and the Nittany Lions have lost only one one-goal game. Gadowsky simply chalks that up to his players’ willingness to win.

“You really gotta credit the guys. They continue to find ways to win,” Gadowsky said.

On Thursday night, it was Alex Limoges who found the victory, scoring the overtime winner for the 50th goal of his college career. As a veteran on the team, it’s been weird for Limoges and other players to win games by scoring so few goals.

“It can definitely be frustrating, especially for some of the older guys that are used to putting up five or six goals a game,” Limoges said.

Even though the Nittany Lions aren’t putting the puck in the back of the net as often this season, the defense’s ability to shut teams out is a promising trend for Gadowsky’s team. A large part of that falls on junior goaltender Oskar Autio.

Autio made 31 saves in the overtime win over Notre Dame. Following a slow start to the season, Autio is now 8-5-0 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .898 save percentage. He’s easily been one of the best goalies in the Big Ten over the team’s recent stretch of games.

With a solid goalie between the pipes, there’s less pressure on the offense to score goals, allowing the team to find its game.

“When he’s playing like he did tonight, it’s hard to lose,” Limoges said. “We know we’re going to score. It just becomes a matter of when.”

Autio has played in 13 of the Nittany Lions’ 17 games so far this season. All of the game time he’s received has allowed him to elevate his performance.

“I want to play as much as I can and I gotta make sure I show up every night so I can keep playing,” Autio said. “Playing a lot helps me keep that rhythm going.”

Every game on the Big Ten slate is a grind, but Penn State’s capacity to win low-scoring, gritty games is a good trait to have, especially heading into the postseason.

The Nittany Lions will face off again against the Irish Friday night to cap off the series. Puck drop is scheduled for 6 p.m on BTN+.

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About the Author

Connor Donohue

Connor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from the great state of New Jersey and is proud of it. Lover of the greatest city in the world, New York City, he strongly dislikes the city of Philadelphia and will not hesitate to tell you that. He's also been cursed as a Penn State fan since birth. If you want to call him a bum or maybe go out on a date with him, follow him on twitter @ConnorDonohue00 or email him at [email protected]

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