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Despite Excitement, Penn State Men’s Hockey Isn’t Changing Mindset Against North Dakota

Who’s ready to see Penn State take on Smashville?

The Nittany Lions will make an unusual trip to Bridgestone Arena, the home of the Nashville Predators, to take on No. 6 North Dakota in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game at 8 p.m. on Saturday, October 30.

The Nittany Lions have played a handful of games in NHL arenas and neutral sites before, but this will be the first time that most of the players on this year’s team have this unique experience. The team’s last trip to an NHL arena came during the 2019-20 season when Penn State defeated Rober Morris at PPG Paints Arena.

Certainly, the players and coaching staff for excited to hit the professional ice and embrace the challenge this weekend.

“I think it’s a really good experience and opportunity,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said during his press conference Monday. “I think it’s going to be fun. I think it’s going to be a great experience for the student-athletes for sure. The added bonus that you’re playing a very storied program in North Dakota, that is an excellent team, is another great experience and opportunity.”

It’s not that often that you see a non-conference game for Penn State against a college hockey powerhouse like North Dakota, let alone a game being played on NHL ice. Despite the great experience, the players aren’t letting that distract themselves from the task at hand: winning the hockey game.

“Playing in a kind of city like Nashville is super exciting,” forward Ben Copeland said. “Obviously, we’re super excited, and our mission is to win that game, too. It’s a pretty unbelievable environment that we’re gonna be playing in, but we’re not happy without a win. We’re just focused on that.”

Despite being unranked going into the matchup, Penn State, on paper, is arguably just as good of a team as North Dakota. Six games into the season for both teams, the Nittany Lions have scored more goals (24) and allowed fewer scores (11) than the Fighting Hawks, who have scored 22 and allowed 14 on the season.

On the other hand, Penn State’s power play (.190) isn’t as effective as North Dakota’s (.250), but the Nittany Lions have killed 96.4% of their penalties while the Fighting Hawks killed 89.9%. Obviously, the penalty kill isn’t a problem for either team. With Oskar Autio most likely in net for Penn State, it should be a very evenly contested game.

Even with the noise surrounding the game and the idea of playing a prominent program, Gadowsky and his coaching staff aren’t treating this game any different than others. For them, it’s just another hockey game with an opportunity to get a win.

“We’re not really going to do anything different, and that’s not how we’ve ever approached things here,” Gadowsky said. “We look at the next game on the schedule, period. That’s what we’ve always done…It’s going to be all about us, and the factors are going to be the same [as if] it was a bus trip down the road.”

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About the Author

Frankie Marzano

Frankie is a senior accounting and economics major from Long Island, NY. You can probably recognize him as the typical Italian-American with slicked back black hair. He is an avid fan of the New York Rangers and Mets, along with every Penn State Athletics team. Follow him on Twitter @frankiemarzano for obnoxious amounts of Rangers and Penn State content or email him at [email protected]

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