Penn State Men’s Hockey Using Experience To Overcome ‘Mental Fragileness’

Hockey is a difficult game. It requires an outstanding amount of physical skill and toughness to be able to compete on the ice, but what goes on between your ears is just as important than what happens between the boards.

Penn State men’s hockey didn’t play well between the ears when it started off the season strong but hit a bit of a rough patch when the team was swept by Ohio State and Michigan in consecutive series. Following the losses, the Nittany Lions needed to look inward and address why the they couldn’t bring themselves back into games when things didn’t go their way.

The team had a certain level of “mental fragileness” that was holding it back in the four-game skid, but it seems like the Nittany Lions are beginning to reverse that narrative.

The Nittany Lions are now 4-2 since being swept by the Wolverines, and they have trailed in two of those four wins. Even the two losses that Penn State suffered look worse on paper than what they actually were.

Despite the losses, head coach Guy Gadowsky has noticed a change in the attitude on the bench, especially when things don’t fall Penn State’s way, and chalked it up to the experience of playing against Michigan and Ohio State.

“Part of it is the experience that we received [from] Ohio State and Michigan,” Gadowsky said last week. “We actually felt that we played, especially at the start, very well in all four of those games, but we were a little fragile…We didn’t have the mental toughness to keep doing what we do. And I think because of those experiences, we were able to play much more of a complete game on the road in Minnesota.”

Even though the momentum wasn’t in the team’s favor, Penn State was competitive in its first loss to Minnesota until two penalties gave Minnesota a go-ahead power play goal, but that’s a whole separate issue. Moving forward to this past weekend, Penn State outplayed Michigan State throughout the entire game, but the bounces were in favor of the Spartans, resulting in a 4-2 defeat for the Nittany Lions.

There wasn’t a simple flip of a switch to be able to change the team’s demeanor. Coaches and team leadership have preached the idea of mental toughness since the beginning of the season, and it is starting to resonate with the players.

“In the beginning of the year, we would go down a goal or two and might get a little negative on the bench,” defenseman Jimmy Dowd Jr. said. “Obviously, that doesn’t help anything in any scenario…I think we’ve learned from that. If we go down a goal, we’re not all coming back to the bench, banging our sticks, piling on each other, or giving each other the cold shoulder…We just get back to our game, and things will work out for us.”

The Nittany Lions will attempt to keep up their momentum with a two-game series on the road with Wisconsin beginning on Friday, December 10. Puck drop is slated for 8 p.m. on BTN+.

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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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