Despite Hardships, Penn State Men’s Hockey Still Committed To Growth

College hockey is jam-packed with highs and lows, and Penn State men’s hockey certainly experienced one of the latter this past weekend.

The Nittany Lions were swept by No. 13 Notre Dame in frustrating fashion, losing Friday’s game 4-2 on a questionable call and Saturday’s game 5-4 in overtime. Even though they were tight losses, both games show the lack of experience that this team is still working to address.

In Friday night’s loss, Notre Dame scored the game-winning goal late in the third period when officials failed to blow a play dead when the puck went out of play and into the netting behind goaltender Oskar Autio. Penn State’s players stopped skating, thinking that there would eventually be a whistle, but the Fighting Irish stayed on high alert and took advantage of the blown play.

Even though it was a blatant missed call, head coach Guy Gadowsky still accepts the blame for the loss.

“You should still play to the whistle,” Gadowsky said following Friday night’s loss. “[The puck] hit the net, but hockey is a fast game. [The officials] aren’t going to catch everything…It is what it is, and the lesson is you play to the whistle.”

Saturday night’s loss wasn’t much better, either. After giving up a game-tying goal with under five minutes to play in regulation, the Nittany Lions had a faceoff in the offensive zone with 8.9 seconds remaining in overtime. Chase McLane lost the faceoff, and Notre Dame sprung out to a 2-on-1 break to score the game-winning goal with just 0.2 seconds remaining on the clock, capping off one of Penn State’s toughest losses in a while.

At the end of the day, you can chalk those two losses up to inexperience. This is the first (semi)-normal season for half the team, as this year’s sophomores needed to deal with a strange pandemic-burdened season that barely had a training camp and limited practices. Even some upperclassmen on the team haven’t had as much experience on the ice in these close games.

“We don’t have many players at all who have played in big situations in the past here,” Gadowsky said on Monday. “You have to be in them to develop the mental toughness and the confidence to play in those situations. You can’t just talk about them.”

Despite the lack of experience on the team, Gadowsky is confident that Penn State will take these two losses and grow from them.

“That was really hard and tough, and it hurts, but we’ve learned lessons like that in the past, and we’ve been tougher because of it,” Gadowsky said. “We have to make sure that happens this time. As much as it hurts, we have to make sure we learn the lessons, and I think that’s where [the players] are at now.”

Even though they aren’t seeing immediate results, the players still believe in the system and themselves as a group. Sophomore defenseman Jimmy Dowd Jr. is confident that the team is as close as it has ever been to turning its season around.

“We’re right there,” Dowd said on Monday. “You saw this weekend: tight first game and tight second game. Every game in the Big Ten is tight, and if we learn from our mistakes and learn from those plays, I think we are going to be really good toward the end of the season.”

The Nittany Lions will hope to leverage those newly learned lessons when they hit the road to take on No. 4 Michigan at Yost Ice Arena, which is renowned for the very tough environment it produces for visiting teams. The two-game set will kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, January 14.

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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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