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With Souliere In Goal, Penn State Men’s Hockey Prepares For Big Ten Tournament

On the heels of an up-and-down regular season, Penn State men’s hockey is gearing up for postseason play.

The Nittany Lions will hit the ice to begin the Big Ten Tournament on Friday, March 4, and Saturday, March 5. They’ll head to Columbus to face No. 12 Ohio State at 7 p.m. on both nights in a best-of-three series. Should a third game be necessary, the two teams would face off at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 6.

Against the Buckeyes, Penn State will face solid goaltending, starting with Jakub Dobes. Dobeš, a freshman from the Czech Republic, has posted a .933 save percentage with a 2.217 goals-against average. He was particularly solid against Penn State in the last series the Nittany Lions played, including a shutout win in Ohio State’s blowout win at Pegula.

Unfortunately for Penn State, Dobes is not the only dangerous weapon on the Buckeyes’ roster, which draws power from a handful of first-year players. Freshman forward Georgii Merkulov has racked up 18 goals, 14 assists, and 32 points this season, while Cam Thiesing, another freshman forward, follows behind with eight goals, 16 assists, and 24 total points.

It will surely be a challenge to win this series, especially in Columbus. Liam Souliere, who Gadowsky confirmed will start in goal to begin the series, will need to play the way he did the last time in the net against the Buckeyes. The sophomore allowed only two goals in Penn State’s electric shootout win.

“You prepare for moments like this. It’s not like you’re thrown into a situation where you’re not ready or not comfortable to go in,” Souliere said. “You’re in practice every day with these guys.”

Souliere has started and appeared in 11 games this season, equaling about half of fellow netminder Oskar Autio. Souliere, an Ontario native, just beats out his partner with a .902 save percentage and has gained some momentum in recent weeks.

“We look at all the information and do what’s best for the team, period,” Gadowsky said. “That’s the way we always make decisions…They’re both great guys, but it’s a matter of wins, losses, goals against, and save percentage. That’s what it is. So, for me, it’s not that difficult.”

Souliere said he’s eager to suit up and, hopefully, use his preparation to make a difference for Penn State.

“You prepare for moments like this,” Souliere said on Monday. “It’s not like you’re thrown into a situation where you’re not ready or not comfortable…You always have it in the back of your head, like, ‘I want to play. I want to be in the game.’ So, when it happens, you’re already ready for it.

Penn State already played on Ohio State ice this season during a two-game series back in November. The Buckeyes stunned the Nittany Lions, who entered with a 6-1 record, and pulled off landmark 5-2 and 4-1 wins.

Gadowsky said he hopes his team will use that painful series, combined with recent successes, as a learning tool as the Nittany Lions return to Columbus.

“The two games that we played at Ohio State were both one-goal games going into the third period, and we did not perform well,” he said. “I like to think that the experience we had on Friday night, as well as this weekend, will give us confidence that we can do it.”

Among all else, Souliere’s success in the net will be the key to stealing a win or two in Columbus this weekend. While the stakes are high, Penn State’s players, including sophomore defender Jimmy Dowd Jr., say they’ve got faith in their new-look netminder to get the job done.

“Play our game, play solid defense, have good sticks all around,” Dowd Jr. said. “Honestly, [we] just [must] play good defense, and he’ll make the saves when we need him to.”

Souliere’s chance to impress will come at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 4. The game will stream live on BTN+.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a sophomore majoring in journalism. From the Maryland side of the D.C. suburbs, Nolan likes using Old Bay and is a diehard Washington sports fan, which can be both difficult and rewarding. If you want to debate anything about sports with him, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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