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Penn State Men’s Hockey Scraps Underdog Label In Series Against Michigan

Penn State men’s hockey is rolling, folks. The Nittany Lions boast the fourth-best scoring offense in the country, while their scoring defense also stands in the thick of the top 10 ranks.

Heading into this past weekend’s series against No. 1 Michigan, No. 13 Penn State stood as the only ranked and undefeated squad besides two-win Harvard. Then, a dominant 3-0 win in the first outing with the Wolverines and a 4-3 overtime loss in the second go-around showed that the Nittany Lions have what it takes to compete with the best of the best.

Penn State, which was already off to its best start in program history when it entered the series, boasted an 8-0-0 record on Friday afternoon. From there, the Nittany Lions dominated the Wolverines from start to finish. Penn State scored three goals and posted 49 shots against a defense that features elite talent such as Luke Hughes, who was selected with the No. 4 overall pick by the New Jersey Devils in the 2021 NHL Draft.

On the opposite end of the ice, Penn State’s defense held Michigan to less than 20 shots the entire game. Liam Souliere posted his second consecutive shutout against some of the most talented players in college hockey, such as Adam Fantilli, who failed to register a shot on goal for the first time this season.

“We just put pressure on them all game,” Souliere said. “If those guys have time and space, they’ll be able to create stuff, and we took it away from them tonight.”

After a program-defining beatdown, the second leg of the two-game series didn’t start out as hot. Michigan scored three goals in the first two periods, and the Wolverines appeared to have figured out the Nittany Lions’ defensive strategy.

Miraculously, Penn State then rallied to tie the game late in the third period by scoring three goals in five minutes, which sent the game to overtime. Michigan quickly struck first in added time, giving Penn State its first loss of the season. But, the Nittany Lions escaped with four of six possible points against the top team in the country.

If anything is clear after this weekend, it’s that Penn State is one of the best teams in college hockey. The Nittany Lions played a gritty series and earned the respect of Brandon Naurato, who currently resides as Michigan’s interim head coach.

“They’re a good team,” Naurato said. “They’re going to be in it at the end of the year.”

Moreover, Guy Gadowsky also felt positive about how his team’s weekend went. Gadowsky was pleased with how much Penn State learned, including how to play better where the unit’s strengths and weaknesses lie.

“It’s a very successful weekend because I thought it’s pretty well-defined on the information on what we do and what we don’t do well,” Gadowsky said.

Overall, the players and coaches learned that this series’ success isn’t simply a byproduct of luckiness. Based on recent performances alone, the pieces are in place for the Nittany Lions to win a significant portion of their games.

Now, they must use Saturday’s loss as a learning experience. While defeat is never enjoyable, it can sometimes serve as a wake-up call to make adjustments and be better prepared for the next game.

In Penn State’s case, that next game is against another heavyweight in No. 3 Minnesota. It’ll be a tough battle, especially with the series being on the road. However, this resilient Penn State team just proved that despite its lowly spot on the totem pole, Gadowsky’s bunch is here to stay.

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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 isn't fun these days. If you want to keep in touch with Nolan, follow him on Instagram @_nolanwick or on Twitter @nolan_wick.

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