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Penn State Men’s Hockey Confident Despite Consistent Second-Half Setbacks

After January 1 last year, Penn State men’s hockey won only four of its remaining 12 games in the 2021-22 regular season. So far, after a 17-5 start, the Nittany Lions boast a 1-2-1 clip since the beginning of 2023, continuing their theme of mid-season struggles.

Penn State opened the new year by sweeping RIT in a home-and-home series. Then, it lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in overtime at Michigan State, a team that had been spiraling downward until that point. Guy Gadowsky’s team played much better in game two of that series, although it wasn’t enough to earn the win, as a 5-4 shootout loss resulted in a tie.

This past weekend, Penn State played well against Notre Dame but ultimately fell short in a 2-1 loss despite having 53 shots on goal. Penn State was finally able to righten the ship by taking a 3-2 win in game two of the series.

Penn State has eight games left on its schedule, with six of them against teams that are currently ranked in the top 10, according to the USCHO Poll. Penn State knows how to compete with the other conference heavyweights, but Gadowsky acknowledged that nothing is promised.

“There is no guarantee that if you do X, Y, and Z your results are going to be A, B, [and] C when it comes to the end of the year,” Gadowsky said.

Gadowsky said this a few days after praising his team’s effort against the Fighting Irish after Friday’s game one loss, saying that he would be satisfied with that type of effort every game.

Still, there are similarities to Penn State’s predicament now and at the same time last year. Although Penn State played its highest quality of hockey toward the end of the season, it barely won any games. The Nittany Lions played one of their best games all season on Friday, for example, but couldn’t get it done playing against a red-hot Notre Dame goaltender Ryan Bischel and Co.

Despite this, Gadowsky feels confident in his team’s direction.

“We do feel that we’ve been good with our culture, and we’ve been good improving week-to-week and that’s all we can do,” Gadowsky said. “We’re not going to change.”

Aside from special team-related woes, Gadowsky’s point is a valid one. Although Penn State is definitely more talented on paper this season, the cultural improvement has been the biggest difference. Good vibes in a locker room are important, which can translate to improved chemistry on the ice when a collective buy-in exists.

The effort during both wins and losses this season has been noticeable. The team shouldn’t change anything in regard to the culture or week-to-week preparation because the progress has been visible.

“I don’t think we really need to change anything,” goaltender Liam Souliere said. “We just need to be more consistent with how we play.”

Consistency will be crucial down the stretch as the Nittany Lions begin to wrap up their regular season. Every game remaining is important, and they have all been classified as “must-wins” by Gadowsky.

The rest of the season starts with a trip to Ann Arbor to face No. 7 Michigan on Friday and Saturday. Penn State split the first series with the Wolverines and limited forward Adam Fantilli, who is one the nation’s top prospects, to no shots on goal in game one. Keeping the good vibes going and bringing an all-out effort will be an important key in the series.

“Like we’ve shown before the New Year, we can beat the best teams,” Souliere said. “The sky’s the limit for us.”

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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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