Penn State Men’s Hockey Practicing ‘Collective Mental Toughness’ Ahead Of Michigan Series
No. 18 Penn State men’s hockey is set to hit the road for a weekend series with Big Ten rival No. 12 Michigan. Following a tough two-week stretch against Notre Dame and Michigan State that saw three shootouts and a close loss, the side is aiming to bounce back against one of its most storied opponents.
The Wolverines and Nittany Lions are no strangers on the ice. Last season, Penn State played Michigan five times, going 1-2-1 in the regular season before a heartbreaking overtime loss in Allentown that saw the Nittany Lions exit the NCAA Tournament.
“Do we need more motivation to beat Michigan? No,” head coach Guy Gadowsky answered when asked if the team had a chip on its shoulder going into the series. “I don’t think there’s a team in the league that we’re not ready to play… They’re a great team with a lot of success. I don’t think we need any more motivation.”
At a middling 5-5-1, Michigan has faced tough opposition to open the season, splitting series with No. 6 Minnesota and No. 5 Providence and dropping two games to No. 1 Wisconsin. Both the Wolverines and Nittany Lions are win-starved entering the weekend, and neither program has won in regulation since October.
With an injury-shortened bench and out-of-position players, the program has been “weathering the storm,” as Gadowsky puts it, but with the return of veteran goal-scorer Tyler Paquette and renewed focus, the Nittany Lions are gearing up for a return to the national conversation with a strong performance.
This week, getting in the right headspace for the challenge has been the priority around Pegula Ice Arena. Penn State hasn’t won in Yost Ice Arena since December 7, 2019. The century-old barn is as hostile as they come.
“They get the snowball rolling,” Gadowsky said of the Michigan fans. “And what that takes is you really have to be mentally tough to be able to have performance on demand regardless of what’s going on around you.”
“Collective mental toughness” has been the mantra from the staff this week. To be successful against the Wolverines, that’ll have to manifest into clean, penalty-free hockey. Michigan’s power play converts on 40% of its chances, topping the nation. Gadowsky says the team is going to “play our game and stay out of the box. We’d rather try to beat them five on five than go to a special teams battle.”
The Nittany Lions have stayed out of trouble so far this season, only averaging 2.9 penalties a game. When removing their nine-infraction tilt against Notre Dame, the figure falls to just 2.1.
“I believe that you learn more from success than you do from failure,” Gadowsky told the media this week. “If you go in there and if you don’t have success, you can always say, ‘Well, we have to do better,’ but you don’t really know what it takes until you get it done.”
This program is on its way up. With a constantly improving win total year over year, an NCAA Tournament run in its back pocket, and young, tenacious talent, Penn State has its sights on the Big Ten title and more this year.
Righting the ship against Michigan will go a long way in establishing the Nittany Lions this season. Gadowsky knows that’s what it takes to “get over the hump.”
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The Nittany Lions will face an added challenge bouncing back from a loss with new playcallers this weekend.
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