Penn State Men’s Hockey Learning From Success Ahead Of Wisconsin Series

Last weekend was a tale of two opposites for Penn State men’s hockey. The Nittany Lions lost 4-1 on Friday but responded with a 6-3 victory over then-No. 6 Minnesota at Pegula Ice Arena on Saturday. Now, the Nittany Lions will take a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to face the No. 6 Wisconsin Badgers.

Both Minnesota and Wisconsin have standout defenses. For instance, five out of the Golden Gophers’ six defensemen in the lineup last weekend were NHL draft picks. Wisconsin, meanwhile, has the top-scoring defense in the nation. The Badgers have Ben Dexheimer, whose 13 points are tied for second on the team, while freshmen defensemen Brady Cleveland and Zach Schulz were also NHL draft selections this year.

Although the task of taking on Wisconsin and its good defense in Madison is daunting, facing Minnesota was a good precursor for Penn State to build off of its success. It’s something the team has been doing well recently, as the Nittany Lions have won three consecutive game twos.

“Every experience you have, that is a success you learn off of,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “You learn as much from successes, if not more so than failures.”

Saturday night instilled more confidence in Gadowsky, as his team scored six goals against one of the best teams in the nation. As a result, it’s more confident heading into the weekend.

“I liked the fact that we put up six goals but did it while playing our identity defensively as well,” he said. “And if you can do that against Minnesota, you can do that at Wisconsin… Once you do something once, it’s easy to do again.”

Penn State’s defensive identity has evolved over recent seasons into that of a faster, more intense group in the hope of matching its offense. Like Gadowsky’s culture-building process that took place over the last few years, he’s trying to change his defensive identity over time to mirror the team’s offensive style.

That quick offensive style was on display in the first half of the opening period in Friday’s game before Minnesota scored four unanswered goals. The Nittany Lions did the same thing again on Saturday, except this time, they played faster the whole game.

“Our identity, in general, is a very fast, aggressive team, and we’ve worked over the years to have our defense match our offense. So we’re getting there,” Gadowsky said. “So our identity, overall, is a very fast, aggressive team. And that’s how we are building towards our defensive identity as well as trying to match our defensive identity with our offense within that mindset is similar. You don’t necessarily have to change in different zones.”

Although he acknowledged that it takes time, Gadowsky feels better about where his defense is now compared to where it was a few seasons ago. He believes the unit is more polished as a whole, even though there aren’t glaring changes from year to year.

“We’re getting a lot further. I think we’re a lot further ahead than we were four years ago, that’s for sure. And I think that we’re more refined. Nothing has changed, for example from last year to this year, but we’re a lot more refined,” Gadowsky said. “We were always very comfortable offensively but gave up a lot when we tried to be too aggressive defensively. Now we’re sort of mirror merging the two that we were starting to feel comfortable.”

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a senior journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland. He's an avid D.C sports fan and loves going to games in his free time. Nolan mainly writes about Penn State football, men's hockey, and baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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