After a long, winless weekend in the far off land of Alaska, coach Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions are ready to get back on the ice for a week of practice and a series of games back at home.
On Tuesday, Gadowsky met with the media for his weekly session, and talked player injuries, player improvements, and where he sees that his team can get better.
Alaska wasn’t kind to the Lions as far as player health went, as defenseman captain Patrick Koudys, forwards Taylor Holstrom, and Jonathan Millay, and defenseman David Thompson all were banged up in one way or another over the series at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks. Gadowsky said that Koudys and Holstrom, who was skating during practice but with a big red "X" across his jersey, were "day-to-day."
He was more down on Milley’s injury — a flare up of the same back injury that’s plagued him over the past few seasons.
"There really is no timetable," Gadowsky said.
A skate cut Thompson over the weekend, in an injury that at least momentarily caused a lot of fear among his coach and teammates. He was simultaneously cut by an opponent’s skate at the same time as he got the wind knocked out of him from being hit — causing his teammates to motion for the trainer to immediately hit the ice.
"It wasn’t as bad as it initially looked," Gadowsky said. "I felt like throwing up."
The coach said he found out about 30 seconds after the trainers were on the ice that the defenseman was alright, but those 30 seconds were as terrifying as any he can remember.
Thompson received 20 stitches, including one "really long one," that threaded throughout the entire laceration on his left side. (Ed note- What a weird detail. -NP)
Penn State led in both games, but came away from the weekend without a win. Tying Alaska Anchorage on Friday, and falling late to Alaska on Saturday, Gadowsky saw something similar in the play of both nights.
"We are just not tough enough mentally right now to go into the third, confident that we are going to elevate our game," Gadowsky said. "I believe it’s a mental toughness issue."
The Lions will need to get this shored up if they want to be competitive, especially during Big Ten conference play.
Despite the lack of victories over the weekend, there was some play that excited Gadowsky.
Forward Eric Scheid kept his constant pace of the past two seasons, scoring another goal. Casey Bailey has especially impressed the coach with his early play, a stark contrast from his slow start a season ago.
Gadowsky credited the fact that Bailey was in "much better shape" this season as the biggest reason in the change from year to year. He also mentioned that Bailey had gained seven inches onto his vertical.
A little professional experience didn’t hurt the forward either.
"He also had a tremendous camp with the Calgary Flames," Gadowsky said. "That gave him a lot of confidence, too."
Another player who the coach was proud of was long-time struggling forward Max Gardiner, who scored his first goal in nearly 20 months in Alaska, one that Gadowsky called "a beauty."
The coach was proud of Gardiner’s play thus far in the season, adding "the whole team is really happy for him."
Finally, the coach was super excited about the play of forward Curtis Loik, who he has long said has one of the best shots on the team.
"Boy he’s playing well right now, and I really hope it continues," Gadowsky said.
The coach went onto say that Loik is playing a ‘power forward’ type game and that’s something he’s really special at, while sometimes he finds himself playing a perimeter player game, something that the coach says he’s just ‘OK’ at.
"He really is a big horse," Gadowsky said. "and he’s hard to handle."