Coach Guy Gadowsky entered the press room not entirely thrilled after Penn State 3-2 victory over Bentley University.
"I think we responded pretty well, but we got whacked pretty good at the start," the coach said.
Of the three goals scored by the Nittany Lions (4-1-2), two were made possible by the line of David Goodwin, Casey Bailey, and Taylor Holstrom—three players who have been fully clicking for this early portion of the season.
Gadowsky credits the key to their successes to a strong work ethic.
"All three of them have shown high levels of skill, and they all have a very high hockey IQ," the coach said. "But I think the key is that all three of them are working extremely hard."
He mentioned that he thought Holstrom had been the best back-checker on the team, Bailey the best at getting the puck out from the boards, and that Goodwin had been overall the team’s hardest worker — an idea that continued to affirm Gadowsky’s belief in the "hockey gods."
"Those guys tend to get rewarded," he said.
The trio has essentially been flawless for the Lions — Bailey, Holstrom, and Goodwin have scored eight, ten, and seven points so far respectively. Those paces set them miles ahead of where they each were a season ago.
On the ice, the Falcons struck first, at the 6:40 point of the first period, when defenseman Matt Maher made goalie Matthew Skoff pay the price on his glove side on a slow, unassisted floater from the point. Skoff was screened on the shot, unable to see the puck coming at him until it was too late, as Bentley scored its first power play goal of the night.
The Lions tied it up quickly, however, as increasingly on-fire forward Bailey’s hard work in front of the net eventually paid off. After passing back and forth with linemates Holstrom and Goodwin, Bailey found an open puck and pushed it into the net, past Bentley goaltender Gabe Antoni.
"Not the prettiest goal, but it doesn’t really matter," Bailey said after the game.
The lead was claimed by the Lions as their own at 17:03, when a blue line slap shot from defenseman Patrick Koudys was masterfully deflected out of the air by forward Curtis Loik for his third goal of the early season.
In the second period, the Lions continued to play what’s become their signature brand of play this season—racking up shots (they had 54 in the game), and making big, gritty hits on the defensive side of the ice.
The lead was widened to 3-1 at 11:07 of the same period when Holstrom found Bailey, who made a quick, instinctive backdoor pass finding Goodwin. The sophomore then quickly flicked the puck to the back of the net for his third of the season, again beating Antoni.
Bailey in particular has looked like a man revitalized on the ice. Gadowsky has praised his excellent fitness coming into the season, and even mentioned that the junior forward gained seven inches on his vertical due to exceptional offseason training.
The same Bailey shots that were a foot wide of the net a season ago have been consistently between the pipes through the first seven games of the new campaign, and the offseason work certainly looks to be paying off for the Anchorage native.
"Things are clicking right now," Holstrom said, when asked about the stellar play of his line.
During another Bentley power play, at 3:53 of the third, forward Max French placed a bit of a lump into the stomachs of Penn State and their fans, when a play began with Falcons center Alex Greive skating around and ending with forward Max French putting the puck behind Skoff for the Falcon’s second goal of the game, cutting the lead in half, making the score 3-2.
It was the second power play goal of the game for the Bentley unit that ranked 9th in the country coming into the game.
"To allow two good power play goals certainly wasn’t our plan," Gadowsky said.
The Nittany Lions, despite the adversity, however, were able to hold on for the final 16:07 of the contest, cementing themselves yet another series opening victory.
Despite the first come from behind win of the season and the team’s overall improved start, Gadowsky still isn’t satisfied.
"We have a lot of work to do," the coach said.
Notes: Forward David Glen left the game midway through the first period after taking a hard hit against the boards. He did not return. Gadowsky was asked about the possibility of Skoff sitting for a game, but responded in the negative. "Right now [Skoff] is on a roll, so we’re going to ride it," the coach said.
The #NittanyLions improve to 4-1-2 this season, Bentley falls to 3-3-0. The teams re-match tomorrow at 7 p.m.— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) October 31, 2014