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Preview: Penn State Hockey Hosts Queens In Exhibition Tune-up

Penn State adjusts to a new style in preparation for the exhibition game.

Gadowsky

One of Guy Gadowsky’s most difficult assignments as head coach of the Penn State hockey team is adjusting his lineup to maximize the chemistry shared by his players. Finding the best combination for each offensive and defensive line is an early-season challenge that all coaches face.

It’s even possible that Gadowsky won’t find the optimal combinations during any given season.

“Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t,” Gadowsky said at the team’s first media day of the season on Thursday. “That’s something we evaluate on a constant basis.”

Gadowsky will get the chance to experiment with line combinations and defense pairings on Sunday when the Nittany Lions host Queens (Ontario) in an exhibition game dubbed “The International Game.”

Aside from filling holes in the lineup left by recent graduates such as David Glen, Eric Scheid and Luke Juha, Gadowsky may also use Sunday afternoon’s match-up to employ a new style of play. The Nittany Lions have formed their identity as an up-tempo, high scoring team, sometimes at the expense of a strong defensive game.

“I love the fact that we score a lot of goals. I love the fact that we play to create offense,” Gadowsky said. “It’s not that you want to neglect defense, but sometimes you have to give something back somewhere.”

While Gadowsky wants to maintain his team’s offensive prowess, he is constantly working to improve its play on the defensive side of the puck. This won’t be done by playing more defensively, but may be accomplished by changing the team’s approach to offense.

“When we talk about improving our defensive numbers, it’s not necessarily because we’re going to give up ‘this’ less but it’s going to be that we’ll have the puck more so we don’t have to defend [as often],” he said. “It’s not that we’re changing things to become more defensive, we just want to be a better 200-foot team and have control of the puck more.”

In the past the Nittany Lions have consistently carried the puck into the offensive zone and quickly fired a shot on net. Gadowsky’s proposed strategy would have the Lions maintain possession in the offensive zone.

This shift in playing style is not because of a lack of success – the Lions have 39 wins in the past two seasons – but is the result of the group of players Gadowsky has at his disposal.

The team does not have a big shooter like it had in Casey Bailey, though Zach Saar seemed ready to fill that role last season. The team’s style will instead complement the players’ hockey IQ and individual speed.

The latter of the two is something sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz has noticed right away.

“Our team speed is just so much faster this year,” he said. “It’s really a good sign, especially when you get into games against teams like Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, those teams that are really flying out there, it’ll help a lot against those guys.”

Gadowsky saw these as the weakest characteristics during his time at Penn State and sought to improve them with his most recent recruiting class.

“One of the areas that we felt strongly that we were going to have to improve on is the hockey IQ and just being skilled,” he said. “If you look at a lot of the players they all exhibit those characteristics.”

Check back on Sunday afternoon for our recap of the exhibition game. The regular season kicks off on Thursday night with when Penn State hosts St. Lawrence at Pegula Ice Arena.