Penn State hasn’t had to face much adversity this season. Going 16-3-2 with just four road games so far this season has provided more room for celebrations than sulking and second guessing.
A let down was imminent, however, even after the Nittany Lions were voted the No. 1 team in the country in the USCHO poll. A program still in its infancy getting it’s first experience as the top team can often take the moment for granted.
Such was the case as the Lions hosted Ohio State over the weekend. A bitter conference rival — not only in hockey, of course — with the added excitement of Friday’s White Out game created an atmosphere in which the Lions could hardly be faulted for losing focus on the ice.
Even Guy Gadowsky admitted on Wednesday that the team may have let the spotlight affect its play.
“I do think they tried to press, but the team wasn’t exactly willing to admit it,” he said. “But they eventually admitted that it might have been because of the national attention.”
Captain David Goodwin, whose first season coincided with an 8-26-2 record, agreed and added that the team let a tremendous opportunity fall through.
“It stings a little bit,” Goodwin said. “But you know, you’re not going to be able to win them all. We’ve learned from it and we think it’s made us better.”
While Goodwin didn’t point to any specific aspects of the team’s game that needs improvement, both he and Gadowsky believe the team unintentionally got away from its typical game plan against the Buckeyes.
“We did things that weren’t us,” Gadowsky said. “We don’t have to do anything more special. We just have to be us, more consistently, even when things might not feel like they’re going our way.”
Gadowsky believes that getting a taste of the national attention that accompanies the top ranked team will help the Lions better prepare and handle that attention next time they find themselves in that position, which he hopes is soon. The team fell two spots to No. 3 in the current PairWise Rankings.
“It’s the first time we’ve had that. It’s the first time our coaching staff has had that, so maybe we didn’t handle it as well [as we could have],” he said. “I hope we get a chance to see if we can handle it better.”
The weekend was punctuated following Saturday’s 6-3 loss, as a member of the Buckeyes launched a broom onto the ice, celebrating an unofficial sweep. While the Buckeyes picked up the extra point on Friday, the game went down as a tie.
Ohio State leaves the ice, tosses a broom on the ice. Imagine that won't be forgotten. pic.twitter.com/OUwEZlo4rY— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) January 22, 2017
Following Saturday’s game, Buckeyes coach Steve Rohlik claimed not to have known about the incident. On Wednesday, the players chose their words carefully when discussing the occurrence.
Leaning back in his chair, and with a bit of disgust in his voice, Goodwin explained as much as would not get him in trouble.
“I had reactions to it that I won’t share,” Goodwin said. “But obviously it wasn’t something that we like to see.”