The Penn State (16-3-2) hockey team is ready to get back to work and it will have a solid opponent this weekend. Princeton (7-11-2) has had an up-and-down season, climbing into a low-30’s spot in the PairWise Rankings a month ago. The Tigers have since slid a few spots to No. 40, but the team still remains higher in the rankings than was expected heading into the season. That makes this final non-conference game that much more interesting. Penn State held the top spot in the voter polls and PairWise Rankings until it tied and lost to OSU this past weekend, dropping the Lions to No. 3 in the PairWise heading into the weekend.
The team took an extra day off this week since it only has one game to prepare for, not the regular two-game series. For the remainder of the year, the Lions will be locked into the game on Friday and Saturday routine. The majority of the games that the team will play after this weekend will be on television, so it will get much easier for fans to follow Guy Gadowsky’s squad as it attempts to gain a bid to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
Princeton has provided an unexpected uptick in Penn State’s strength of schedule. The team started the season with a record of 0-6-1. It then went on a 7-1-0 tear to get back on track, which provided the boost in its ranking, before settling back down with a 0-4-1 record in its past five games.
The Tigers have a fair amount of upperclassmen but the scoring production comes mostly from freshmen and sophomores. Senior goalie Colton Phinney has started all but one game in net, with a 3.52 goals against average and save percentage of .897. While Princeton has played well at times this season, this game is one that Penn State can win easily if it comes out and asserts itself early. Princeton should not be able to keep up with the free-skating Lions.
Guy Gadowsky had this to say about the team’s performance versus Ohio State and what his squad will do moving forward.
Well it’s true that anytime that you lose, whatever your warts are, they become more evident. And winning covers it up a little bit. But with us. It was really evident that we did changed after the first period. We did press. So the message is that is that we just have to be ‘us’ consistently.
When asked about the current position of the team, this was his response.
If everyone of these guys, before they arrived on campus, were to say that on January 25th you will be third in the PairWise, which means actually a number one seed in the regional (NCAA tournament.) And second in the Big Ten. Every guy would jump all over it and be thrilled. And really that’s the approach that we take. It’s easy to think of the last game that you played, but if you look at it as a whole, it’s a very special season that they have going. And they have to look at it that way. We definitely have improvements to make, from this weekend, but that doesn’t negate what this team has done.
Freshman goalie Peyton Jones was asked what he was looking forward to most this weekend and he responded, “My grand-pop coming. He’s not in the best condition so he can’t come (to State College) and he’s going to make it to the game so I’m very exited for that.” Jones grew up just outside of Philadelphia but hasn’t made it back recently to visit with family. He will have a great deal of support in the stands this weekend.
The game is available on stream for a $9.95 fee or you can listen to the game for free on gopsusports.com.