Penn State (16-4-2) is hoping to the right the ship this weekend after a couple of difficult weeks in which the team has gone 0-2-1. It will have a Herculean task, traveling to one of the most imposing places in college hockey, Mariucci Arena, home of the No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers. Penn State has only won once in Mariucci Arena in program history. It will be interesting to see if the larger sheet of ice has any effect on the young Lion team. The ice inside the arena is 15 feet wider than a standard NHL sheet and that of most college hockey arenas, including the Pegula Ice Arena.
The entire series will be televised, first Friday night on Fox Sports North Plus and then Saturday on the Big Ten Network. Five of the next seven games that the Lions play will be televised, and each of the next seven will be streamed free for all Big Ten Network subscribers on the BTN2go app.
After a hard-fought series against Ohio State, Guy Gadowsky focused the next week of practice on re-establishing the team’s identity as an offensive force in preparation for a one-off against Princeton.
While Penn State’s offense looked more like its usual self, peppering Tigers’ goalie Colton Phinney with shots and getting four goals past him, the Nittany Lions’ defense often left goalie Peyton Jones hung out to dry, leading to Saturday’s 5-4 loss in Philadelphia.
Gadowsky admitted on Monday that he and his coaching staff spent too much time during the week on correcting the team’s offense, overlooking any deficiencies the team may have had on defense.
Gadowsky felt the Tigers exposed those flaws, securing a win in a game the Lions should have put away. He shouldered all the blame for that oversight.
“We focused so much on that side of the puck that I think I took my eye off the ball a little bit in terms of defensive habits,” he said.
Entering the heart of Big Ten season, the Lions will have a chance to put together a complete game as they head to Minnesota to take on the conference-leading Golden Gophers. The Gophers are tied with Wisconsin at the top of the conference with 18 points apiece.
With the help of Michigan State, which hosts the Badgers this weekend, the Lions could vault ahead of the Gophers with a strong weekend. Success against the Gophers hasn’t been a theme for the Lions, however, as they are 3-9-0 all time against Don Lucia’s squad, with a 1-5-0 mark at Mariucci Arena.
As has become a trend with Gadowsky, rather than turning his attention to the weekend and scouting his team’s future opponent, he focuses on what the team needs to work on.
“Haven’t thought about the series,” he said. “Very much thought about what we have to do.”
What he feels the team has to do is tighten up defensively, which will be easier said than done. The Gophers have the fifth-ranked offense in the nation, scoring at a clip of 3.71 goals per game. The past two weekends, Gadowsky’s defensemen have been caught up the ice, leading to odd-man rushes — and occasionally breakaways — for the opposition.
“This week has to be a lot more focused on our play without the puck than we have in the past,” he said.
Penn State has never played Minnesota while being the higher-ranked team. The college hockey world will be keeping an eye on the series, as it will have implications for many teams outside of the Big Ten. Tune in at 8 p.m. to follow the team in this very important series.