clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Penn State Hockey Media Notebook

New, comments

Regaining a finisher’s mentality highlights this week’s Penn State Hockey Media Notebook.

Photo by Heather Weikel

During their trip to Wisconsin last weekend, the Nittany Lions trailed the Badgers for only 3:51 out of the 125 minutes played between the two teams. However, the Lions wrapped up the weekend without a win, going 0-1-1.

Both nights, the Lions carried leads deep into the third period. On Friday night, the Lions gave up the tying goal with under 10 minutes to play and the game-winning goal with just under four minutes to play.

Saturday, the team held two-goal leads on three separate occasions, but ultimately allowed the Badgers to tie the game at four with under three minutes remaining. The Lions went on to drop the extra point in the Big Ten standings in a shootout.

“It is troubling because we never really had to address that and it’s something that we have always done very well,” Gadowsky said during the team’s weekly press conference. “I do believe in the character of the locker-room and that’s what it’s all about and I’m sure they will put it back together.”

Finishing a game strong had never been something the Lions had to worry about. In fact, over the past couple seasons, it became part of the team’s identity, as it would open a game relatively flat and perhaps fall behind by a goal or two, but then rebound and rally in the final 20-plus minutes of a game to pull off miraculous win after miraculous win.

The Lions will have to try to refine that aspect of their identity down the stretch and into a postseason run, just as the Lions did last season.

Shooting Blanks

Penn State’s offensive strategy under Guy Gadowsky has been simple: get a few steps over the blue line and rip as many shots as possible on net. The trigger-happy mindset has allowed the Nittany Lions to lead the NCAA in shots per game in each of the past three seasons, and they’re well on their way to repeating for a fourth-straight year.

While the Lions are outshooting their opponents by nearly 10 shots per game, the past few weekends have produced a much closer shot count.

Despite a 20-shot advantage against Michigan two weekends ago, the Lions have ever so narrowly outshot their opponents over the past three series. During those six games, the Lions have gone 1-4-1.

Despite the unfamiliar discrepancy in shots, Gadowsky has been pleased with his team’s offensive efforts.

“We’d always like to [get more shots]. I don’t think we’ve lacked in a lot of good chances,” he said. “Posts don’t necessarily count as shots, and we’ve hit a bunch of them.”

Defense Wins Championships

It may be a tired cliche, but it is one that certainly holds weight: defense wins championships. Each of the past four National Champions have finished in the top five in goals against per game, including a top-ranked defense in last season’s National Champion Denver.

Unsurprisingly, the top three teams are also the three stingiest teams in the NCAA. The Nittany Lions will welcome one of those teams — No. 2 Notre Dame — to State College this weekend.

As Guy Gadowsky continues to build his program into a national contender, he often looks to the Fighting Irish as a model of what his team could be.

“They’re defensive efforts are very consistent,” Gadowsky said in regards to the strengths of title contenders. “I think that’s what makes teams consistent from start to finish.

“I do think Notre Dame is a great example. The truth is, they are extremely well-coached. Coach [Jeff] Jackson is phenomenal. That has been the reputation of that program for a while. They’re not going to beat themselves. They’re extremely disciplined in what they do. They’re as consistent as you get.”

While defensive strength is one of the most important keys to winning a National Championship, Gadowsky doesn’t want to stray too far from his team’s identity, but realizes there is room for improvement.

“It’s no secret that a big part of our identity has been on the offensive side of the puck. We really love to play to score goals and be creative and get as many chances as possible,” he said. “Ideally, you would love to maintain that same identity and still play extremely tough defense.

“If I’m being honest with you, the answer is I don’t think we’re quite where we want to be, but at the same time, we’re very happy with the way our offense plays. I think if there is room for us to improve, it would be on the defensive side of the puck.”