Over the past few seasons, Penn State has faced a bit of an identity crisis.
A program built on collective work ethic over individual talent has strayed from its founding principle in pursuit of individual accolades.
Less than a week after captain Brandon Biro called out the team for chasing stats in nearly allowing Sacred Heart to come back from a 4-0 deficit, those selfish tendencies did come back to bite the Nittany Lions as they suffered their first loss of the season, a 4-0 defeat to Alaska-Fairbanks.
“It seems now that we are holding our value as to how skilled and talented we are rather than how we play,” coach Guy Gadowsky said Monday. “We have to get back to how we feel about ourselves is the effort we give, not the talent we have.”
It was the type of performance the Nittany Lions have become all too familiar with: come out firing on all cylinders in game one, suffer from a bout of overconfidence, drop a stinker in game two.
No matter how often it’s happened to the Nittany Lions, though, they haven’t yet learned their lesson. Gadowsky may have run out of things to say to the team. Following the loss, the Nittany Lions held a players only meeting.
Gadowsky gave no indication he knows what was said in that meeting, but did hint at what was discussed in the coaches’ meeting following the weekend.
“I think none of us are happy with that result or how we’re playing. There’s a difference, right? Sometimes you get a bad result but play well and vice versa,” he said. “Right now, that result was very telling of the way we played and no one’s happy about it.”
With a full week to reflect on the first time they’ve been shut out at home since the fourth ever game at Pegula Ice Arena, the Nittany Lions will have a one-off series with Robert Morris this weekend to rebound from the embarrassing defeat.
“I think it’s huge, especially after last game, you want to bounce back,” Biro said. “We are starting the Big Ten right after that so you want to get momentum heading into that. Especially in [a one-game weekend], you’ve got no chances at redemption so it’s super important to come out right away and set the tone early.”
Between The Pipes
While Friday didn’t provide the result Gadowsky wanted, it did provide him a chance to shuffle his lineup and test different combinations on forward and defense.
It also provided Gadowsky the opportunity to give Oskar Autio a look between the pipes.
His performances reflected the team’s; Autio allowed four goals on 23 shots. He didn’t exactly receive much help, however, as the Nanooks opened the scoring 72 seconds into the game and doubled their lead 29 seconds into the middle frame.
The Nittany Lions’ push for a comeback in the third period was pitiful, at best. The Nanooks outshot them 13-7 while adding a pair of goals en route to the 4-0 win.
“I think that was a very, very difficult game to play in,” Gadowsky said. “It’s not a great evaluation.”
Autio can hardly be faulted for the outcome, but his is the statline that features Penn State’s only loss through four games. In the end, that’s the stat that matters to Gadowsky.
“I’m not a goaltender or a goaltender guy. What I promise my goaltenders is I don’t care about style,” he said. “All we care about is, number one, your work ethic and commitment to the program and how you represent yourself. After that, it’s wins and losses, save percentage and goals against. I think that’s fair.”
With WhiteOut conditions consuming central Pennsylvania, this weekend provided the perfect opportunity for Penn State to unveil a fresh look that fit the spirit of the weekend.
“The most photogenic and frenzied show of unity, a symbolic showing of spirit and togetherness.”— Penn State Men’s Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) October 20, 2019
⚪️ WHITE RUSH ⚪️
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“The simple design is the best in college football,” Biro said. “For us to get to wear that in our whiteout atmosphere is going to be special.”
The Nittany Lions will sport the alternates on Feb. 1 in the second game of their series with Notre Dame. A rematch of last season’s Big Ten Tournament championship game, the two teams were picked to top the Big Ten in the preseason coaches’ poll and both are living up to the hype.