When the puck drops against Air Force this weekend, the Penn State men’s hockey team will be facing its fifth opponent from the Atlantic Hockey Association.
The Nittany Lions will be looking to win their fifth straight game, taking on the Falcons at 7:30 p.m. at the Greenburg Ice Pavilion in what will be just the third home game in program history.
The Lions boast a 4-1-0 record against teams from the AHA but will have a tough task against Air Force, who has won five out of the last six conference championships including five appearances in the NCAA tournament. The Falcons made it to the Frozen Four in 2010.
Penn State’s leading goal scorer, freshman forward David Glen said the team has a lot of confidence after getting revenge against Buffalo State on home ice last week.
The Falcons have struggled so far this season. They come into the weekend with a 2-3-3 record but head coach Guy Gadowsky said Air Force will be a tough team to face.
“They are very experienced and have had success against excellent teams,” Gadowsky said. “I think this is going to be a different deal.”
Last year, the Falcons lost to eventual national champions Boston College in the Northeast Regional of the NCAA tournament.
Key injuries will also add to the challenge. The Lions will be without two key members after freshman defensemen Mark Yanis broke his ankle and freshman forward Jonathan Milley suffered a hip pointer against Buffalo State last weekend.
Yanis is expected to miss up to two months while Gadowsky said there is no timetable for Milley’s return.
Gadowsky said he hopes that playing against tough opponents like Air Force, does not cause a “mental block.”
As long as the Lions focus on themselves, they can rise to the task, Glen said.
“They are going to be really good team,” Glen said. “We’ve got to stick to our principles of backchecking, crashing the net, just playing hard and playing to our strengths and we will be fine.”
In goal, Gadowsky said he was “leaning towards” sophomore P.J. Musico because of his results in games. Musico is currently 4-0-0 with a 2.00 goals against average and a .938 save percentage.
Despite getting the win in his last appearance against Sacred Heart, Gadowsky said Musico didn’t have his best game but got some big “timely” saves. Musico stopped 16 of Sacred Heart’s 19 shots.
Gadowsky also said he is not ruling out the possibility of playing sophomore Matt Skoff in net.
Penn State will use the next set of games against Air Force and Union as a way to measure how the team has progressed and matches up against tougher opponents, Glen said.
“We’ll really know where we are at after the four games,” Glen said. “We are just trying to build a foundation of [hard work].”
The Men’s Hockey Booster Club will also host a brunch for both teams. This will take place at the Nittany Lion Inn from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday prior to the rubber match at 7:30 p.m.
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