When Guy Gadowsky talks to the media after each game, he rarely likes to focus on winning or losing. His team could win one night and he’d talk about things that need to be improved, or they could lose and he’d be thrilled.
There’s no doubt the head coach always wants to win, but this year he’s focused on building the team’s foundation.
The Nittany Lions split their exhibition games against the United States Under-18 National Development Team this weekend. Penn State completed a comeback in its first matchup on Friday, scoring five unanswered goals to win 5-2. However, USA hockey finished the weekend strong with a 3-0 victory Saturday.
Gadowsky said there were a lot of positives that came out of Saturday’s loss, and in the weekend overall.
Penn State struggled in the first period Friday, only managing five shots on goal, compared to USA’s 18. The statistics didn’t show an improvement the next night. Penn State was out-shot again, 19-4, but Gadowsky said the mood in the locker room was positive.
The Lions managed to kill five power plays in the first period of the game, four of them being in the first six minutes.
“I think that showed a lot of mental toughness,” Gadowsky said. “It also shows that we’ve improved in that area against, obviously, an extremely highly-skilled team.”
Team USA coach Don Granato recognized Penn State’s efforts in the first period Saturday, saying the Lions are a tough team to play against.
“Our power play guys were exhausted after the second [power play],” Granato said. “Credit to Penn State and the way they killed, they’re very aggressively strong.”
Gadowsky said after the first period they wanted to refocus, and they did by out-shooting team USA for the first time all weekend in the second period, 15-11.
After most of the game passed scoreless, USA’s Sean Malone put his team ahead with 1:45 left in the second period. Penn State continued the game without putting a goal in the net, as USA’s Michael McCarron scored at 16:31 of the third and Evan Allen put in an empty-netter with only 58 seconds left in the game.
Penn State dressed only five defensemen for the weekend, but didn’t let that hurt the team. Sophomore forward Tommy Olczyk said the team tried to overcome the hole in their roster by relieving the defense any way they could.
“You definitely want to get pucks behind the [defensemen] every chance you get,” the Penn State captain said. “I think we did a lot better job of that [Friday], not so much [Saturday].”
The coach also dubbed an “identity line” after Friday’s matchup and said he had high expectations for the combo. The line includes Olczyk, Michael McDonagh, and Michael Longo.
“The way our staff would like to have it, is it be our ‘MVP line,’ ” Gadowsky said. “It’s a line that consistently does what we do excellently, and that’s our hope with those three guys.”
Gadowsky said the line has the mentality to do well. On Friday, the trio was consistently getting pucks deep and playing well, which the coach said was great for the staff to see happen.
“For us to have success, we’re going to need that from them all year long and hopefully… they’re going to lead the way in how to be an identity line,” Gadowsky said.
Olczyk said, among other things, the line tries to get the puck behind the defensemen, be solid in the defensive zone and not turn over the puck. He said they just like to keep it simple by giving the team some energy with hits or shots, and not become a defensive liability.
“I think for the most part lately we’re doing a really good job at that, minus a few shifts here and there where we struggled out there, but that all comes with the learning process,” Olczyk said.
“It’s a fun way to play, those are two fun guys to play with and I think we play really well together.”