A year really does make a difference.
In January 2012, the then-Penn State Icers lost to the Neumann Knights (Division III) with snow falling at Citizens Bank Park as part of the NHL Winter Classic.
Tonight, the Division I Nittany Lions will face the Knights, this time with all the comforts of home in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion at 7:30 p.m.
Even though Penn State has a return to Philadelphia on Saturday, the team is trying to keep the trip to Wells Fargo Center out of their minds.
“We’re not mentioning the big arena at all,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said at Monday’s practice. “We have one game…It’s against an opponent that beat us, 6-3 last year.”
When asked about the difficulty of not looking ahead to the game on NHL ice, Gadowsky jokingly said “there is no game in Philly.”
Gadowsky said he and the coaching staff are trying to get the team to consciously not think about playing Vermont and concentrate on the next game on the schedule.
“We have not mentioned it,” Gadowsky said. “We won’t talk about it.”
The Nittany Lions faced the same situation earlier in the season and got burned. Back in October, the Lions were shutout by Buffalo State, another Division III opponent, the night before beating R.I.T. in front of a sold out crowd at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y.
Gadowsky said the team was not prepared to face Buffalo State as it was looking ahead to the R.I.T game.
Neumann is also one of the better Division III teams in the NCAA, Gadowsky said. The Knights are coming into the game with a 9-4-2 record. Both the Lions and Knights have also faced similar opponents.
The Knights are coming off a weekend in which they swept Fredonia State (SUNY) at home. The Nittany Lions also beat Fredonia State, 4-0, earlier this season.
The team thinks it can use the Winter Classic loss as a measuring stick of how far the program has come in year, Gadowsky said.
“It will give us an indication of ‘are we improving?’ ” Gadowsky said. “That’s why I think it’s really important that we have a really good effort and concentrate more on [Neumann]. Hopefully we will get some good information.”
While Gadowsky said it isn’t so much about getting revenge, junior forward Justin Kirchhevel said it is about getting even.
Kirchhevel was on the Icer team that played Neumann last year and said he sees the team’s improvement.
“Obviously I think we are taking the right steps,” Kirchhevel said. “We’re winning big games at times when we need to like the win against Ohio State.”
With last weekend’s two-game series split against the United States Under-18 National Development Team not counting towards their final statistics, Penn State comes into the game with an 8-11-0 record.