The Penn State club ice hockey team hopes to continue its 10-game winning streak while hitting the road for its final four games of the regular season.
The Ice Lions (19-4-1) have a busy road schedule this weekend as they face Rider tonight at 7:30, a game from October that was rescheduled due to Superstorm Sandy, and travel to Philadelphia on Saturday for their match up against Saint Joseph’s. The trip will wrap up in Baltimore on Sunday with a game against UM-Baltimore.
Assistant captain and leading scorer Chris Lewis(sophomore - marketing) said that when the team has stacked weekends, it is difficult not to focus on the better opponents the team will be facing later, but the team is prepared to focus on the next game rather than the big game.
“We have to take each game 20 minutes at a time, each period, and really focus on the game at hand and worry about the next day when it comes,” Lewis said.
With the steepest of their competition being at the end of their road trip, the Ice Lions will look to move seamlessly through the weekend. Their goal is to go 3-0 but the most important matchup could be with UM-Baltimore.
That team is currently in third place, right behind Penn State in the ACHA rankings. The winner of their matchup on Sunday will decide what team will receive the automatic bid to nationals in March.
“We definitely want to focus and take care of business Sunday so we don’t have to worry about the [regional tournament],” Lewis said.
Coach Matt Morrow said that the team’s win against Rowan this past weekend, moving it to first place in the MACHA north division, put it in position for a top seed at the conference championships. The game against Baltimore on Sunday, however, will be important to bypass conference and regional play.
An automatic bid to nationals would give the Ice Lions more time to heal and prepare for a tough away tournament.
However, sophomore Ryan Urban said that with the team’s recent road trips, it should be prepared to get the job done away from the Penn State Ice Pavilion.
“Recently we have been having some away trips, so I think we’ve become pretty acclimated to it... The travel has worked itself out quite nicely; we have some guys staying at houses this weekend, and then we have hotel rooms, so the travel accommodations have been pretty nice,” Urban said.
With players staying at teammates’ homes during this away slate, Urban and Morrow agree that the team will fare better with comfortable accommodations and a more relaxing atmosphere throughout the busy weekend.
“The parent support we got this year has been absolutely incredible; and [that support] not only a part of the Ice Lions, but the Penn State community. Everyone is sort of working for the same cause and the parents have supported the team really well… it is a really close-knit group,” Morrow said.
With the regular season quickly coming to an end, Morrow still believes that there is work to be done in order for the team to become a national championship contender-- with this weekend kicking off the road to the tournament.
“Right now we control our own destiny… and as long as we have a clean slate through our next four games, we will get to nationals, which is our ultimate goal,” Morrow said. “Then once were there, we want to win a game, then our bracket, and then win a national championship.”