The days of ACHA club hockey may be over, but Penn State’s rivalry with Ohio did not go anywhere over the weekend.
While Nittany Lions’ coach Guy Gadowsky said playing the Bobcats was another opportunity to get better, the seniors on the team had other ideas, as they were a crucial part in the build up to the two-game series.
Penn State and Ohio faced each other for the 85th and 86th time this weekend with Penn State improving its all-time series record to 50-31-5 with two victories.
Even though the Icers are no more, senior winger Michael Longo — who is one of eight former club players on Penn State’s Division I team — still considers himself an Icer. He also added that it is an honor to be part of building the foundation of the future.
Longo said that Friday night’s 6-1 win in front of 6,107 fans at the Giant Center in Hershey definitely felt like a rivalry game.
“To come here, it’s on a bigger stage with more people,” Longo, who scored a goal Friday night, said. “Now that we’re DI they were hungry to come after us and we still have the bitterness towards them, so it’s a rivalry for sure and it’s a healthy one.”
The two-game weekend series shifted just more than 100 miles back to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion for the second game.
Despite a 5-3 win Saturday, Gadowsky said he thought it was a bad game because of the increased number of stoppages that resulted in 96 total faceoffs.
With the focus being on mental toughness lately, the Lions needed it having gotten scored on first during both games. Senior winger George Saad said the team showed resiliency but giving up the first goal “needs to stop.”
Saad spent his first three years at Penn State with Icers club team. Saad said he always knew that playing Ohio would be tough despite being a club team.
“To play a hard working team like them and pull out two wins is something special,” Saad said. “It’s pretty much still the same team, same rivalry that I know in my mind…Even though a lot of the other guys didn’t play last year against them, they knew that it was game that they had to come and play.”
Senior center Eric Steinour came to Penn State without aspirations of playing NCAA hockey. Steinour, who got an assist in Friday’s game, said he loves the intensity of the rivalry.
“I don’t think it really changed much,” Steinour said. “From freshman year on, it’s always been those battles that we love. We try to pass that tradition down because these weekends are such battles.”