Coach Guy Gadowsky has stated time and time again this season that his team shouldn’t be judged by wins and losses.
Perhaps this weekend, his team will finally stop picking up the latter, and get one of the former for the first time in a while.
After losing 12 of their last 13 games, including their first six games ever of Big Ten conference play, the Nittany Lions are feeling better than they have in weeks as they travel to conference rival Ohio State for a pair of games in Columbus this weekend.
Last Saturday, the Lions arguably played their strongest game of the season, as they fell 3-2 to the best offensive team in the nation, Boston College.
Penn State will do its best to ride the wave of its strong play from the week prior into this week’s doubleheader.
“We’re going to come at it the same way we came at Boston College,” forward Curtis Loik said, noting that the team played well, aside from a game-changing five minute major penalty.
“Overall I think we played a great game, and we’re just going to build off it,” Loik said.
Gadowsky noted the positives of his team’s play, especially in the five-on-five game, but was sure to note this would not be a “must-win” game.
“No, no” he said emphatically, after being asked about the must-win status during Tuesday’s press conference.
“We’re very happy that we are improving so much, and continuing to build a foundation that’s going to let us have success in the future,” the coach said, “…but no game until the Big Ten tournament is going to be a must-win.”
After playing against the NCAA’s two leading scorers in Johnny Gaudreau and Kevin Hayes a week ago, Penn State will now face Ryan Dzingel, the leading scorer in the Big Ten conference.
Defenseman Nate Jensen will be one of the key players tasked with stopping Dzingel from getting his name on the score sheet.
“You just have to know when they’re out there. [Guys like him] can dance around and make you look kind of stupid, but you just have to go out there, and know he’s out there, and just make sure you put the body on him whenever he has the puck,” the junior defenseman said.
Loik, a two-way player through and through, also had a theory on how to keep Dzingel in check.
“You have to mark him out there, and make sure he’s not open,” the North Vancouver native said. “He can make space for himself very well, so you have to stay close to him and keep him under control.”
Anyone in State College can tell you that Penn State and Ohio State have a long-stated rivalry rooted in the history of the schools’ football programs.
For the first season of Big Ten hockey, however, the rivalry is not quite there yet.
Gadowsky was easy to note that these early seasons of conference play are where relationships like that grow and develop, and he wouldn’t be surprised to see something along those lines this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to the intensity of the weekend, that’s for sure,” the head coach said.
Evan Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @EvanRomano.