In the world of college hockey, a series with one team normally means back-to-back games, and often, those games are at 7 p.m. both nights. But thanks to the 21st century where a lot of scheduling has to do with TV rights, sometimes teams must play one night at 7 p.m. and play the next afternoon.
Penn State has found itself in that situation the past two weekends and will continue the streak this weekend. Handling that quick transition is all in small changes to pregames routines.
“Everything is kind of pushed forward in your day,” freshman Zach Saar said. “We just play it by ear, and at the end of the day when you come to the rink, it's the same way you prepare every night.”
Penn State began the stretch when the Nittany Lions played on the afternoon two Saturdays ago against Ohio State. That game was aired live on ESPNews.
Then, just this past weekend, Penn State played on Saturday at 5 p.m. against Michigan, another game that aired on ESPNU.
Finally, this weekend, Penn State will play at 3:30 p.m., with that game also airing on ESPNews. All Friday night games the night before have been start times of no later than 6:30 p.m. A lot of the reason why those games air at the time is to let the ESPNs of the world show more watched events like college basketball.
"I don't look at it as any challenge," Guy Gadowsky said. "It's the same for both teams. I like it because hockey fans are often involved in youth hockey. And youth hockey means getting up very early in the morning. It's a great opportunity to let the families feel more confident about coming to games."
Saturday's game is the second to last afternoon game left for Penn State on the slate as they close out the regular season against Ohio State at 3 p.m. However, the team could be forced to play an afternoon game when it comes time for the Big Ten tournament.
According to both Saar and forward Casey Bailey , it's all about starting the routine earlier and treating the game the same way as a 7 p.m. one, just putting on the pads a little sooner.
"It throws you off a little bit, but it's nice to get right back at it," Bailey said. "...It's definitely something that effects what you do the night before. You kind of have to change your pregame rituals. I think it's also exciting because you get to get back out there sooner and redeem yourself or continue off success."
Skoff named second star
Goalie Matt Skoff became the first Nittany Lion to be named a Big Ten star this year after his shutout performance on Saturday that lead Penn State to its first Big Ten win.
Skoff, a sophomore, made 32 saves to pick up his third career shutout as Penn State beat Michigan, 4-0.
"I think it's a great team award." Gadowsky said. "Obviously, it's for Skoffer, but I think everybody played hard defensively. I think they all take pride in that.”
The win was the Lions first since beating Robert Morris in late December and snapped a nine-game losing streak. It moved Penn State's win total to five, and coincidently, Skoff has been the netminder in all five of those wins.
Jensen and Juha ruled out
Two of Penn State's top defensemen will be out against Michigan State this weekend.
Both Luke Juha and Nate Jensen will miss the two games with head injuries as Gadowsky announced on Tuesday.
Jensen left the game after a big hit at the blue line, and Juha later got a stick tangled in his legs and crashed into the boards.
Juha is second on the team with 14 points, and Jensen has seven this year.
Darian Somers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @StuffSomersSays.