Typically a juggernaut offensive team, Penn State seemingly met its match in goalie Drew DeRidder last time it faced Michigan State.
DeRidder made 64 stops over the two games and allowed only two Nittany Lion shots to find the back of the net over the weekend.
Despite the drought in the teams’ last meeting, Penn State was still able to walk away with one victory, beating the Spartans 1-0 in the first game.
After their first 1-0 win in program history, the Nittany Lions fell 5-1 in the following contest.
Guy Gadowsky believes in his team, though, and feels all it needs to do is believe rather than get frustrated if it runs into a hot goalie.
“We have to have belief and faith in what we do,” Gadowsky said. “The quality of goaltending in the Big Ten is absolutely the toughest… and you can’t get discouraged.”
If Penn State can stick to its game plan, the blue and white will likely put shots on net at a prolific rate.
Penn State likes to shoot so much, in fact, that it currently sits second in the country in shots — behind only Bowling Green, who has played two more games.
While Penn State has shot the puck a lot, stopping opponents’ shots has been a cause for concern.
Junior goalie Oskar Autio had no issue in his first outing against Michigan State, posting a shutout and 23 saves.
When Gadowsky sent freshman netminder Liam Souliere out for the next game, however, the first-year college player did not fare as well.
Souliere let up four goals on only 20 shots in the 5-1 loss.
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The crease has been a revolving door all year, with Souliere and Autio both starting multiple times and graduate student Will Holtforster even seeing a few minutes in net, with Autio earning the starting nod in each of the past two games.
Gadowsky has said throughout the year that the rotation is oftentimes predetermined and has yet to name an official starter, but he did note how well Autio has played as of late.
“I thought he played really well and we left him out to dry,” Gadowsky said, referencing the team’s 6-3 loss to Ohio State. “I don’t know what’s going to happen moving forward, but right now he deserves the net.”
Regardless of how well Autio plays or how many shots the offense might get on net, the challenge of beating DeRidder remains a steep one.
DeRidder comes into this series with a .940 save percentage while allowing only 2.03 goals per game, which are both second in the Big Ten.
As solid as he was against the Nittany Lions, though, DeRidder is human and got lit up like a Christmas tree against Michigan, surrendering three first period goals on nine shots before being pulled in favor of backup Pierce Charleson.
DeRidder bounced back the next day and proved why he is heralded as one of the Big Ten’s premier goalies, getting a 38-save win against the same team that chased him just 24 hours prior.
Should Penn State be able to manage a little bit more offense than two goals, which is a season low for any series, it will put the team in a much better spot.
The team could lean on forward Kevin Wall, who stepped up in the previous series against Ohio State, notching four points over the two games and earning Big Ten Third Star of the Week for his efforts.
Gadowsky noted defense more so than offense when talking about what Penn State needed to do differently this go around, though.
“They exploited a couple areas on us pretty well,” Gadowsky said. “They do a really good job in the offensive zone using their man up high. It was something that we're gonna have to definitely be ready for this time.”
Regardless of the opponent, no game is the same for this squad without the beloved fans of Pegula Ice Arena cheering them on.
Gadowsky hasn’t felt as though the lack of fans has impacted his players on the road, but he noted the difference the team feels whenever it skates on home ice this season.
“On the road, after the puck dropped, I don’t think it had that big an effect,” he said. “The Roar Zone was such a part of our momentum and our tempo here that it is different. You can see the bench, almost by habit, looking to the right after goals to see what [the student section] is doing.”
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