Oskar Autio Michigan 2

Penn State's men's hockey against Michigan in the second period on Dec. 2, 2020. The Nittany Lions fell to No. 7 Michigan, 3-1. Photo/Craig Houtz

With the coronavirus still running rampant through the country, and the world, the sports world has not failed to dodge the impact of the surge in virus cases.

During the month of December, the NHL took a six-day break in order to help combat the recent surge of positive tests throughout the league, and even Penn State Athletics has been affected by the pandemic’s uptick in cases.

Coach Micah Shrewsberry and company had its last three games of 2021 canceled.

Luckily for the Nittany Lions, though, Guy Gadowsky’s squad has yet to deal with an outbreak of its own during this 2021-22 campaign.

Gadowsky said his team makes sure to follow Penn State’s protocols in order to best combat a potential outbreak.

“We're going to do as much as we can, and we're going to do it by the rules of Penn State,” Gadowsky said.

As the country continues to move through the pandemic, coronavirus protocols continue to adapt and the topic of how to handle the pandemic becomes more polarizing.

The blue and white’s head coach said following the school’s guidelines is not about subjective stances among his team, though, and instead about protecting the group as a whole.

“There's no individual opinions on why we do things, we follow our institution 100 percent,” Gadowsky said. “If they say we're all going to wear yellow shirts on Friday, because that's going to help us, that's what we're going to do.”

“We're not questioning it. We're just doing what they say.”

While the Nittany Lions have yet to face an outbreak of their own, they have had games affected by an outbreak in the program of one of their scheduled opponents.

On Dec. 29, just two days before puck drop, it was announced that its home series with Maine was canceled after positive coronavirus tests were detected in the Black Bear program.

This marked the first time all season the team had its schedule tweaked due to coronavirus issues.

The cancellation with the Black Bears, though, presented the Nittany Lions with a special opportunity.

The blue and white would get the chance to travel to West Point, New York, to play Army in a last-minute match up announced just a day after the Maine Cancellation.

The face off with the Black Knights marked the first time since 2013 that the two teams would play each other.

In the end, Penn State proved victorious, beating its counterpart 5-3 on the road to improve to 12-8 on the season.

Gadowsky praised Army’s staff and players for their willingness to take the match up on such late notice, before giving props to both athletics programs for putting the game together in a similar fashion.

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“For them to agree to it and then also as a coaching staff, I give them a lot of credit.” Gadowky said. “As an athletic department to put that together so quickly – to sell tickets, to have gameday operations staff, to secure referees and everything; I give them a lot of credit.”

The Nittany Lion head coach said he thinks both teams benefited from the “important” last-minute experience.

Such an experience is one that senior goaltender Oskar Autio said his team can’t worry too much about, with its vision, instead, needing to be on the things it can alter.

“We're trying to focus on what we can control,” Autio said. “We're coming to the rink, every day, putting in the work. When we can play, great; we'll try and make the best of it.”

Autio noted that his team was pretty fortunate during its first semester of play, when it came to avoiding major coronavirus problems and added that his team’s ability to deal with the long break between games has been boosted by having already dealt with navigating the pandemic last season.

“We were lucky enough for the first semester to have everything go pretty smoothly,” Autio said. “It's one of those things that we all got to learn to live with.”

“I think last year helped a lot just because you know, we obviously dealt with it all year. So now, I think guys are more used to it, and maybe it doesn't affect us just as much as it did last year.” .

As Penn State continues to do its best to avoid a program outbreak, the Nittany Lions and coach Gadowsky value accountability at the highest level, especially when it comes to their student leaders.

“It has to come from every single person. Everybody has to keep everybody else accountable,” Gadowsky said. “How important is it for the leaders to do this? It's vital.”

“It will not work without them. In fact, they're, I think, the most important part of it.”

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