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Penn State men's hockey not 'finished product' after dropping 4 straight to open Big Ten play

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Men's Hockey vs. Wisconsin, Pilewicz (24)

Adam Pilewicz (24) defends against a Wisconsin player during the Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament against Wisconsin at the Pegula Ice Arena on Mar. 10, 2019.

Much like its first matchup with Michigan, Penn State found little success in round two against the opposition on Friday.

In Thursday’s match, the Nittany Lions put together a convincing performance from the defense to start the contest.

However, it all would soon fall apart with Michigan lighting the lamp with little resistance in the first two periods of game one.

Penn State, this time around, looked to start off with an unwavering defensive effort to make up for a nightmarish 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Wolverines the night before.

While the backline surrendered the opening score of the game to the maize and blue for the second game in a row, the blue and white’s offense did enough to find the net in the early stages of period two, keeping the score square at one through roughly one period of play.

The good times wouldn’t roll forever, though.

Once again, the Nittany Lions found themselves crumbling as the periods progressed.

Right now, based on the results of Friday’s competition, it seems that Guy Gadowsky and company might have a bit of a monkey on their back.

“We gave up 11 goals [in the Michigan series] and that’s a big concern,” Gadowsky said. “And yet we feel like we defended better tonight than yesterday. So yeah, it’s a concern but without answers right now.”

In the past four games, which entailed series between Ohio State and now Michigan, the Nittany Lions have been outscored 20-6.

Now, it isn’t as if the offense didn’t generate opportunities Friday night.

Scoring two goals against the second-highest ranked team in the country is far from embarrassing, but its effort hasn't been enough when the defense has been so lackluster as of recent.

To make matters worse for the Nittany Lion faithful, even Gadowsky doesn’t have the answers for the program's recent pitfalls, stating that he still needs to evaluate his team’s potential moving forward.

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“We’ll find out [what Penn State has left to show],” Gadowsky said. “I think we have a lot more, that's their job to develop and it’s still early in the year. We’re far from a finished product.”

With 24 games left on the regular-season schedule, one thing’s for certain for the Nittany Lions, this series granted them an opportunity to learn a seriously tough lesson at a good time.

Though there may not be a direct solution in the pockets of the Penn State staff to fix across the board woes, fifth-year senior and alternate captain Adam Pilewicz has been around this program long enough to know the season is far from over.

For him, now is not the time to lose confidence in the blue and white.

“You can always make the tournament, you can always make the national championship. So, until the season is over, there’s no hitting the panic button,” Pilewicz said. “We are all extremely confident and know we can turn this around.”

There wasn’t much to be optimistic about as the clock hit zero in the Pegula Ice Arena.

Yet, there was a general sense that the team performed a lot better in its second edition of Penn State versus Maryland.

“We know that there aren’t really moral victories in this sport, but I definitely am more proud of the way our team reacted to stuff today,” Pilewicz said. “It never felt like we were out of this game today… We kept battling, so that’s something we can work off.”

As of now, all the 6-5 Nittany Lions can do now is prepare for what’s next. The blue and white will have one week to prepare for yet another tough conference opponent.

Penn State will travel on the road to face Minnesota on Friday, and should they lose another series, this season will have an uncanny resemblance to a winless five-game start in the squad’s 2020 campaign.

Though the potential of an 0-6 start in conference play likely sits in the back of the minds of Penn State, it’s clear that this team isn’t going to give up on themselves just yet.

“We see the potential in what we are doing,” Pilewicz said. “We just gotta keep working at it.”

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Nate Lather is a men's hockey reporter at The Daily Collegian. He is a sophomore majoring in journalism.

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