Penn State Hockey Slap Shots

A look at the weekend that was and weekend that will be for the Nittany Lions on the ice.

The honeymoon ended in a hurry.

Just a week after downing Army 4-1 to open Pegula Ice Arena and the 2013-2014 men's hockey season with a resounding victory, Penn State discovered quickly that skill and talent alone won't catapult a team to victory in many hockey games. Air Force made sure to make that lesson known.

The Falcons dropped the Nittany Lions twice last weekend in Colorado Springs, Colo., besting PSU 3-1 Friday before triumphing over the visitors 5-2 Saturday. Penn State sits at 1-2.

The Lions will host RIT Friday at Pegula Ice Arena, before trekking to Philadelphia and Wells Fargo Center Saturday to take on Vermont.

In our newest feature, we take a look at the weekend that was, and the weekend that will be for Guy Gadowsky's Lions.

Three Stars of the Weekend

1. G Jason Torf, Air Force: The Falcon netminder won both ends of the weekend doubleheader, stopping 26 shots on Friday and 33 on Saturday.

2. F Cole Gunner, Air Force: Off a freshman campaign that saw his register a class-best 28 points, Gunner registered three points over the weekend, scoring a pair of goals and recording two assists.

3. D Luke Juha, Penn State: It's often tough to find a bright spot after a pair of losses, but Juha was it. The sophomore defender blocked five shots and blasted a third period goal Friday night, and assisted on Ricky DeRosa's first goal of the season Saturday.

Stat You Missed:

Watch enough hockey, and it will soon become evident that one odd-man rush too many will doom a hockey team in the long run. It's a simple observation Penn State found out in a ghastly way over the weekend.

Gadowsky counted 12 odd-man rushes against his program vs. Air Force, and whether it was three offenders to two defenders or two to one, it led to goals. The head coach said the average of six over two games needs to dip for future success. We won't argue with that.

Scouting the Opponents:

It's an anomaly of a weekend, as Penn State will play in State College Friday against RIT before taking a bus ride to Philadelphia, where it will play Vermont at the Philadelphia Flyers' Wells Fargo Center for the second time in as many years. Penn State won the match-up last year. 4-2.

Friday, 7 p.m., at Pegula Ice Arena: RIT (0-3-1): It hasn't been easy sledding for RIT to open its season, as the Tigers dropped a 4-1 affair with Colgate in their opener before falling to Big Ten power Michigan 7-4 — they're ranked 4th by the U.S. College Hockey Online — and dropping one and tying one with Clarkson last weekend.

The box score tells the story of the Michigan contest, which is most relevant to Lions' fans. In it, the Tigers fell behind 4-0 after the first 20 minutes, but rallied to tie it at four in the second before Michigan tacked on a late second stanza goal and two more in the third for a 7-4 victory. The Tigers outshot the Wolverines 46-27, aided by the early deficit and eight power play opportunities.

The Atlantic Hockey program is coached by Wayne Wilson.

Saturday, 5 p.m., at Wells Fargo Center: Vermont (0-1-1): The Catamounts will have fresh legs when they arrive in Philadelphia for the second game against Penn State in as many seasons. The contest will be broadcasts on Comcast Sports Network New England and Comcast Sports Network Philadelphia.

The Nittany Lions downed Vermont 4-2 a year ago in Philadelphia, aided by a mostly PSU crowd of over 18,000. A similar crowd is expected with puck drop three hours prior to the Lions invading Ohio State in football.

The Catamounts won't just have fresh legs, but also a newly built confidence after losing and tying over a weekend set with USCHO No. 6 North Dakota Oct. 11-12. Vermont dropped the first contest 5-3 before tying North Dakota 2-2 Saturday.

Gadowsky said that if the contest fell later in the season, the schedule would likely not be set up to present Penn State with a home game and then bus trip for its second game of the weekend. But getting the program back into Wells Fargo was too much of an opportunity to pass up.

Line Changes: Will Penn State mix things up this weekend? After listening to Gadowsky Tuesday, it seems a near certainty. Especially since it happened already between Friday and Saturday night.

Friday, Gadowsky stuck with a majority of the combinations he used in the opener, save for substituting freshman Mike Williamson in at one defenseman spot (third pairing with Nate Jensen). Saturday, however, he scrambled things up. The below line combinations illustrate how:

Friday at Air Force:








Saturday at Air Force:








Gadowsky said new lines this weekend can be expected, but how much so won't be seen until Friday. It's clear, though, the Saturday combinations had some merit. Penn State recorded more shots (35-28), a better plus/minus (-9/-15) and fewer goals allowed (3-5).

Around the Big Ten:

No conference play is underway as of this weekend, but Minnesota is the early front-runner with an unblemished 4-0 mark through two weekends of play.

Michigan is 3-0-1, Wisconsin 2-2, Penn State 1-2-0, Michigan State 0-2-0 and Ohio State 0-3-0.

In the USCHO polls, Minnesota received 31 votes to take an early top spot, while the Wolverines checked in at fourth and Wisconsin 11th. Ohio State received five votes but did not rank within the poll's top 20.

Quote of the Week:

Asked what would make him happy this weekend regardless of the outcome, Gadowsky said the following:

"One is a consistent work ethic. I thought there were aspects of Friday and Saturday that we played very, very well, and certainly to see that same commitment consistently would be something I would say I'm very happy with. The statistic results of that are that odd man rushes are much different.

"We are going to get penalties by how we play with going hard to net and defending hard, but certainly not with bad technique or retaliation penalties. That would make me happy."

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