The Nittany Lions tied RIT 3-3 last Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena before giving up three unanswered goals in a 5-2 setback to Vermont at Wells Fargo Arena in Philadelphia Saturday. The penalty problem that has handicapped Penn State so far this year continued, as head coach Guy Gadowsky's club was whistled for a five-minute major and game misconduct -- both on forward David Glen -- in both contests, and played shorthanded six times against RIT and another six times against Vermont.
Penn State returns to the ice Friday, when it travels to Robert Morris for a 7:05 p.m. puck drop in Pittsburgh. Here is our breakdown of last weekend's action.
Three Stars of the Weekend
1. D Patrick Koudys: A player Gadowsky raves about at nearly every opportunity, Koudys was excellent on a weekend in which play in general certainly was not. The redshirt junior native to Ontario registered an assist and was on the ice for two of the Lions' three goals Friday, and did not allow a goal on his watch while blocking three shots Saturday. He now has a team-high 12 blocked shots.
2. F Tommy Olczyk: A penalty-killing specialist, among other things, Olczyk was critical in the kill of both five-minute majors over the weekend. He was rewarded with a shorthanded marker, his first goal of the season. It came on a backhanded flip that beat Catamount netminder Mike Santaguida to give Penn State a 2-0 lead.
3. F David Goodwin: Arguably State's best player through five games, Goodwin scored his team-best second goal Friday night with the Lions on the man advantage. It set up Curtis Loik's even-strength tally a period later that briefly gave State a 3-2 lead against RIT.
Stat You Missed
That's the penalty line of just three Penn State players after five games, a mark of at least some discipline amid what has been an at times undisciplined, at times unlucky and at times sloppy team in 2013.
Only Goodwin, forward Eric Scheid and forward Curtis Loik have not spent time in the sin bin so far, which makes it not the least bit surprising that Goodwin and Scheid share the team lead in goals (2) and points (3). Loik also has two markers, and his -5 +/- rating is indicative as to how much he's been on the ice when at least one teammate hasn't been.
It may seem as if we are beating the Lions' penalty woes to death, but it simply is the biggest issue to date. More than goal scoring, more than odd-man rushes and more than suspect goaltending, which have also slowed State's start.
Scouting the Opponents
Penn State will play just one game this weekend, the first of two consecutive weeks in which Gadowsky's club will skate for 60 minutes just once as opposed to the normal double-header weekends that encompass much of the rest of its schedule.
Friday, 7:05 p.m., at Island Sports Center: Robert Morris (0-4-1): Yes, Derek Schooley's Colonials are winless through their first five contests of the 2013-2014 season. But it's a deceiving mark.
The Atlantic Hockey league program opened with USCHO No. 12 Lake Superior, who dispatched the Colonials 3-1 on its home ice. A tie with unranked Niagra followed, before RMU dropped a pair of tilts with Big Ten program Ohio State, who later beat Bowling Green 5-3 to run its winning streak to three games.
It's the first of two tilts with Robert Morris -- the second comes at the Three Rivers Classic in December -- and Gadowsky recognized he and Schooley may have some recruiting battles down the road in what may very well turn into an in-state rivalry. The Colonials and Lions make up two of three Division I programs in Pennsylvania. They are joined by Mercyhurst.
"They are going after the same best players we are. Of course we are running into each other," Gadowsky said. "I think it's great for all of Pennsylvania hockey if they continue to have success."
It may not be David Bowie's "Changes," but Gadowsky is still making plenty of them these days.
The head coach said Tuesday that he isn't done tinkering with his lines, and it's clear the lack of scoring is the biggest reason. Production was up, perhaps, over the weekend from a chemistry standpoint. But the current line combinations and defensive pairings have yet to be fine-tuned in a way that equals success.
Below illustrates how the lines have changed over the past four games.
Oct. 18 at Air Force:
Oct. 19 at Air Force:
Oct. 25 vs. RIT:
Oct. 26 vs. Vermont
Looking at the above, it is clear Gadowsky is playing with where his lines are stationed on the line sheet more than making personnel changes. The head coach claims his line sheet, which is distributed before each game, is not reflective of first line or first pairing status in a way similar to how most hockey teams write out their lines. But there has to be some significance to it, or why juggle the position between game one and two this past weekend?
Either way, those combinations could change again Friday, and probably should, as the search for goals continues.
Around the Big Ten
Minnesota is the non-conference top dog with a 5-0-1 mark through six contests, good for the USCHO's number one overall ranking in its most recent poll (released Oct. 28).
Michigan clung tight to its No. 4 spot in the USCHO rankings by improving to 4-1-1. Wisconsin dropped two spots from 11th to 13th with a 2-2-0 mark, and Penn State (1-3-1), Michigan State (1-3-0) and Ohio State (3-3-0) remain unranked.
Quote of the Week
Asked about Glen's penalties and his seeming disagreement with both majors against the State forward, Gadowsky said:
"David Glen is a tremendous hockey player because he plays so hard and he's so tough to play against. He doesn't look huge. He plays huge. He's a tough kid. As frustrated as we are, it's not half as frustrated as he is. He's been asking questions. He's been watching tape.
"The [Big Ten] director of officiating had some questions as well. In one of those, he said ‘[Glen] was a victim of circumstance. I'm not sure there was anything he could have done.' He's here and wears a letter for a reason. David Glen is a very aggressive guy and that's why we love him."