Back on the winning track, yes. But done being less than thrilled with its play, certainly not.
Penn State's men's hockey program ended a winless drought last Friday night at Robert Morris, skating away with a 5-4 victory over the host.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky agreed that getting a victory was a plus. It pulled the Lions to within a game of being .500 at 2-3-1, after all. But the performance can still be better. And a full 60-minute team effort is still being sought.
The next chance for it is Friday, when State plays host to Sacred Heart (2-5-0) for a 7 p.m. puck-drop at Pegula Ice Arena.
Three Stars of the Weekend
1. G Matthew Skoff, Penn State: Growing up in nearby McKees Rocks, Pa., the Lions' netminder is no stranger to RMU's 84 Lumber Arena, nor to big performances. He turned one in Friday in a rink he said he's played at plenty, stopping 48 of 52 Colonial shots and allowing only two even strengths goals. He was the lynchpin in the Lions' penalty kill as he's been all year, helping State go 1-for-6.
2. F Cody Wydo, Robert Morris: A junior, Wydo led RMU in goals last fall, and he's on pace to do so again this year. The forward netted a hat trick plus one as the only Colonial who could solve Skoff, scoring with the goalie pulled with 13 seconds left to play in the contest. He also led the club with nine shots.
3. D Mike Williamson, Penn State: After Wydo's late tally, Williamson's third-period power play marker became the game-winning goal. The defenseman also blocked a team-high six shots, many of which came on the penalty kill.
Stat You Missed
Penn State's power play was anything but hot heading into its sixth game of the season. The club was a woeful 2-for-20, and struggled to do just about anything right while on it.
It finally clicked against the Colonials, as forward Casey Bailey, defenseman Luke Juha and Williamson all notched a tally with State skating with an extra man in a 3-for-7 effort. Yes, the Lions scored more power play goals in one night than they did in the five contests that preceded it.
Also lost in the shuffle were a goal on three shots and a +2 rating for Lions' captain Tommy Olczy. The junior doesn't have a stat sheet that equals his production so far, but two goals in the last two games are starting to catch it up with his stellar performances on special teams.
Scouting the Opponents
Penn State will play just one game again this weekend. This time, it comes at Pegula, where the Lions will look to win for the second time in three tries at home.
7 p.m. Friday: Sacred Heart at Penn State at Pegula Ice Arena: It's not been a banner start for head coach C.J. Marottolo's club, which is 2-5, including a 1-2 mark in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
The Pioneers come to town for the start of a five-game homestand for Penn State, its longest of the season. PSU has a chance to beat the visitors twice in as many years, as they toppled Sacred Heart 6-3 last October in Milford, Conn.
Freshman forward Justin Danforth leads the Pioneers with seven points — six of which have come from helpers — while junior forward Drew George sits atop the goals tote with three. Last time out, Sacred Heart fell 4-2 at Connecticut, the fourth straight loss for the program after beating Bentley 3-1 back on Oct. 16.
There are simply no guarantees in hockey, but it will be a tall order for the Pioneers to fill to leave Pegula with a victory.
Gadowsky assured the media Tuesday during his weekly session that he's not done tinkering with his lines. There was added production last Friday, sure, but not enough for the coach and his staff to be completely happy.
Below illustrates how the lines have changed over the past five games.
Oct. 18 at Air Force:
Oct. 19 at Air Force:
Oct. 25 vs. RIT:
Oct. 26 vs. Vermont
Nov. 1 at Robert Morris
The noted change from Robert Morris compared to the four games that proceeded it is the absence of center David Glen, who sat out the last road trip after receiving a pair of game misconducts in as many outings.
He'll be back Friday, according to Gadowsky, who added that not including him against the Colonials wasn't a suspension, but more a message that hapless hockey is not good hockey, and won't earn ice time on this Penn State club.
Will we see the same lines against Sacred Heart? It's highly unlikely, but Glen centering Casey Bailey and David Goodwin sounds like a certainty. The defensive pairings, at least the top two, should remain intact, while Gadowsky and company continue to seek a consistent partner to skate with assistant captain Nate Jensen.
As of Tuesday, there was no word on who would start between the pipes for Penn State, but an appearance from Eamon McAdam wouldn't be surprising.
Around the Big Ten
Minnesota sat idle last week, but it remains on top of the conference with a 5-0-1 mark through six games. Biting at its heels is Michigan, which is 6-1-1 in the early stages, and Wisconsin (3-2-1) and Michigan State (3-3-0) follow. Ohio State and Penn State round out the bottom of the conference, the former sitting at 4-4-0 and the latter at 2-3-1 heading into the weekend.
In the latest United State College Hockey Organization (USCHO) poll, released Nov. 4, Minnesota still sits at No. 1 after receiving all 50 first-place votes, while the Wolverines come in at No. 2 with 900 poll points. Wisconsin stayed still at No. 13.
Quote of the Week
Asked what he wants to see different this week that he hasn't seen in the last six games, Gadowsky said:
"We need to put together a game. We really do. We haven't put together a game yet. We've had great goal tending, we've had successful power play, we've had great penalty killing. But we have not put together a game yet where we had the majority, if not all, cylinders firing.
"That's something I would like to see. I would like to see less than 52 shots on net, I'd like to see less than seven power plays given up. I'd like to see us win odd-man rushes and win the face-off battle. Those are just basic, starting things, and quantitatively, those are what you can look at."