Penn State’s struggles continue; Travel to Pittsburgh Friday to take on Robert Morris

Photo by Melanie Kipp

Discipline and hard work.

They are two qualities that Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky wants to see in his team. Over the last coupled of years, I’ve had to pleasure of getting to know coach pretty well and after Saturday’s night’s 5-2 loss to Vermont in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff, I’ve never seen the man so upset and frustrated with his team.

The Nittany Lions started out well scoring the game’s first two goals, but after being out-shot 12-1 in the second period, Penn State never fully recovered.

I knew Penn State would struggle with a speedier and more talented Vermont squad,but the thing that troubled me was their lack of heart and urgency on the ice this weekend as a whole. RIT is not a good hockey team. Penn State should have beaten them Friday instead of drawing  a 3-3 tie at home. Guy Gadowsky’s quote after Saturday’s debacle sums up my thoughts about this team right now pretty well.

“It doesn’t take Scotty Bowman to figure this out, we got to change,” Gadowsky said. “I thought this game [Vermont game] was poor and I didn’t like our flow and tempo.”

What Gadowsky needs to do is sit Zach Saar and Max Gardiner and replace them with Mike McDonagh and Jake Friedman. Saar seems out of sync on the ice and Gardiner continues to disappoint night in and night out.  McDonagh and Friedman are not the most talented guys in the world but they bring a sandpaper like style to the game. Both are incredibly hard-working, both block shots, and both have experience as a senior and junior respectively. Gadowsky might as well try it because nothing is working right now.

It’s well documented that Penn State has had trouble staying out of the penalty box thus far. The Nittany Lions took a total of 18 penalties this weekend against RIT and Vermont including three major penalties. David Glen’s questionable five-minute major and game misconduct penalty at 1:43 of the second for contact with the head on Vermont forward Mario Puskarich was the turning point of Saturday’s game. That was Glen’s second game misconduct in consecutive nights. Glen is Penn State’s best forward and for him to be ejected twice in two games is flat out unacceptable.

I know the new NCAA contact rules are a bit murky and strange thus far, but every team was forced to watch a video explaining the new rules. Why Penn State can’t seem to figure this out is baffling?

Penn State captain Tommy Olczyk, who had a shorthanded goal Saturday, is a good friend of mine and after the Vermont game I’ve never seen him so angry and infuriated with his team. You know what? He had every right to be.

“One shot in the second period is embarrassing. Quite frankly, I’m sick of losing games like this. It’s hard to swallow and we had a good week of practice after getting swept by Air Force … I think a lot of guys including myself have to look at ourselves in the mirror and figure it out.”

Olczyk also added this.

“When we’re spending half the game shorthanded it take a toll on the guys that kill the penalties and the guys that put the pucks in the net, don’t get to go on the ice. You can’t win like that…Coach wants us to be a mentally tough team and I haven’t seen it.”

They better figure this out quickly because they travel to Pittsburgh Friday to take a Robert Morris squad in search of their first win. RMU beat Penn State last year 6-0.

The Colonials are 0-4-1 on the year, but don’t let that record fool you. They lost a pair of 3-1 games to Lake Superior State to begin the year. They tied a very good Niagara squad and lost two close games to Ohio State. Something is going to give on Friday night.

Cody Wydo leads the offensive attack for the Colonials. He already has three goals, and one assist in five games played this season. Last season, Wydo had 33 points (21 goals, 12 assists) in 38 games. He really excels with special teams. Seven, of his 21 goals last season, came during special teams play – four on the power-play and three shorthanded. He has one power play goal and one shorty so far this season. Wydo attended New Jersey Devils prospect camp this past summer.

Safe to say that PSU must keep Wydo in check to win Friday. Two other forwards to watch for RMU are Scott Jacklin and Zac Lynch, who each have four points on the year. Of Jacklin’s four points, three came on the power play.

The Colonials are fairly inexperienced in net with sophomore Terry Shafer as the lone veteran. I would expect Shafer to start and Penn State must pepper him with shots early and often.

RMU’s power play is tied for 15th in the country clicking at just over 23%. I know it sounds like a broken record but Penn State mist stay out of the sin bin to win. The Nittany Lions are the 6th most penalized team in the country. They have taken 37 penalties for a total of 110 minutes.

I’ll be honest, I don’t what to expect from Penn State. One would think after last weekend’s misery they would come out fired up and ready to get back in the win column. On the flip side, they could come out flat. I just don’t know. I expect to see Gadowsky juggle the lines a bit and start Matt Skoff in net. In fact, I would start Skoff in every game because Eamon McAdam has look listless in his first two collegiate starts.

Below is Penn State’s next seven games after Friday’s contest.

Fri., Nov. 8 vs. Sacred Heart University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Thu., Nov. 14 vs. UMass Lowell University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Nov. 15 vs. UMass Lowell University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Nov. 30 vs. Union University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Sun., Dec. 1 vs. Union University Park, Pa. 7:00 p.m. ET
Fri., Dec. 6 at Wisconsin * Madison, Wis. 8:00 p.m. ET
Sat., Dec. 7 at Wisconsin * Madison, Wis. 9:00 p.m. ET

Yikes! It doesn’t get easier for PSU with games against an underrated Sacred Heart team, 15th ranked UMass-Lowell, an always tough Union College, and the start of Big Ten play with 13th ranked Wisconsin.

The way this team responds Friday night could go a long way in determining what kind of season the Nittany Lions will have.