The Penn State men’s hockey team followed the same script as last weekend, dropping its Friday night matchup before bouncing back to win on Saturday and salvage a split.
Musico stopped 40 shots en route to a victory over RIT on Saturday.
The opponents and circumstances, however, were drastically different. Friday night, Penn State (2-2) went into NCAA Division III opponent Buffalo State’s barn and were outshot 35-28, giving up three powerplay goals in the 3-0 loss.
“We played a team who was ready to play, ready to compete, very focused, and we weren’t,” head coach Guy Gadowsky bluntly stated following the loss. “It could be a good learning experience, we got beat, and we deserved to be beat, so hopefully it will be a good learning experience.”
Apparently, it was.
Saturday evening the Nittany Lions travelled to Blue Cross Arena in Rochester to take on RIT, a night designated as the Tigers’ homecoming game. In front of 10,556 spectators, Penn State got on the board late in the first and never trailed, ultimately coming out with a 3-2 victory over a team who made the NCAA Frozen Four in 2010.
“We came out ready to play, it’s human nature but I take the responsibility that we weren’t ready to play Friday,” admitted the second-year head coach. “Everyone knew about the crowd that would be waiting for us tonight, we also knew that RIT beat Michigan last week, so it is hard not to look ahead to that.”
While freshman Matt Skoff took the loss against Buffalo State, sophomore PJ Musico recorded his second victory of the season, making 40 saves on the night - which included a five minute major penalty on Penn State to close out the game.
“We needed a tremendous performance from PJ, and he was fantastic,” praised Gadowsky after the game. “He made highlight reel saves, very timely saves, tracked the puck really well. RIT did a good job of getting traffic in front of him, and he was great.”
The California native, who played for the Icers last season as a freshman, has transitioned well to the jump in competition, but refused to bask in the spotlight alone.
Gardiner, the former Golden Gopher, scored his first Penn State goal on Saturday.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for my defense, and also my forwards coming back hard, backchecking through the middle,” said Musico. “It was a true team effort and I can’t take any of the credit myself.”
After stopping 40 pucks, credit is deserved, as Musico looks more and more comfortable between the pipes.
Doing the scoring for Penn State was former Golden Gopher Max Gardiner who scored his first goal in Blue and White while also recording an assist. Freshman Casey Bailey notched his second on the year and classmate Curtis Loik added his first Penn State goal as well.
Now, what does this win prove? Well, basically, no one really knows which version of this team they’re going to get. A loss at Buffalo State, followed by a win against RIT shows the wide margin of possible results for Penn State. There will be few opponents as poor as Buffalo State, or as highly regarded as RIT on the schedule. No game can be counted as an automatic win or loss - at least at this early juncture.
College hockey is littered with goofy results throughout the year - teams can run up against a hot goalie or a forward line that is just clicking on any given night. This Penn State team is no different, and it will be interesting to see what type of outcomes occur when they string together some more consistent performances.