Riding a four-game winning streak, the Penn State men’s hockey team will be facing two quality Division I opponents back-to-back, starting with a home set against Air Force this weekend.
David Glen leads the Lions with nine points this season.
The Nittany Lions have defeated RIT, Army and Sacred Heart in a row - all Division I foes in the Atlantic Hockey Association - before revenging a loss at Buffalo State in State College last weekend.
Air Force poses a larger challenge to this young Penn State team in its’ first year of Division I competition, winning the AHA five out of the past six seasons, including a trip to the NCAA tournament last year.
“We’ve ran into some injuries lately, which is unfortunate because Air Force is, on paper anyway, is going to be our biggest test so far and the best team to come to Penn State so far,” said Gadowsky on Thursday. “We’re really excited to get after it this weekend and see how we stack up against a team of this caliber.”
For a Penn State team who, coming into this year, didn’t know if they would have a victory over a Division I opponent thus far - the Lions are 4-1-0 against Division I foes - Penn State is riding a high at 5-2-0 overall. Despite the initial successes, Gadowsky is still focused on the big picture, and isn’t changing anything just because a big opponent is coming into their barn.
“Our focus this week has absolutely been on us, we’re a long way from game planning around an opponent,” admitted Gadowsky. “We have to develop what we do much better, and this weekend series gives us a great opportunity - we’ve had success against other quality Division I programs, but on paper this is our toughest test so far.”
Coming into the game, one of Penn State’s most successful lines has been composed of three players in their first year on campus - freshmen David Glen, Curtis Loik and Kenny Brooks.
Both Glen and Loik come into the weekend riding four-game point streaks, but all three are pivotal in boosting the Nittany Lions attack.
“All three of them protect the puck extremely well,” explained Gadowsky. “All three of them have the ability to win individual battles, so when you put them together you have guys who win battles, and then protect the puck so well. That’s what makes them special - they all think alike so they can just know what the other is going to do and react to it.”
Glen didn’t attribute their early successes towards anything in particular besides work ethic.
“I mean we just try and keep it simple, working hard getting shots to the net, and winning battles in the corners,” said Glen, who currently leads the team with nine points. “We take care of business in our defensive zone and try to help the team in any way we can.”
Glen echoed Gadowsky’s sentiments about their opponent this weekend, and really anyone who may show up on the Nittany Lions schedule.
“We are trying to build that foundation of hard work and it really shouldn’t matter who we’re playing, as long as we come prepared and work hard every night,” said Glen. “I think that is one of the things that Coach Gadowsky preaches, and I think it’s going to pay off.”
Since arriving on campus Glen has been blown away by the reaction towards the jump to NCAA Division I hockey, and is looking to help the Nittany Lions continue their winning ways.
“Its been amazing, starting from that midnight practice - I went into that not knowing what to expect - the fans have packed the arena every game, they’ve have been loud, it’s been great,” said Glen. “We really want to stick to our principles, we have to be a lot more disciplined this weekend than we have been the past couple of games, and if we do that I think we’ll be successful.”
-Freshman defenseman Mark Yanis is out this weekend and for the next couple of months, sustaining a broken ankle during last Saturday’s game vs. Buffalo State.
-Look for the Lions to ride sophomore goalie PJ Musico this weekend, who has come out of the gate on fire. The California native currently owns a 2.00 goals against average and a .938 save percentage, which have led to a 4-0-0 record.
-The Penn State penalty kill has fought off 19 of their last 20 man-down opportunities during the four-game winning streak.
-Air Force comes into the game with a 2-3-2 record so far in 2011-12, splitting last weekend with Holy Cross.