From Thursday to Saturday, over the span of less than 52 hours, the Penn State men’s hockey team played just over four hours of hockey.
That doesn’t include time when the clock was stopped or for warmups before games and between periods.
When the team returned to Pegula Ice Arena on Monday, they didn’t exactly have much jump in their step.
How did David Thompson’s legs feel for the afternoon practice?
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“Sore,” the senior defenseman said at the team’s weekly session with the media. “A lot of ice baths.”
It was worth every ache and pain as the Nittany Lions skated away with a Big Ten title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. They meet Union at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in the first round at US Bank Arena in Cincinnati.
Team members and coach Guy Gadowsky said the real MVP of the weekend was Cam Davidson, the strength and conditioning coach. He had them prepared to handle three games in three days, with the last two going into double overtime. The first was a 4-3 semifinal win over Minnesota, the second a 2-1 win against Wisconsin to lock up the title.
“Kudos to him for making sure we were able to last as long as we did,” Thompson said. “I know this week he’s putting stuff together to make sure we get strong again and we’re able to recover and perform at a high level again this upcoming weekend.”
Showing perhaps the most grit were two players who got extra attention from the training staff. Andrew Sturtz left in the first period of the opening game against Michigan and did not return that night, then played in the two marathon games and even dealt with a bloody nose against the Badgers.
“I was pretty messed up after the collision (with Michigan’s Alex Kile),” Sturtz said Sunday at the team’s NCAA bracket watch party. “Taking the night off was probably the best decision our athletic trainer could have made.”
Gadowsky said Sturtz has the green light for this weekend, and the sophomore was glad he could get back on the ice.
“It’s playoff hockey,” Sturtz said. “We have 27 guys over there that don’t want to let any of their teammates down.”
Alec Marsh, meanwhile, was helped from the ice twice by the trainers Saturday night, with the staff checking his leg on the second incident. Gadowsky did not say whether the sophomore would play Saturday. He is on the same line as Sturtz and Chase Berger.
“I don’t know yet,” Gadowsky said. “He certainly didn’t do anything (for practice) today, but I think that was the plan.”
While they were always separated by almost 180 feet of ice, Penn State goalie Peyton Jones and Wisconsin netminder Jack Berry had quite the duel in the Big Ten championship. They combined for 84 saves, including 51 for Jones, and each had some spectacular stops in preserving the tie into the second overtime.
The pair also have a connection that goes back long before either stepped on a college campus, sharing the same goalie coach, George Bosak. Jones, who is from the Philadelphia suburbs, has worked with Bosak in New Jersey since he was 6 and is still in contact with him.
“He’s taught me everything I know and I give him all the credit in the world for everything he’s done for me,” Jones told the media in Detroit on Saturday night.
The Big Ten on Monday announced the suspension of Ohio State forward Josh Healey for a hit to the head during the Buckeyes’ Big Ten semifinal game against Wisconsin. Healey was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct during the game. Because it was his third misconduct of the season, he was given an automatic one-game suspension, with the Big Ten giving him an additional game. He will not be able to play at all this weekend in the Buckeyes’ West regional games in Fargo, N.D.
The senior defenseman has 17 penalties for 70 minutes this season, with his minute total second-most in the Big Ten. He has 63 penalties for 212 minutes for his career, including 10 majors, and on Jan. 7 against Penn State he was given a major and ejection for a blow to the head of a Nittany Lion.