It’s not too deep into the memories of the Penn State men’s hockey team what happened the last time it faced Boston College.
Four weeks ago in Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center, the Nittany Lions scored for an early lead, then proceeded to give up eight straight goals in an 8-2 loss.
The No. 2 Eagles have done that to plenty of teams this season, and they are bringing their high-flying offense to Pegula Ice Arena.
The teams tangle at 7 p.m. Saturday, and the Nittany Lions know they will have their hands full.
“We know what they did to us last time,” team captain Tommy Olczyk said. “We definitely have respect for them, but on the ice we can’t have as much respect for them as we did last game. Once they scored a couple goals, we were kind of like, ‘Wow, this is what we expected the whole (night).’ They kept bringing it to us and bringing it to us and kept pushing us back on our heels.”
While Penn State has already faced the No. 1 team in the nation in Minnesota, BC just might pose a bigger challenge — at least with its offense. The Eagles have the top-scoring team in Division I at 4.54 points per game, which is three-quarters of a goal more per night than the Golden Gophers, who have the second-best offense.
Leading the charge is the line of Johnny Gaudreau, Kevin Hayes and Bill Arnold, who are ranked first, second and tied for fifth, respectively, in the nation in point-scoring.
The trio has a combined 46 goals — Penn State has 43 as a team.
Gaudreau, a likely candidate for the Hobey Baker Award as the nation’s top college hockey player, has 21 goals and 27 assists.
“He is extremely scary, but he’s not the only one,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. “We’re approaching this as an opportunity to practice team defense and test that against what I think’s possibly the most dangerous offense in the nation.”
The trio has been on the same line for the last 10 games, coinciding with the team’s record of 9-0-1 in the last 10 games, which also matches Minnesota for the longest current unbeaten streak. At least one member of the trio has at least one point in nine of those 10 games, including a hat trick for Hayes and five assists for Gaudreau last Saturday in a win over Maine.
Needless to say, there is a little bit of hockey talent on the ice with the Eagles.
“They have a lot of speed through the neutral zone,” Gadowsky said. “They can be really dangerous. They make plays. They can really make plays at high speed. The puck moves at a very quick rate and they’re clean with it.”
Trying to stop that speed and skill got a little tougher earlier this week when Penn State lost defenseman Mark Yanis, who was suspended for a game by the Big Ten for a hard hit from behind last Saturday against Michigan State.
The BC program also could pass for hockey royalty. Much like Penn State and Alabama in football, or Kentucky and North Carolina in basketball, there is tradition that dates back decades at BC, with 23 Frozen Four appearances and five titles, including three in the last six seasons.
The Nittany Lions know Saturday will be a special night for their new home arena.
“Look what BC’s done over the past five years, winning a couple championships and having such a successful program,” Olczyk said. “Being able to just play against them is an honor. Unfortunately, the game really didn’t go our way last time.”
Head coach Jerry York leads the way as the nation’s winningest coach with 952 career victories.
He is the latest team leader who brings a rich history into Pegula Ice Arena. Minnesota’s Don Lucia is No. 10 on the all-time wins list, and fourth among active coaches, and in two weeks Michigan’s Red Berenson, who is No. 5 all-time and No. 2 for active coaches, will be paying a visit.
“I think that the college hockey fans, when they see that Jerry York is coming with his program, understand what that means,” Gadowsky said, “Red Berensen, Mike Eaves (at Wisconsin) — you can go down the list of the Big Ten coaches and there’s a lot of who’s who there.”
The Eagles also bring the latest major test for the Nittany Lions, who will face a ranked opponent for the 10th time in the last 13 games, although they say they still welcome the challenge.
“At this point in our program, the more ranked opponents we play the better,” Olczyk said. “The goal of this organization is to win championships, and in order to win championships we’re going to have to play the best teams in the nation.”
Glen out for good cause
The Nittany Lions will be missing forward David Glen for Saturday’s game, and next weekend’s series at Ohio State, because he has made a bone marrow donation.
The sophomore assistant captain, who was second on the team in scoring last season, participated in a bone marrow search on campus in 2012, and his blood came up as a match for an unknown recipient through Be The Match, a national marrow donation program. Glen went to Bloomsburg on Friday to begin the peripheral blood stem cell donation process.
Glen has two goals and three assists in 18 games this season.
The expected recovery time from the procedure is 7-10 days. To learn more about the process, go to BeTheMatch.org.
Major honor for Battista
Former Associate Athletic Director Joe Battista was honored by the American Hockey Coaches Association on Thursday with the Lou Lamoriello Award.
Battista is the first award recipient who did not play the game at a varsity level. The 1983 Penn State graduate played with the Icers club program, and later coached the team to six club national championships. He later became the Nittany Lion Club’s Executive Director, and eventually landed an $88 million donation from Terry and Kim Pegula that got the arena built and the program elevated to Division I.
Battista left Penn State in October to become Vice President of Hockey Operations for Pegula’s East Management Services in Buffalo, N.Y. Pegula is also the owner of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
Battista will receive his award, given by a group of retired coaches to recognize a unique or distinguished career, at the Frozen Four in Philadelphia in April.