It is part of the learning process of athletics — learning how to finish off a win.
It is just another step in the growth of the Penn State men’s hockey team.
“I look back oN the weekend and, I think we could have won both those games,” sophomore forward David Goodwin said. “It’s tough to swallow that pill just because we were so close. Those are two teams that are ranked pretty high as well, so it’s tough. The season’s short and you’ve got to move forward right away.”
It has been in the Nittany Lions’ minds this week, and they will try to get a lead — and hang onto it — when they return to the Pegula Ice Arena floor to meet Holy Cross at 7 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday.
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Last weekend, Penn State had a pair of third-period leads, but nothing to show for it.
In their longest road trip of the season, the Nittany Lions held a 3-1 lead in the third period against Alaska Anchorage, but gave up a pair of goals in the last six minutes for a 3-3 tie.
The next night, the lead was 3-2 over Alaska Fairbanks, but again in the final six minutes it all disappeared with two goals in a 27-second span for a 4-3 loss.
“We’re just not tough enough, mentally, to go into the third confident that we’re going to elevate our game,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “That’s what has to be addressed and it’s a tough thing to do but that’s what has to be addressed.”
The Nittany Lions had similar issues last season, with 11 one-goal losses and a pair of leads surrendered late, but much was attributed to the team being so young and inexperienced.
They are disappointed to have to go through the same battle, although some circumstances may be different.
“It doesn’t take Scotty Bowman to identify it,” Gadowsky said, referring to the Hall of Fame former NHL coach. “Figuring it out is a different story. Sometimes it’s a maturation process and I thought we actually went through that last year in certain stages. I thought we came out the other side pretty well later in the year, but it’s not easy.”
The coach didn’t think it was a matter of the team not following the prescribed game plan set for those final six minutes, but not sticking to what they are expected to do for all 60 minutes of the game.
“They know it,” Gadowsky said. “The answer isn’t being hard on them, but the answer is certainly identifying it and figuring out what has to happen to make sure it doesn’t become a pattern. It’s easier said than done. Anybody can say that, but it’s the locker room actually taking ownership in it to have it happen.”
So, instead of taking a 3-0-1 record after more than 6,000 air miles into this weekend against the Crusaders (1-2-1), the Nittany Lions are 1-1-2.
Gadowsky said he wasn’t going to pressure the team, but make sure it was handled through the structure of the roster to make sure everyone is mentally ready to handle the final minutes of a game.
“It’s a long way to go to get a tie and a loss,” Goodwin said. “That was a little unfortunate. We (will) try to turn the gears to Friday as soon as we can.”