Penn State Hockey

Penn State learned lesson from brief stay at No. 1

Penn State's Denis Smirnov skates around Ohio State's Christian Lampasso during the Saturday, January 21, 2017 at Pegula Ice Arena. Ohio State beat Penn State, 6-3 to sweep the series.
Penn State's Denis Smirnov skates around Ohio State's Christian Lampasso during the Saturday, January 21, 2017 at Pegula Ice Arena. Ohio State beat Penn State, 6-3 to sweep the series.

Last weekend has brought a lot of reflection and introspection for the Penn State men’s hockey team.

A week ago they were No. 1 in the country, getting love all over the place and feeling invincible. Then reality knocked them off their skates with a shootout loss and regulation loss to Ohio State on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

Given a few days to ponder, many realized they let the No. 1 ranking go to their heads a little, wanting to do too much.

“I do think we tried to press, but the team wasn’t exactly willing to admit (that) because of the attention they were getting,” coach Guy Gadowsky said Wednesday at his weekly media session.

It was the first time all season Gadowsky has had to talk about two straight losses (though, officially, the first game goes in the books as a tie).

“That’s the first time we’ve had that (No. 1 ranking), the first time our coaching staff has had that, so maybe we didn’t handle it as well,” the coach said. “I hope we get the chance to see if we handle it better again.”

The hurt was just as evident with the team.

“It stings a little bit,” said captain David Goodwin. “In a lot of ways we feel like we let a good opportunity slip away but Ohio State’s a really good team.”

Gadowsky said they haven’t come up with much they would change about the week preparing for the games, and he and the players also felt they played a very solid first period against the Buckeyes on Friday. Then, they got away from their style that got them to the top of the college hockey world.

“We thought we’d try to do other things that would help us score goals,” Goodwin said. “At the end of the day, we just need to stay as committed as we can to our game plan.”

They are focusing on the positives: they are still very high in the rankings (No. 4 in the USCHO poll, No. 3 in the Pairwise rankings), are in second place in the Big Ten and still in solid position to make the NCAA tournament. They also have a baker’s dozen games left in the regular season to recapture the magic.

“How we answer the bell this weekend and the weekends to follow, I think that’s the test,” forward Andrew Sturtz said.

Philadelphia story

Penn State hits the ice for the first time since the losses with a 7 p.m. game in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center against Princeton.

It is the fifth time the Nittany Lions have played at the arena, and Gadowsky is hopeful the annual trek continues.

“I certainly like it,” Gadowsky said. “I think the alumni there have been tremendous. We’ve always had really good crowds. I really enjoy the situation.”

Under the weather

The flu has been going around the team, and a few players missed action last weekend.

With only one game this coming week, Gadowsky thought it was a good time to give everyone Monday and Tuesday off to try to boot the bug.

‘We’re hoping that these two days off will help,” Gadowsky said. “It looks like we’re fine now.”

Big screen stars

One of the many crowd entertainments during intermissions this season has been the “Lip Sync Battle” among members of the team.

Last weekend featured the final round. Defenseman Vince Pedrie, a country music fan, did a skit with several teammates to Big and Rich’s “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” and it got a pretty solid reception — until Andrew Sturtz and Chris Funkey delivered the hands-down winner, Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. It included Sturtz elegantly skating down the ice, uniting with Funkey at the glass and the two together, arms outstretched, up in the arena’s club seats.

“We actually both thought of it the night before,” said Sturtz, noting each scene took just one take. “We heard one of our media people was trying to stack Pedrie’s odds to beat us, so we actually put a little bit of effort into that one. Usually we think of it when we get to the rink.”

Long time no see

Making his first appearance on the ice since the November series with Alaska Anchorage, defenseman David Thompson made the most of it by scoring a goal. It was just the sixth game of the season for the senior.

“He’s been working hard to get back in the lineup and that’s what he did,” Gadowsky said after Saturday’s game. “It was really nice (to see the goal). The bench was absolutely pumped for him, for that goal.”

Gordon Brunskill: 814-231-4608, @GordonCDT