Hockey has power, speed, skill, strategy and … feelings.
Right now, members of the sixth-ranked Penn State men’s hockey team feel pretty good about themselves. They’re hoping to carry that feeling and momentum — gained with last weekend’s two-game sweep of Wisconsin that vaulted the Nittany Lions six spots higher in the national polls — into this weekend’s series against Michigan State.
“The mood has definitely changed. Even though we were winning (before the Wisconsin series), we were not doing it the right way,” junior forward Sam Sternschein said. He had two goals and an assist against the Badgers.
Sternschein said the only feeling better than scoring comes with winning. He’s hoping the team can hold onto that elusive feeling this weekend.
“We just have to play the way we did last weekend going forward,” he said. “That has to be an everyday mentality.”
They put that mentality into practice last weekend, playing what coach Guy Gadowsky called their six best consecutive periods of the season. Consistency remains elusive, especially in the deep and talented Big Ten Conference, but Penn State has a deep and talented roster.
Fifteen players have scored a goal this season — the team has netted a conference-best 32 goals through seven games — and Penn State boasts the nation’s second-best scoring margin (+2.57, only Harvard’s +4.0 is better).
“With consistency you never check that box and move on,” Gadowsky said. “You have to focus on that every weekend.”
Goalie Peyton Jones ranks eighth nationally with a 1.67 goals-against average. He’s not one to change his approach or share his feelings in any satiation, from preseason scrimmage to postseason tournament.
All those things help Gadowsky feel better about his team now than he did last week. Still, he knows they cannot overlook Michigan State, which in all fairness is not the strongest team in the conference. He also offered a caution that no opponent can be overlooked and that last weekend’s efforts in the seventh and eight games of the season somehow made the campaign complete.
“We haven’t done anything yet,” he said. “Nothing has been accomplished.”
For a team with big postseason expectations, that’s a fact. Not a feeling.
No. 6 Penn State (6-1, 2-0 Big Ten) vs. Michigan State (2-4, 0-0)
Series: 7 p.m. Friday; 6 p.m. Saturday
Radio/TV: Game coverage on 103.1 FM and GoPSUsports.com
Notable: Michigan State opens Big Ten Conference play with these games. ... Penn State leads the series, 13-12-4, with a 7-2-3 record at home. … MSU has four players with two goals, and senior forward Patrick Khodorenko leads the team with six points (one goal, five assists). … Penn State has eight players with at least two goals. … Senior forward Nate Sucese ranks 14th nationally, scoring 1.86 points per game.