It’s the holidays, and Guy Gadowsky misses his family.
It’s not his wife and three children he is missing, but the guys who put on blue and white jerseys who occupy his other “home.”
The Penn State men’s ice hockey team has been on a break since Dec. 13, and the team’s head coach will not see team members until they practice again Thursday.
“The guys had great attitudes going into the break, but we were focusing on finals and really that was the main focus,” Gadowsky said in a conference call with media Monday morning. “I didn’t get on the ice with the guys to see if what we worked on stuck. I’m optimistic about it.”
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The Nittany Lions (3-9-1) took final exams last week, then everyone went their separate ways — most went home to their families — with a few days away from campus. There has been some optional skating time for players to work individually or in small groups, but there hasn’t been any time with the coaches over the last 11 days.
They have an optional skate on Wednesday — Christmas day — and then a full practice Thursday before heading to Pittsburgh. The Nittany Lions meet Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center at 7:35 p.m. Friday, and will face either Bowling Green or No. 7 Boston College on Saturday.
When the Lions last played, they lost 4-3 at No. 15 Wisconsin on Dec. 7. That game was on the heels of a horrific 7-1 loss to the Badgers the night before, and Gadowsky said the second loss – the Nittany Lions had a lead briefly and never let Wisconsin get a lead of more than one goal – was the team’s best game of the season despite the loss.
So maybe the break spoiled the momentum of what was gained in that game, but that was the way the schedule was set.
“Everybody’s in the same boat,” Gadowsky said. “We did play our best game the last game we played, so it wasn’t ideal for us (for a break). But, you know what? I’m certain we’re much happier to have that result than to still be looking for it.”
While Penn State has a rematch with the Patriots (2-10-2), against whom the Lions have one of their three wins this season, that game is hardly near the top of Gadowsky’s list of season’s best. The Nittany Lions were outshot 52-41 and drew eight penalties good for 24 minutes. Highlighting the night for Robert Morris was Cody Wydo, who scored all four Patriot goals, including one on a penalty shot.
Of course, Gadowsky would prefer being outshot and winner over last year’s meeting with Robert Morris at Consol Energy Center, when Penn State had a 48-41 advantage in shots but lost 6-0.
“(Friday’s game is) an important game because they did beat us 6-0 the year before in that exact same game,” Gadowsky said. “So we get another opportunity in that, plus in terms of what we can control, we had a very poor game against them when we played them earlier this year.”
It will be another opportunity for the Nittany Lions to play in a big arena. They lost 5-2 to Vermont in Philadelphia in October, in addition to the two games at Wisconsin’s 15,000-seat Kohl Center.
“I still would like to think that we come up with good performances in important venues,” Gadowsky said. “This is a great opportunity to find out if I’m right.”
Following this weekend, the road will be rough the rest of the way. They will have another weekend off before hosting No. 1 Minnesota on Jan. 12, with one game against Boston College and all Big Ten games the rest of the season.
Gadowsky said there were a few question marks for who might be hobbled and held out of this weekend’s games — although he did not give any names — and he wouldn’t know for sure until he sees everyone Thursday.
But he is looking forward to the trip to Pittsburgh and the latest challenge for his team.
“Any time you play in an NHL rink, and any time you play in front of great Penn State fans, it’s special,” Gadowsky said. “I know we have a great following in Pittsburgh, so I know everybody is looking forward not only to the venue, but to the support of our alumni.”