Penn State Hockey

Penn State hockey: Nittany Lions seek boost for offense

It’s a pretty obvious observation about the Penn State men’s ice hockey team: The Nittany Lions need more scoring.

In averaging 2.26 goals per game this season, Penn State ranks 50th in the nation in team offense.

With a battle looming at Pegula Ice Arena at 7 p.m. Saturday against No. 2 Boston College, the Nittany Lions will need every goal they can muster.

The Eagles merely lead the nation in scoring at 4.57 goals per game — three-quarters of a goal more than the No. 2 offense in Division I, Minnesota.

While that will provide quite a challenge for the defense, it also means the offense will have to keep up.

The problem is the Nittany Lions have scored just 43 goals all season. BC has scored more than that since Christmas, and just its No. 1 forward line has bettered that total this season.

‘You’ve got to keep grinding away,” junior forward and captain Tommy Olczyk said. “Sometimes it gets a little frustrating. But even when you’re scoring a bunch of goals, you can’t get too high, and when you’re not scoring goals you can’t get too low. It’s just a matter of time until they come.”

The highlight for the offense has been newcomer Eric Sheid, who paces the Nittany Lions with nine goals and five assists.

The redshirt freshman had six goals and nine assists over 30 games as a freshman at Alaska Anchorage in 2011-12, but he wasn’t comfortable with the school or the team and left after one season, spending last year playing un the USHL as he sought a new college program, with 23 goals and 36 assists with the Lincoln Stars.

“It’s a surprise right now that we haven’t had other people to match it,” Gadowsky said of Scheid’s scoring numbers this season. “It isn’t a surprise that he’s doing what he’s doing. As a freshman he was one of the top scorers of Alaska Anchorage.”

Next in scoring after Scheid are defenseman Luke Juha, with four goals and eight assists, and freshman David Goodwin’s four goals and six assists.

Meanwhile, last year’s top scorers continue to struggle in Casey Bailey (2 goals, 2 assists), David Glen (2 goals, 3 assists) and Max Gardiner (1 assist).

“To be honest, I’m not really sure what’s going on right now,” Scheid said. “Kids are just a little snake-bit right now. Casey Bailey’s had a lot of opportunites, David Glen’s playing well, (Curtis) Loik, (Kenny) Brooks — they’re all playing well. The chances are there, the puck’s just not going in right now. I’m not sure if it’s anything we have to change, we just have to keep at it.”

Penn State has been scrapping and struggling, and at least in the past few games have increased their shot total — you can’t score if you don’t shoot, after all.

Last weekend against Michigan State, Penn State outshot the Spartans in one game and had just one fewer in the other, and outshot No. 1 Minnesota in a game the previous week.

With more shots flying at the opposing goalie, now the task is to put more bodies in front of the net for the goalie to have a tougher time seeing the puck and for a better chance for the shot to be redirected.

“It’s something that we felt we weren’t doing a very good job of,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “It’s pretty much a staple of what we want our identity to be. That being said, we need to do a much better job of creating traffic.”

With a week of practice to prepare, the Nittany Lions hope to put the lessons to use Saturday night against a team that beat them 8-2 on Dec. 28 at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.

Bailey scored the game’s first goal for an early Penn State lead, but eight unanswered Eagle goals over a stretch of 35 minutes left things decidedly one-sided.

“You’ve definitely got to remember it,” Scheid said. “Obviously it stings losing 8-2. It’s never fun. But at the same time you can’t go out there and play angry. You’ve got to stick to your systems and your style of play. Last game we got away from what we do and we tried to match their play and kind of play their style.”

Ice shavings: Penn State enters the weekend on a five-game losing skid, and has lost 11 of its last 12, while Boston College is unbeaten in its last 10 games. … BC beat Merrimack 4-1 Tuesday night. … Gadowsky said illness is the team’s major health issue at the moment, with a number of players slowed by a bug. “There’s a few broken bones, but … that’s not going to hold them off,” Gadowsky said.