The memory is still fresh in the minds of Penn State mens hockey players, the ecstasy of the program’s first official Big Ten victory, beating the nation’s No. 10 team to do it.
The victim that night probably remembers it pretty well too. The Michigan Wolverines probably will not want to experience that again when the teams tangle again at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Saturday at Yost Ice Arena.
“Those were must-win games for us so it was disappointing for us to lose,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I understand as a coach the ramifications for Penn State. Good for them, they deserved to win the game, but for us it was a loss and we shouldn’t have lost that game.”
The Nittany Lions are going to try for the repeat performance.
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“It’s certainly going to take the same amount of mental intensity that we had here that night,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “It’s going to take an excellent game, it’s going to take excellent goaltending, we know that. They’re a fantastic team.”
When they tangled 13 days earlier at Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State took care of things at both ends of the ice in a 4-0 victory, not only getting that historic win against a top-10 team, but also earning the shutout.
The Nittany Lions were hoping to sustain that momentum last weekend against Michigan State, but ended up with losses in a shootout and in regulation to the Spartans, with the team playing well enough to win both nights. Penn State gave up just 13 shots on goal in the Saturday loss.
It left a sour taste in the Nittany Lions’ mouths for a while, but they had it cleared when they got back onto the ice at the beginning of the week.
“I thought we really played a game good enough to win, and I thought we should have won,” Gadowsky said of Friday’s shootout loss after losing a lead late in regulation.
“Maybe a little bit (of a) residual effect from Friday. I thought we should have won that. But then when you sit back and look at it and watch the tape over the weekend, we did a lot of good things.”
The coach returned to phrases he has uttered frequently this season about the growth and development of the program, but they still know they could have had two more wins in the standings, and could be carrying a three-game win streak into this weekend.
They also would be feeling even better about their chances for a big road win.
“We feel that if we play a great game, we have the ability to beat anybody,” Gadowsky said. “You look at the games we’ve played against the top teams in the nation, and certainly a big win against Michigan, should give us that confidence that if we play great in all areas, then we can win.”
Expect the Wolverines to be less than hospitable. They are on a three-game losing streak, experiencing a pair of setbacks at No. 2 Minnesota last weekend.
“Obviously they’re going to be kind of sour, wanting to get back at us for that win,” goalie Matthew Skoff said. “It just gives us confidence that we can execute against them.”
Something else which may have a little influence on the game is how recent the previous meeting is. It will not take much prodding of the memories to recall who did what and what a few opponent tendencies are. It is not far removed from playing back-to-back nights.
“You make slight adjustments from Friday to Saturday nights,” Gadowsky said. “The same will be (this week).”
While the Nittany Lions know they are destined to finish last in the six-team conference, barring an incredible run over the final month of the regular season, they also know they can still have a major impact on the standings.
Just six points separate second-place Wisconsin and fifth-place Michigan State, with Michigan and Ohio State between them. Meeting the Wolverines this weekend and the Badgers and Buckeyes at Pegula Ice Arena to close the season, after traveling to leader Minnesota, could lead to a shake-up in the standings.
“We’re really more concerned with us improving than us spoiling anybody else,” Gadowsky said. “It sounds selfish, I guess, but this really is all about us. We value every single minute we get to play in conference, Big Ten games, to help us improve and gain experience.”