The Penn State hockey program loves to brag about the home ice advantage it gets from the “Roar Zone.”
The 1,000-seat student section, right behind the opposing goalie for two periods each home game, gives quite a lift to the Nittany Lions, especially when they get momentum on their side.
The section will have a different look this weekend, with student ticket-holders encouraged to donate their seats to Four Diamond Fund families who are in town for the IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.
For the first time in the program’s three-year history, the Nittany Lions will be home for “Thon” weekend, and team members are happy to have a chance to contribute to the special weekend on campus.
“Everybody, I think, falls in love with Penn State in their own ways,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “For me, Thon, it’s so amazing. … I personally believe it’s the best thing that any university does.”
Most Penn State athletic teams also get involved with Thon, joining those on the dance floor for an hour. The Nittany Lions will get a turn after they get in their games this weekend against No. 17 Minnesota. The teams tangle at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena.
Team members are looking forward to the experience of being on the dance floor for the 46-hour event.
“It’s unbelievable,” junior forward Curtis Loik said in anticipation. “The school comes together like a massive family.”
In addition to the massive experience, the team also has a more personal connection to the event with Colton Buckley. The young man has been paired with the program since 2012, battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia since 2011 at the age of 4. Buckley even has a locker dedicated to him in the Nittany Lions’ dressing room.
“He’s been around us for a few years now and he’s such an inspiration to us,” Loik said. “To have someone of that character and what he’s been through around us, it really makes you think how much we have to appreciate that.”
Hockey fans will have to keep the festivities in mind when they attend this weekend’s games, since Thon will be held Friday evening through Sunday afternoon across the street at the Bryce Jordan Center, making parking for the hockey games a little tricky.
The Nittany Lions, however, are happy to have the chance to be a part of Thon. They do a number events each year associated with it, and a month ago they wore special jerseys with “Thon” in the name plates that were auctioned off with proceeds benefiting the Four Diamonds Fund and Thon efforts.
“Thon just makes me so proud to be a part of this university,” Gadowsky said.
On Monday, the Big Ten announced a one-game suspension for junior forward David Glen, forcing him to miss Friday’s game.
In last Saturday’s 3-2 loss at Michigan State, Glen gave a hard jab with the butt end of his stick to the Spartans’ Michael Ferrantino immediately after a faceoff with 2:58 left in the game. Glen did not draw a penalty on the play, and Penn State scored its second goal of the night less than a minute later.
Gadowsky had no problem with the suspension.
“David Glen deserved it,” Gadowsky said. “It was on film.”
This is not Glen’s first brush with discipline. He received two five-minute major penalties and two game misconducts last season, led the team in penalty minutes and tied for the most penalties. But Gadowsky doesn’t think Glen, who has four goals and four assists in 19 games this season, will be getting a less-than-stellar reputation.
“Anybody that knows David Glen knows he’s a very honest, excellent hockey player,” Gadowsky said. “He does play tough. I know he didn’t mean to butt-end him.”
Musico back in net
Senior goalie P.J. Musico had been on a roll in goal, taking a 4-0-1 record in his last five games to East Lansing, where he made his fourth straight start after four relief appearances. But a lackluster effort by Penn State left the team with a 3-0 loss and Musico watching Saturday as Matthew Skoff took over net duties.
Gadowsky said Musico will be starting again Friday night against the Gophers.
“Trust me, our loss on Friday had nothing to do with P.J.,” Gadowsky said. “He let in three goals, but he played well. We did not play well. We gave him zero run support. That’s not his fault by any means, and he deserves to be in there again.”
For the second time this season, Penn State’s stay in the national rankings was brief. The Nittany Lions were No. 19 in the U.S. College Hockey Online top-20 poll before getting swept by the Spartans.
Penn State also was No. 20 for one poll in late December before falling out.
In national statistics, the Nittany Lions are No. 10 in offense (3.39 goals per game) and 37th in defense (allowing 2.75 goals per game). Individually, Casey Bailey is tied for fourth in goal-scoring (20) and tied for 15th in points (34), while linemate Taylor Holstrom is tied for 16th in assists (21).