Penn State Hockey

Penn State hockey: Nittany Lions revved up for homer opener against Notre Dame

CDT photo

The sample size is really small, but the Penn State men’s hockey team is still hoping it is an indication of what’s to come.

A little less than two weeks ago, the Nittany Lions played an exhibition game, winning 5-2 over Windsor. Last Saturday in the regular-season opener, the team rolled to a 6-1 victory at Canisius.

That’s 11 goals in two games.

It may still be really early, but so far there are no worries about goal-scoring this season.

Continuing to score 5.5 goals per game will land a lot of wins for the Nittany Lions.

“We’ll see,” junior forward David Goodwin said. “Hopefully we’ll be having the same conversation after scoring 10 goals in two games (this weekend).”

The competition will be a lot tougher, but Penn State will still be looking to fill the net. The Nittany Lions host Notre Dame at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena.

Scoring was a major concern heading into this season, with a number of departures for various reasons taking three of last year’s top five scorers and shaking up all four forward lines.

Combining the exhibition game with last Saturday’s contest, the top line is already rolling with four goals and one assist for David Glen and three goals and three assists for Goodwin. Curtis Loik also has two goals and two assists and three others have netted goals.

“It makes guys like me and Glen and (injured Eric) Scheid a little more confident that we know we’re going to be getting scoring in bunches,” Goodwin said. “Not just be fully relied upon. It’s great to see guys like (freshman Chase) Berger and (Ricky) DeRosa … scoring.”

Some of the success can be attributed to the team’s speed, with quick puck movement, a lot of shots on net and defensemen more readily jumping in on plays.

“It is certainly a goal of ours,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “Not only this year, but (always) to be an up-tempo team. There’s been slight adjustments that have been made to help us do that in the offensive zone. We’re moving pucks quicker from the back end.”

Taking a lot of shots has been a staple of the Nittany Lions offense since their very first Division I game in 2012, when they unloaded 63 against American International. They have been among the nation’s leaders in shots each season, took 45 against the Golden Griffins and 57 in the exhibition game.

Friday’s game figures to have plenty of speed on the ice for Penn State, whether or not the team is trying to push the tempo.

It will be the home opener, and the 1,000-seat “Roar Zone” student section will be revving up the Nittany Lions. It may not be the prettiest of play in the first period until the Lions get into the flow of a normal game.

“Everyone has so much adrenaline,” Goodwin said. “They’re just running around, hitting people. There really aren’t that many plays to be made. I tell myself this as well as (freshmen), you have more time than you think. You think everything’s going like a million miles an hour, but if you slow it down you can make plays kind of around the chaos.”

The game will get a little more luster by merely having the Fighting Irish as the opponent, since that is the case whenever the schools meet in any sport at any time of the year. The programs are starting a four-year agreement to play each other.

“Any time you just hear ‘Notre Dame’ in general, regardless of what sport it is, you get a little extra adrenaline for it,” Goodwin said. “There’s a little extra oomph for it … but at the same time, if it was anyone for the home opener, we’d be pretty fired up.”

So, even if the Nittany Lions are not playing at full strength, with Scheid and forward Zach Saar sidelined, there is still plenty of offensive firepower and inspiration in the first official home game since March 7.

“Since April I’ve been thinking about getting back,” Gadowsky said. “It makes it so much fun, it makes what we do so much fun. I know the players are giddy and very, very excited, and it’s the same with our staff.”