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Penn State Hockey: Accountability Key Focus As Team And Program Grow

by on October 11, 2016 1:30 PM

Penn State played just about every kind of hockey this past week.

On Thursday it was upset hockey, knocking off No. 16 St Lawrence with crisp passing, strong goaltending and reliable defense.

On Friday it was just about the opposite. The Nittany Lions gave up three goals in the first eight shots and in turn a 3-0 lead in the opening five minutes of play. Penn State fought back, and likely should have had more than three goals to show for it, but it wasn't to be and a 6-3 final ended the opening week of the season with a series split.

Speaking to the media earlier this week coach Guy Gadowsky stressed that he hopes it was a lesson learned. Particularly important considering that with each and every game crucial to a postseason berth that bad starts might just be the difference between watching the tournament and playing in it.

The hope, that accountability not rousing pregame speeches with result in success. The epitome of putting players in a position to succeed and then stepping away to let them handle their business.

"If we go in every night with pom-poms and cheering trying to pump them up we're not doing them any service," Gadowsky said. "At the pro level that doesn't happen, this is the starting lineup, whoever doesn't do their job gets sent down whoever does that's who we're going to keep. What it is, is to install the culture of the team that they're ready to go internally. And so the discussion with the captains is interesting but it's something that has to happen internally. As a staff it's up to us to make sure that the team is prepared but we're transferring that responsibility to the culture of the team."

That culture takes a while to create of course, Penn State has 10 freshman and a host of underclassmen still finding their way. If Penn State hockey's two-steps-forward-no-steps-back rise through the collegiate ranks has any negative benefits it's the inevitable "down" year as the program continues to grow. Often forgotten within a crowded Pegula Ice Arena is how young this program still is, and that the Nittany Lions are still -at the end of the day- a bit farther away from national title dreams than most fans would like to admit.

Either way the hope is the culture of accountability permeates the locker room enough to get the Nittany Lions to the next level. It hasn't been absent prior to this season, but with so many new faces, it's something that has to be relearned.

"We've always had that menatlity, all of the success that we have is due to the credit to the players in the locker room," Gadowsky added. "What we try and do is very quickly transfer the responsibility and the ownership to them, so when you have really good people and really good quality guys it works out really well."

Ask around the roster and that message has been received loud and clear.

"I think one of the biggest things for us is to make sure we're ready from the drop of the puck," Defenseman Kevin Kerr said. "No matter who you're playing it's going to be difficult if you go out there the first five minutes and give up three goals."

Of course understanding the message is one thing, executing it is something completely different. But as far as junior forward Dylan Richard is concerned these freshman are ready to hit the ice running, or rather, skating. So the result is a balance of guiding them along while trusting they already know what it takes to succeed.

"A little bit of both, obviously you've got to give them a direction to go in but they're all smart kids and most of them were wearing letters with their junior teams so they all know how to lead they all know how to hold themselves accountable already," Richard said. "So really just point them in a direction and they're smart enough to continue down that path."

And if they do, this bunch has the talent and the skill to take Penn State hockey where it wants to go. Maybe not this year, but not too far down the road.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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