Penn State Hockey: Altitude A Unique Issue For Weekend Series Against Air Force
When an Air Force pilot enters the cockpit of his or her plane, high altitudes, stamina, and endurance are a part of the job description. When the Nittany Lions take on Air Force this weekend in a two game series, some of these very same issues will come into play on the ice as well.
As Penn State sets out to Colorado Springs for the two-game road series, the Nittany Lions will be playing at around 6,000 feet above sea level. For perspective, State College sits at roughly 1,000 feet above sea level.
"It's definitely different, so we're going to have to adjust to it," Assistant Captain Nate Jensen said. Jensen is one of a few players who have competed literally at a high level. Jensen having visited Colorado College during his time at Mercyhurst "It's something we're going to have to battle through. It's the same for both teams. I guess they are a little bit used to it, but it doesn't change anything."
"I played at Air Force," Forward Max Gardner said. Gardner a former player at Minnesota before transferring to Penn State. "We go on Thursday so we get our pre-game skate in, and that's a big skate for us.
"You get to kind of adjust to skating up the ice. It is a big difference. If you've never played at altitude, you get short on breath, you get tired easier. That pre-game skate helps a lot. Then on those first couple shifts, you start to get use to it, and then, I'm sure by the second game you'll be ready."
Overall it won't change things too much for head coach Guy Gadowksy who is also familiar with the area having played collegiate hockey at Colorado College. The Nittany Lions will travel on Thursday and practice later that evening in hopes of getting acclimated to the new surroundings before the puck drops on Friday.
"We'll leave Thursday at 8:00 a.m. and get in there to Denver around 4:45," Gadowksy says. "The bus will take us directly to Colorado Springs for practice at 7:00 p.m. and then a pregame skate at 10:30 a.m. on Friday."
"I played at Colorado College, the same town as Air Force. And there was a sign at the Broadmoor Arena, as you walked out of locker room reminding the opposing team of the altitude. Quite honestly it is as much as a placebo affect as you let it be. You see teams that came in and talked about it and some teams bring oxygen to the bench." Gadowsky said laughing.
Coming off of a 4-1 victory over Army this past weekend, the Nitany Lions will look to improve to 2-0 on Friday before a possible shot at an undefeated record heading back to Happy Valley.
If that happens, Penn State's coaches and players will be soaring much higher than the altitudes of Colorado Springs.