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Penn State Hockey: Fresh And Ready, Nittany Lions Eager For Rematch With Denver

by on March 21, 2018 11:30 AM

There is little doubt who the better team was the last time Penn State and Denver played.

But you could say the same thing about any team that Denver faced. There is a reason the Pioneers won the national title, and a reason why you could have guessed that they would months before it actually did.

However the Nittany Lions have always wondered what might have happened on slightly fresher legs. Penn State entered that second round game of the NCAA Tournament having played four games in 10 days, two going to double overtime. In total, 770 minutes of hockey with two games nearly lasting four hours.

Almost 13 hours of hockey in just over a week. Plus a long bus ride to the Big Ten Tournament and the emotionally draining feeling of a first ever tournament win, berth and experience.

This year the Nittany Lions will enter Saturday's game with zero minutes of hockey played in the week leading up to it. Plenty of time to rest the legs, plenty of time to get ready and practice.

"We got beat. We know we got beat," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said on Tuesday. "We have to be much better. If part of that we can blame that on we didn't just quite have the leg, I don't know. I know that at that point of the season everyone is a little bit tired so we'll see. I think the coaching staff is very excited to see if we have improved. I like to think that we're going to have a lot more energy, but there is a lot more to hockey than energy."

And there will be a lot more to Saturday's game than energy too. The Pioneers are not all that different than the last time they faced Penn State, perhaps most famously led by forward and US Olympian Troy Terry who racked up three goals and two assists against the Nittany Lions last year.

However there is one thing working in Penn State's favor this time around, the Nittany Lions have seen the Pioneers before and know what they bring to the table. This won't be the first time they have lined up against Denver and with that comes some welcome faimilarity.

"We had never played an NCHC team at all last year," forward Chaser Berger said. "We didn't know what to expect. I do think those guys are really good, but like you said we've seen them, I think we're not going to be shocked at all which helps us and we're going to focus on what we can control instead of worrying about whose on the ice?"

There's also the rest of the season to consider and all of those Big Ten opponents that bring plenty of talent to the ice in their own right. Saturday's game will be an interesting test for the program to see how far it has come since last season. The Nittany Lions are a bit more skilled and bit more experienced, will it be enough? Only time will tell, but it certainly won't hurt Penn State's chances any.

"Obviously all those guys they're great players, but how I look at it, we've been playing great players (in the Big Ten) and they're just as good," forward Andrew Sturtz added. "How I look at it, we're prepared for this moment, we played in one of the best conferences in college hockey all year and I think if anything the team we have been playing have prepared us to play Denver, it's going to be an unbelievable hockey game."

And with a nearly sold out Penn State friendly PPL Center awaiting both teams, it's not all that unreasonable to think Penn State might just pull off the upset.



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