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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Prepare for Playoff Hockey at Pegula After Long Rest

by on March 10, 2020 2:00 PM

When it's all said and done Penn State hockey will have played a single game in 21 days after closing out the regular season with a win over Minnesota. 

The culprit, first, was scheduling, as the Nittany Lions sat idle during the final week of conference play. The second, Penn State earned a first round bye during the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 1 overall seed, sitting at home as the rest of the league competed in the best-of-three series opening round.

So three weeks, and nothing but time on their hands.

The challenge over that span of time? Finding the balance between being fresh and not being rusty, working too hard and not working hard enough.

"As long as when we're here, we're working hard," coach Guy Gadowsky said on Tuesday. "I don't mind the scenario considering, you know, Coach [Keith] Fisher said the alternative is to play a three game series. What would you rather have? So we feel good about it. And I think the guys have been working very hard when they're here."

Gadowsky says that while the practice schedule has largely stayed the same, players did get a few days off to visit with family and then return for their preparation heading into Saturday's Big Ten Tournament semifinals meeting against Minnesota. The benefit of winning in this case, and chance to ease the mind for a very brief moment.

"I hit a bucket of golf balls at the range," Gadowsky said of his weekend.

Back on the ice Penn State has made the most of the extra time by working in a few more competitive game situations. The hope is that the Nittany Lions will be able to walk that fine line between being rested and being ready. Of course there's always the obvious plus of time off: everyone is healthier.

"[The team is] not 100% [healthy] but we're certainly healthier than we were two weeks ago," Gadowsky added.

For Penn State there are multiple obvious benefits to winning on Saturday and making it to the Big Ten Tournament finals. A loss this weekend would mean another extended break before the first round of the NCAA Tournament. All told, 35 days will have passed since the end of Penn State's regular season and the start of the national tournament with the possibility of just a single game between the two. A win and the Nittany Lions will have played two straight weeks in the lead up to the true postseason.

"It's different than winter break," forward Nate Sucese added. "Because the [emphasis] is on how important these games are [when they get back to playing.]" 

Of course there are worse things than hanging a banner, Penn State's 41 points good enough to bring home the program's first-ever regular season title.

And there are worse things than hanging a second Big Ten Tournament Title banner alongside it. Even if it means doing a lot more waiting than playing.

"All I want to do is win the Big Ten Tournament," defenseman Paul DeNaples said.

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