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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Set For First Big Test Of Season

by on November 13, 2014 4:00 PM

Penn State hockey isn't a a program that has many years under its belt, but playing some of the biggest names in the game is far from a new experience. 

"The guys aren't intimated," Head coach Guy Gadowsky said earlier in the week.

Coming off a season having faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation Penn State will travel to take on No.4 UMass-Lowell this weekend for a two game series. The two games will act as the first of an extended road trip that won't have the Nittany Lions back in State College for a game until early January.

A 5-1-2 record has been a fantastic start to the second full season of Division I play for Penn State but with wins coming against quality but not "elite" opponents there are still questions remaining to be answered. Thirty votes in the USCHO poll is recognition of Penn State's strong start, but with nearly the entire meat of the schedule remaining there is a lot left to prove.

"We recognize that a lot of people around the nation are saying, yeah, they had a great start but they haven't played a top team," Gadowsky said. "Well this is a top team and I think eyes will be on it to see if ... a lot of people will be trying to say 'Oh they weren't really legit.' But we can't control what they think."

Ultimately Gadwosky's concerns are internal -- controlling how the team plays. The winning and losing is secondary to continually trying to raise the team's level of play. Praise and approval will come with time but right now the Nittany Lions are just trying to improve their game practice to practice.

Even so this weekend's series is a chance to see how far Penn State has come in just over a year. They'll be facing the No. 4 team in the nation on the road. The Nittany Lions played UMass-Lowell twice last year -- falling in those contests to the tune of 4-0 and 3-2. 

Penn State might be focused on the long term, getting the program better and better, controlling what it can control, but Friday and Saturday night are undoubtedly big opportunities to prove that the progress has been real. They have a chance to demonstrate hat the wins in the early part of the season weren't a fluke. The Nittany Lions might not come out of the weekend having extended their winning streak to 6 games. But a strong showing, even in defeat, can show people that Penn State hockey is a program to keep an eye on this season.

And it should be a fun one to watch. UML comes in as the top team in the nation in goals per game. Penn State enters the weekend at No. 2 in the same category.

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