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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Set For First Ever Big Ten Tournament

by on March 20, 2014 10:37 AM

Postseason hockey.

It brings out the best in every hockey player. Wins mean that much more and losses hurt even harder. For Penn State and the rest of the Big Ten, the postseason is simple. Lose and go home.

And head coach Guy Gadowksy likes that. it prepares his team for a day down the road where the NCAA tournament will be a yearly affair and where it's lose and go home every single game. There is no chance for redemption, only 60 minutes to extend your season another 60 minutes.

In a fitting twist, Penn State will face Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten tournament, the Nittany Lions having beaten the Wolverines twice this season already. It won't be any easier in the fifth meeting between the two teams this year, but the tiebreaker in the series today should be plenty entertaining.

"We have the team we have going into a situation where you must win to move on," Gadowsky said. "We're certainly trying to gain as much experience as we can, but we're very well aware we have to have positive results to go on. I think though the team is very confident that we're a much, much improved team from the start of the year, and probably a much improved team from Christmas."

Matthew Skoff will get the start in goal for Penn State and is the only goalie of the three Nittany Lion netminders to have a win to his name this season.

"You have to take it as some other game," Skoff said. "It's still going to be 60 minutes, it's still going to be Michigan, and we've played them before. So, at the end of the game, we just have to play our game and concentrate on our objective."

"We were really pumped with getting Michigan," forward David Goodwin said. "Statistically we did really well against them, a lot of indiviudals did well against them, so in both aspects, we're really happy with Michigan and probably feel most confident against Michigan."

Considering the Nittany Lions have improved greatly since the first game of the season, Thursday's 3 PM puck drop serves as a bit of a final exam. A loss certainly doesn't mark the season as a failure, but what better way to see how you have improved as a program than in postseason play. It may be a new experience for almost every Nittany Lion, but postseason play crosses another "first" off of the program's bucket list.

And as Goodwin notes, with Michigan coming off of a win over No. 1 Michigan and Penn State coming off a win over Ohio State, both programs are skating full steam ahead at each other with plenty of confidence at their backs.

"They had a big weekend last weekend, we're coming off a big win over Ohio State, so it will be a good grudge match." Goodwin said smiling.

The game is set to start at 3:00 PM on the Big Ten Network.

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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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