After season-opening split on the road, Penn State not disappointed, but optimistic

Erik Autio (20 - Penn State) and David Bennett (47 - Canisius) (Omar Phillips)
Erik Autio (left) will be a tough defenseman this season for Penn State (photo: Omar Phillips).

Guy Gadowsky coached in the ECAC for seven years, so he wasn’t surprised when Penn State came back from its opening trip to New York with a 1-1 record.

The Nittany Lions dropped their season opener at Clarkson but salved a weekend split-opponent split by defeating St. Lawrence the next night. The road doesn’t get easier this weekend when Penn State opens conference play at Minnesota.

“I know how difficult it is to travel to the North Country and get any wins out of that trip,” Gadowsky said. “I’m not disappointed, that’s for sure. Those are two really good teams.”

One thing that did surprise the coach was the quality of defense played so early in the season, especially during Friday’s game that Clarkson won 2-1.

“Friday night, defensively, I thought both teams played really well,” Gadowsky said. “I actually anticipated a lot more defensive mistakes than we actually had.

“We did have a few, but it was actually a pretty good defensive game.”

Gadowsky said that he thought both teams were pushing to create offense in Saturday’s game against St. Lawrence, which maybe led to a few more mistakes and the game’s higher score. Penn State put 35 shots on goal during Saturday’s game and St. Lawrence had 31.

Penn State’s defense was somewhat of a question mark coming into the season with the early departure of Vince Pedrie, who signed with the New York Rangers organization. Pedrie and Erik Autio were a bright spot as a defensive pairing for Penn State last year.

Gadowsky said he was impressed with Autio, a senior from Espoo, Finland, last weekend.

“If this weekend was any indication, I thought Autio was excellent,” he said. “It was nice to see that he can play so well, even without (Pedrie). The question on whether Autio can still be effective was at least put to rest a little bit with how well he played this weekend.”

Conference play, which started last weekend when Wisconsin hosted Ohio State, starts a lot earlier this year in the Big Ten. In previous seasons teams typically played nonconference opponents until early or mid-December before squaring off against conference foes.

“It’s going to be the same for both teams,” Gadowsky said of playing conference games earlier. “Right now, both Minnesota and us are coming off of just one weekend of play, so we’re in the same boat.

“I think you can anticipate, maybe, the systems are quite as well-oiled for both teams, but both teams are in the same situation. I don’t think it’s an advantage either way.”

Minnesota beat the Nittany Lions four times in the regular season last year before Penn State downed the Gophers in double overtime at the Big Ten tournament.

“It’s always tough going there and this trip isn’t going to be any different,” Gadowsky said. “I’d like to think that we learned a lot playing them both in the regular season where we didn’t have success and the postseason where we did. Hopefully we can take those lessons and move forward.”

Irish host Pioneers in Frozen Four rematch

Notre Dame enters only its second weekend of official affiliation with the Big Ten, but the Irish are in position to do their new conference a huge favor as they host the top-ranked team in the nation.

The No. 4 Irish will play Denver in a series that is a rematch of last year’s Frozen Four semifinal that, obviously, Denver won.

“That was then and this is now,” head coach Jeff Jackson said after Saturday’s win over Alabama Huntsville via a release. “I just told them in the room, we’re not going to blow this out of proportion.”

Even without the revenge factor from last year, this is still a massive series between two top-five teams that is being broadcast on national television.

“It’s a big series, playing the No. 1-ranked team in the country and justifiably so.” Jackson said. “They’re a very talented team, returning a lot of highly talented guys.”

The Irish beat Huntsville 5-3 on Friday and 4-0 on Saturday. Senior Jake Evans had two goals and three assists on the weekend and junior Andrew Oglevie had two goals and two assists.

Wisconsin travels to face Boston College

After starting the season 2-1 at home, Tony Granato’s Badgers get a big test for their first road trip of the season when they travel to face Boston College this weekend.

Wisconsin opened conference play with Ohio State last weekend. The Buckeyes took game one by a 3-2 score with the Badgers returning the favor by the same score the following night.

“I think the biggest thing is we know we’re in season now, we now the importance of nonconference and conference games,” head coach Tony Granato said at Wisconsin’s Monday press conference. “Boston College is a ranked team. They’re a team that we’re going to have to beat or stay ahead of as the season moves along.”

Granato said he was looking forward to the trip.

“As a team, you always look forward to being able to be focused, because it’s just hockey when you go on the road,” he said. “Last year we, I thought, played really well away from here and it’ll be important to get off to a good start on the road this year for us.”

Danton Cole era begins at Michigan State

Danton Cole, one of two new coaches in the Big Ten this season along with Michigan’s Mel Pearson, will make his debut this weekend as Michigan State played an exhibition game last weekend.

The Spartans will play Bowling Green in a home-and-home series this weekend.

“I always talk to the guys, I think being nervous and being excited are really the same emotion,” Cole said during his Tuesday press conference. “It’s how you look at it, and you get a lot more done being excited. I’m excited about it, it’s not my first rodeo…it is going to be exciting, though.”

Three stars of the week

First star — Ohio State junior forward Mason Jobst: Jobst scored two goals during the Buckeye’s season-opening win against Wisconsin. He also assisted on a pair of third-period goals during Saturday’s game. This is his fifth career Big Ten weekly award.

Second star — Notre Dame senior forward Jake Evans: Evans tallied five points in Notre Dame’s sweep of Alabama Huntsville. He scored twice in Friday’s 5-3 win on Friday and added two assists during Saturday’s 4-0 shutout. This is his first Big Ten weekly award as it is Notre Dame’s first year in the conference.

Third star — Notre Dame senior defenseman Jordan Gross: Gross posed four points for the Irish last weekend. He recorded a career-high three assists on Friday and scored his first goal of the season on Saturday. This is his first career Big Ten weekly award.

B1G in the poll

No. 4 Notre Dame, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 11 Penn State represent the Big Ten in this week’s USCHO.com Division I Men’s Poll.

My ballot
1. Denver
2. Boston University
3. St. Cloud State
4. Harvard
5. UMass Lowell
6. Minnesota-Duluth
7. Notre Dame
8. Minnesota
9. North Dakota
10. Providence
11. Penn State
12. Wisconsin
13. Quinnipiac
14. Boston College
15. Cornell
16. Air Force
17. Minnesota State
18. Ohio State
19. Northeastern
20. Michigan Tech

This week’s matchups

Minnesota vs. Penn State (Friday and Sunday, Mariucci Arena)
Wisconsin at Boston College/Merrimack (Friday at Silvio O. Conte Forum, Saturday at J. Thom Lawler Arena)
Michigan State at/vs. Bowling Green (Friday at Slater Family Ice Arena, Saturday at Munn Ice Arena)
Notre Dame vs. Denver (Friday and Saturday, Compton Family Ice Arena)
Ohio State vs. Rensselaer (Friday and Saturday, Value City Arena)

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