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Penn State Hockey: Win Or Lose, Michigan Offers Good Chance To Hit Reset With Identity

on October 25, 2017 2:00 PM

During the week Pegula Ice Arena is fairly quiet. Even as Penn State practices on the main rink the sound of pucks and sticks only barely register for anyone in the building.

But on Monday a loud beep echoed through the building over the rink's speakers. And then another, and another. Each a bit sooner than the last. Between the beeps the sound of skates rushing back and forth across the ice, trying to beat the beeps.

By the end the Nittany Lions were barely standing. Even the goalies were hunched over, gasping for what air could make it through their masks.

For the first practice since Penn State's overtime loss to AIC this past weekend, it was a brutal return to the ice. But so too was the loss., Penn State's third of the year, but by far the worst of the year, if not one of the program's low points.

“That’s how losing really helps,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said after practice. “When you win games, it masks a little bit of the problem that ... you don’t learn anything unless there’s failure involved.”

And fail Penn State did. There were warning signs it would happen, the Nittany Lions had given up five goals the night prior and generally had not looked the part in terms of the kind of endless aggression that had made Penn State so successful the year prior.

However equally true, the season is long and the notion Penn State hockey would forever avoid the pitfalls of personnel changes and the occasional head-scratching losses was never going turn out to be true. If anything, the early season bumps in the road are just the next chapter in the program's evolution. The current question, has Penn State learned how to bounce back for a suddenly loss of identity? 

“We’d rather be losing now than at the end of the year,” captain James Robinson said Monday. “With any team, especially a championship team, at some point in their season they’re going to have some downturns. It’s good that it’s happening now and we’re taking it as a learning curve.”

And there is a lot of truth to that. For all of Penn State's success in 2016 it was not always obvious that the Nittany Lions were destined for something great, but when they had to win, they did. That's really all that matters.

The good news for fans, the Nittany Lions are back home this weekend to take on Michigan, a team that has brought out the best for Penn State. If the Nittany Lions are going to get back to so-called "Penn State hockey" no team will help hit the restart button better than the Wolverines.

“We have to get back to doing what we do very well,” Gadowsky said. “It’s not easy to play the way we play. It’s actually very difficult and very taxing, but we have to get back to do it. We’re not as skilled as we think we are if we think we can go out and ‘out-skill’ teams. We have to get dirty.”

“Until you get your hand slapped a little bit, you don’t really change. I’m hoping this was a good hand-slap.”

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