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Penn State hockey’s once-promising season ends at the hands of Michigan

The Nittany Lions were looking for the program’s first Frozen Four appearance. But it wasn’t meant to be.

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Penn State hockey, Michigan hockey
Apr 7, 2022; Boston, MA, USA; Michigan Wolverines forward Jimmy Lambert (23) celebrates with defenseman Nick Blankenburg (7) and defenseman Ethan Edwards (73) after scoring a goal against the Denver Pioneers during the second period of the 2022 Frozen Four college ice hockey national semifinals at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Allentown, PA — College hockey is a ‘what have you done for me lately’ world. Penn State hockey needed to put its NCAA tournament record 8-0 win over Michigan Tech behind it quickly. The page turned to a steeper task but with a greater reward. On Sunday, a date with Michigan hockey and a trip to the Frozen Four was on the line. The challenge may have been daunting, but Penn State hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky wasn’t too worried.

“Relax and enjoy…You don’t have to stress about it. We know what we’re gonna do,” Gadowsky said after Friday’s game on how the team would spend the day off Saturday.

The fans seemed more restless than the team to get things started before the matchup with the Wolverines. After a somewhat lackluster showing on Friday, likely due to the odd 5:00 p.m. weekday start time, Penn State fans turned up in droves. Fans traveled from all over the state, even as far as Pittsburgh, to see the Nittany Lions get a crack at the Frozen Four.

Lions play with fire

The Nittany Lions were the decided underdog in this game, and they played like it for most of the first period. Michigan opened the game with several great scoring chances off failed Penn State clears. That would be a theme for most of the period.

When Penn State finally weathered Michigan’s initial wave, it took an offensive zone penalty sending Michigan to the power play. Junior goaltender Liam Souliere was forced to make many strong saves on Michigan’s NHL talent-laden power play.

Souliere’s effort was the sole reason Michigan did not score multiple goals in the period. Penn State had multiple failed clears and defensive collapses, but Souliere stopped all of Michigan’s high-danger chances. 

Penn State would get a few good looks in the period, but they were all turned aside or thwarted by Michigan’s defense. The teams headed to the locker room with 14 shots a piece. The score was 0-0, even if it didn’t feel like it.

On its heels, Penn State hockey breaks through late

The second period took on a much slower pace. Each team only recorded one shot in the first five minutes of the period. But as expected, the speed of play opened back up. There was nearly a six-minute stretch of no whistles, which included multiple chances for both squads.

Penn State would take another offensive zone penalty, and it seemed as if Michigan would finally break through. Souliere had other ideas, though, and kept the game scoreless. Shortly after, Penn State would draw its first powerplay of the nightSenior forward Connor MacEachern would have a rebound bounce right to his stick. He put into the yawning cage to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead.

Michigan had great chances to tie in the period’s final seconds. But luckily for the Nittany Lions, the clock ran out. Penn State took a seemingly improbable lead into the intermission. 

Michigan hockey gets even

The third period was dominated by the Wolverines. They started throwing anything and everything they could at the net. Penn State took another penalty, and this one cost them. Michigan hockey star freshman Adam Fantilli tied the game at one.

Penn State hockey responded well and controlled much of the puck possession the rest of the way. But the Lions couldn’t break through, however, and the game headed to overtime.

Heartbreak

Just 52 seconds into overtime, Michigan forward Mackie Samoskevich fired the puck by Souliere. It ended the game and the season for the Nittany Lions.

The loss ends what was once a promising season for the Nittany Lions. After spending much of the season ranked in the top five and earning multiple wins over No. 1 ranked teams, this was finally the year Penn State was supposed to break into the Frozen Four. But it wasn’t to be.

Gadowsky took a reflective tone after the game, saying, “It’s an honor to be a part of this…I feel bad for the guys on the team who aren’t gonna get this opportunity again. But I look forward to getting back.”

Penn State now has the tall task of replacing eight scholarship spots for next season, including the team’s top five goal scorers. Five incoming freshmen are committed, including the very talented Matthew DiMarsico, who could hear his name called in the NHL Draft this summer. The remaining three scholarships must be filled out via the transfer portal.

That new look Nittany Lion team will hit the ice in October 2023, still looking for the program’s first Frozen Four berth.



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Penn State baseball loses season finale against No. 20 Maryland

The Nittany Lions will look to pick up the pieces and rebuild for 2024.

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Jun 7, 2014; Charlottesville, VA, USA; Maryland Terrapins outfielder Anthony Papio (13) and shortstop Blake Schmit (1) celebrate a run against the Virginia Cavaliers at Davenport Field. Mandatory Credit: Rafael Suanes-USA TODAY Sports

In a series that was also the source of significant news for the program, Penn State baseball returned home for a season-ending three-game series against the nationally-ranked Maryland Terrapins. The weekend saw a few close efforts and an impressive upset win, but the Nittany Lions ultimately ended the season with another series defeat.

Offensive explosion in game one

On Thursday, game one saw pure offense from both teams. The Terrapins scored three runs in the second inning, but then the Lions responded with seven runs in their half of the inning. Such was the story of the game, with both squads exchanging runs back and forth. 

Maryland scored three runs in the fourth to cut the Penn State lead down to a single run. But Penn State again answered right back by scoring six runs across the fifth and sixth innings. This scoring outburst featured a triple from Grant Norris that scored Johnny Piacentino and Thomas Bramley. After six innings, the score was 13-6 Nittany Lions.

In the seventh, Maryland scored six runs to cut the Penn State lead to a single run. However, after adding two additional runs as a cushion, the Nittany Lions surrendered five runs in the ninth inning to lose 17-15. 

Penn State baseball pulls upset in game two

Mere hours after news broke of head coach Rob Copper’s resignation on Friday, Penn State put together an inspired performance that culminated in the upset of the 20th-ranked Terrapins. 

The Nittany Lions took a quick 2-0 lead in the second inning after an RBI double from Thomas Bramley that plated CJ Pittaro and Jay Harry. Maryland finally responded in the fifth, taking a 3-2 lead. But that lead didn’t last long, as Penn State quickly reclaimed the lead in the bottom half of the inning following a two-run single from Jay Harry. 

CJ Pittaro added an insurance run in the eighth inning, and the Lions won by a score of 5-3. The win marked Penn State’s second victory against a ranked opponent this year, with the first coming against Miami to open the season.

Lions’ season ends in disappointment

Despite a valiant effort, Penn State’s season finale ended in disappointment. 

The Lions took a 1-0 lead after an RBI triple from CJ Pittaro in the second. However, Maryland answered in the third and fourth innings to take a 2-1 advantage.

After a three-run fourth inning, Penn State retook the lead 4-2. However, the Lions were unable to score any more runs on the day. A home run and a pair of singles gave Maryland a 7-4 victory and, ultimately, the series win. Due to Saturday’s win, the Terrapins also won the Big Ten regular season title.

Looking forward to 2024

With this series, the Nittany Lions’ 2023 campaign came to a disappointing end. In what was head coach Rob Cooper’s last season, Penn State baseball finished at .500, the second time in two seasons it did so. The Lions were not stellar in conference play, finishing at 7-16 and missing the conference tournament as a result. 

With a few changes coming to the program by next season, it will be interesting to see how the Nittany Lions regroup and move ahead in the spring of 2024. 



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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National search begins after Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper resigns

Penn State will be looking for a new baseball coach to start the 2024 season.

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Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper
Credit: Basic Blues Nation, 2023.

After a disappointing season, Penn State baseball has to find a new path forward. And next year, the program will have to find that path with a new face at the helm. On Friday, Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper announced that he will not return to the team next season.

Penn State baseball coach Rob Cooper resigns

Hours before Friday’s game against Maryland, Penn State released a statement from Cooper announcing his resignation from the program. Cooper’s resignation is effective following the Nittany Lions’ final game on Saturday.

“I am beyond grateful for my time as the head baseball coach at Penn State. This is a special place, because of the special people who make it up. My family and I love Penn State. While I am disappointed I wasn’t able to get the baseball program the success it deserves, I am excited about the vision Dr. [Pat] Kraft has for Penn State Athletics, the student-athletes, and the baseball program,” Cooper’s statement said in part.

Cooper led the Nittany Lions for a decade, winning 197 games. Despite a disappointing 25-24 record so far this year, Penn State has experienced success recently. In 2022, Cooper led the Lions to the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 2012. Penn State upset No. 3 Iowa before being eliminated.

In addition, 12 players were drafted during Cooper’s tenure, while 13 total players signed professional contracts. The most successful has been Matt Wood, who was the highest-selected pick in program history. He was recently promoted to the High-A level in the Brewers organization.

A national search begins

In the statement released by Penn State, athletic director Pat Kraft thanked Cooper for his years of service to the university. “We appreciate Rob Cooper for all he has done for the Penn State community these last 10 seasons,” Kraft said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for Rob for not only the commitment he made to our baseball program, but also the way he represented Penn State University with class. I want to thank Rob, and wish him, his wife, Maureen, and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

The university’s statement ended by saying that Penn State would immediately begin a national search to find Cooper’s replacement.

Seeming to rally behind their head coach, the Nittany Lions upset No. 20 Maryland Friday night, 5-3. Cooper’s final game as Penn State head coach will be on Saturday, with first pitch coming at noon at Medlar Field.



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Penn State releases plans for Medlar Field renovations

The home of Penn State baseball will soon be getting some upgrades.

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Penn State baseball, Medlar Field
April 11, 2023. Medlar Field during Penn State's 11-6 victory over West Virginia. Credit: Basic Blues Nation, 2023.

Over the last few years, Penn State has shown its commitment to the university’s athletic programs through facility upgrades. The Penn State football program recently finished a significant upgrade to the weight room in the Lasch Building, and the Penn State Board of Trustees recently approved $70 million to begin renovations of Beaver Stadium. Across the street, the Penn State baseball program will also be getting an upgrade, as plans for Medlar Field renovations were also recently released.

Penn State plans Medlar Field renovations

It was recently revealed that Medlar Field at Lubrano Park, the home of Penn State baseball since 2006, is getting renovations after the end of the State College Spikes’ season this summer. The upgrades include completely changing the playing field and lighting systems. 

Essentially, through a two-part process, the entire playing field will get an upgrade. The field is currently made of natural grass. While the renovations will not change the surface type, Penn State does play to completely change the grass in Medlar Field. In addition, the university plans to upgrade the field’s lights to all LED, which will brighten the area during night events at the field, such as Dollar Dog Night games.  

Will these changes improve the gameday experience for baseball fans?

As someone who covered games from the press box this season, I gained perspective on the fan experience at Medlar Field. Overall, replanting a natural grass field is never harmful. It helps keep it fresh for the players and can prevent injuries that would otherwise be caused by aged grass.  

The lighting seems to be the most meaningful change, as it will significantly improve the lumination level for night events. I think the existing lighting is underwhelming at times, and it has not been bright enough for the night games. This renovation is a welcomed one for me, and will benefit players, fans, and the media alike.  

The Nittany Lion baseball team will close out its season at the 5,400-seat stadium this week when the Nittany Lions take on Maryland in the regular season finale



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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