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Gophers Hockey: 3 Penn State players to watch

Tommy Olczyk isn't one of the players so unless you're Zach Nagelvoort consider this celebration a bonus.
Tommy Olczyk isn't one of the players so unless you're Zach Nagelvoort consider this celebration a bonus.
Matt Christians

Author's note: I wanted to try something new this week and give a look at the opposition. Rather than break out team scoring numbers or what happened last week because, let's be honest, you can do that yourself*, I instead wanted to highlight a few players to keep an eye upon for the weekend. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Minnesota travels to Penn State for a pair of games this weekend (Friday at 5:30 pm CT/6:30 pm ET on BTN and Saturday at 4:00 p.m. CT/5:00 p.m. ET on ESPNU) at Pegula Arena against the surprising new kids. The Nittany Lions, tied for 3rd in the Big Ten with 22 points (2 behind Minnesota and Michigan), have gone from 8 wins in 2013-14 to 15 through last weekend.

Penn State will be without sophomore David Glen on Friday after he was suspended by the Big Ten for butt-ending a player in Saturday's 4-2 loss

Three players to watch from head coach Guy Gadowsky's club. All players are undrafted unless noted.

Casey Bailey, Jr. F (#25)

Only one player in the Big Ten has 20 goals right now and his name is Casey Bailey.

Bailey has rebounded from a sophomore campaign where he had only 13 points, matching Eric Scheid's 2013-14 team leading point total by just lighting the lamp. There's still a month left in the season.

The Anchorage native, who has gotten pro attention as an undrafted free agent, scored his 20th of the season Saturday against Michigan State. Bailey leads the nation in shots per game. So far he has yet to play in a two-game series without scoring a goal.

Taylor Holstrom, Redshirt Sr. F (#28)

Holstrom has also blossomed in his final year of eligibility and not just points-wise.

In a story for College Hockey News, Gadowsky described Holstrom as "an energetic leader as well, so you miss a lot more than his points. Because he's putting up so many points, I think that's what a lot of people are focused on. But his value to the team on the ice and his value to the locker room, just the character and identity of the team, is just great. We need him back in the lineup for a number of reasons, not just offensively."

That's helped as the team has come together. On the scoresheet, the redshirt senior has 21 assists - second in the Big Ten to Minnesota junior defenseman Mike Reilly - and 27 points playing on a line with Bailey and David Goodwin. (He's not the only one to increase scoring. Penn State has gone from 53rd a season ago to 10th in the nation in goals per game.) Although he's cooled off points-wise lately, he is still a key contributor.

Matthew Skoff/P.J. Musico/Eamon McAdam - Penn State goalies

Kind of cheating here with 3 players in one spot, but that's also the point. You don't know what you're going to get. The Nittany Lions don't have a number one goalie, instead using a triumvirate between the  junior Skoff (16 games), sophomore McAdam (New York Islanders draft pick) (9 games) and junior Musico (8 games).

Musico had started the previous three games before Skoff got the nod in the series finaleagainst the Spartans.

Two goalie platoons in college hockey are normal. Three not so much. From speaking with Adam Wilcox this week, it's an arrangement which to him is unique. And it is something to keep an eye on this weekend.

HM: Max Gardiner, Redshirt Sr. (#27)

It feels like forever ago that redshirt senior Max Gardiner (St. Louis Blues) was a Gopher and in a way that was. The year-old had just started his freshman year at Minnesota in September 2010 when Penn State announced it would be going Division 1 in men's and women's hockey thanks to an initial $88M donation from Terry and Kim Pegula. Gardiner would last a year at Minnesota before transferring over playing time. (Taking his place? Some youngster jumping up early named Travis Boyd.) He spent a year in the USHL before transferring to join the Nittany Lions.

This year he has 3 goals and 2 assists in 22 games.

Minnesotans on the roster: 3

Scheid (#19) (Coon Rapids/Blaine HS), Nate Jensen (#24) (Shorewood), Gardiner (Deephaven/Minnetonka HS)

*Okay I did those too. Hey what can I say? You learned something else too, I hope.' Or at the very least wasted some time at work.


Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter --