|Mike McDonagh played with linemates that "make everyone look great" Friday night.|
Sophomore forward Mike McDonagh
Can you say anything about the slow start today? It’s been kind of a problem plaguing the team this season?
Yeah, I think we just have to get better prepared before the game. We showed up a little earlier today - we came out hard, we just couldn’t put pucks to the net. But I think we outshot them 11-0 in the first seven to eight minutes of the game. I think we came out hard today, I wish we could finish more early on.
You were playing with Tommy [Olczyk] and Justin Kirchhevel [today]. Can you tell me about how you felt out there with them?
They make everyone look great. They’re two fantastic players, so whoever’s out there with them is going to be able to do some special things. They make it really easy on me.
How do you think Bryce [Johnson] looked in his first game back?
He tried to shake the cobwebs out a little bit early there, but I think he looked great. His speed’s probably not up there yet, but a few more weeks of practice before nationals, and he’ll be flying around I think.
Can you say anything about P.J. [Musico]’s play in net? Did he look good out there?
Yeah, P.J.’s playing great. I mean, the last couple weekends, I don’t think he’s given up more than a goal during the game. He’s made some huge saves that really could have changed the game at that point if they scored. He’s been standing on his head and keeping us in every game.
Do you or your teammates have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
There’s no really big superstitions. Everyone has their own ritual – get up in the morning, have the same meal pretty much every day and put on the equipment at the exact time. There’s no really big, weird superstitions, but everyone definitely has their own ritual before games.
What about you, do you have anything?
Nothing big. We always play soccer out here [by the locker area entrance near the scoreboard] before the game, that’s a big one. When we stretch, I always have to hold the ball during stretching. Everyone else stretches by themselves, but I have to be holding the soccer ball the entire time, and that’s my little thing.
What did you guys do well today, and what do you need to work on a little bit? Did you learn anything from the game?
We did a lot of things well today. We still have to allow not a lot of odd-man rushes. Our goal is zero for every game, and their one goal was on an odd-man rush, so if we can get that down to zero, I think we’ll be in good shape.
Have you ever played with Tommy and Justin?
No, just this week in practice, I practiced with them, and this was the first game.
Was it difficult playing with them after playing with other teammates throughout the season, then jump and play on this line?
No, not really. Like I said, they make it real easy on you. We’re always talking the whole way. I thought we had good chemistry, and we had a whole week of practice to work on everything, so it came kind of natural during game time.
Freshman defenseman Brandon Russo
What do you have to say about falling behind early again today?
We really don’t want that to happen ever. It’s kind of one of those things where everything’s going your way, you’re outshooting them, you’re outplaying them, beating them to every puck, and they get one of those fluke odd-man rushes and the puck just squeaks by our goalie. You just can’t let it get you down, and we didn’t let it get us down. We came back and just buried a couple.
You’ve had a few offensive rushes as a defender. Is that part of your game, do you really try to incorporate that?
Yeah, I like to look at myself as an offensive defenseman. I think that’s one of my stronger points. It’s almost like having an extra forward I guess you can say, but with defensive skills. So yeah, I definitely try to incorporate rushing the puck up during the game, but I also have to pick my spots. I can’t be doing that all the time. Given the circumstances, sometimes we’re down a man or the puck’s in a different part of the ice. But yeah, I definitely do rush the puck on purpose, I guess you can say, and try to get the puck to the net and create a play.
Is that something that the coaching staff has talked to you about?
Not specifically, no, but they do comment on it and they do like that. They want me to jump up into the play. Like I said, I just have to pick and choose my spots.
How do you think Bryce [Johnson] looked out there in his first game back?
I thought he looked pretty good out there. It was great to have him back out there, I mean he adds more firepower to our team. Just backing up one of those lines, and getting out there, just keeping ‘em coming. He looked great. He fell once or twice, but you would expect that with it being his first time back in a while. He looked really good.
What do you think he brings to the team now that he’s back?
I think he’s an all-around guy. He’s fast, he shoots the puck nice, he has great hands and he can pass the puck. So there’s not one thing I can point out but he’s definitely an all-around player that helps the team in every way.
I’ve noticed on some of the faceoffs, you’ll have one of the defenders, sometimes you, go on the wing and have one of the forwards drop back on the defense. Why do you guys do that?
That’s one of our plays. We like to sometimes have a forward come back up top where the defenseman goes, and he’s just going to go to the net, almost to stun the defensemen that are on the opposing team. Just get someone driving the net hard and look for a pass cross-ice, back door, and maybe he can score a goal.
You guys really controlled the tempo throughout the game, especially in the second period. Is that the game you like to play, out-muscle the other team?
Absolutely. That’s one of our biggest things. We’re going to beat them with our tempo, the quickness of our transitions, the quickness of us getting up the ice, the quickness of our passing, our shooting, everything. The tempo is a huge part of our game.
Do you have any pregame rituals?
Nothing really in particular. I bring the same stuff to the rink and I set up the same way in my stall. I usually put my left shin pad on before my right shin pad. Other than that, I kind of just go with the flow.
Freshman forward Jake Friedman
Can you say anything about falling behind early again in this game?
We like to try and come out strong in every game. We’ve been getting scored on first lately, which is definitely something we want to fix. We didn’t have a bad start, I think the shots were like 9-0 in the beginning, so basically we just have to capitalize on our opportunities early and just start off ahead and really kind of bury the team early on.
Do you think after you fall behind by the first goal, there’s some embarrassment and you want to come back and put a bunch on them?
We never like getting scored on, especially first in our own building in front of our fans, so we try to respond and just come back hard and keep playing Penn State hockey and get back on the board.
Before tonight, you hadn’t scored since early December, what did it feel like to finally get that goal?
It felt pretty good to get the monkey off the back. I’ve been working hard in practice and stuff, just tried grinding it out. Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t, but through my experiences, if you keep working hard, something’s gotta go in sooner or later. So I tried shooting the puck, hanging out around the net, and fortunately today, one went in.
Has it been frustrating over the last two months?
I’d definitely like to produce a little more, but when you’re not doing something good, you try to do other things good, whether it’s backchecking or keeping the tempo high. I try to rely on other parts of my game to keep it going, but it definitely feels good to get on the board.
Are you going to do any lobbying to get on Bryce [Johnson]’s line now that he’s back?
That’s pretty much up to the coaches. I’d love to play with Bryce, everyone would, but it’s good to see him back in the lineup, he definitely looks good out there, so we’ll see what happens.
Have you played with [current linemates Chris Cerutti and Paul Daley] before?
We played together one game last weekend, and we played together the last two practices. They’re both really good players, they work really hard and grind. They’re pretty fast too, so it was pretty easy to play with two guys like that.
Mike McDonagh was playing with Tommy [Olczyk] and Justin [Kirchhevel] instead of Taylor Holstrom. What do you think that mix-up’s meant for the team? Do you think it’s more balanced scoring?
Definitely more balance. We have four pretty strong lines right now that feel pretty confident when anyone’s on the line. Obviously Holstrom and Bryce, Kirchhevel and Olczyk are all really easy guys to play with because they’re so good. [It’s just] keeping everything balanced and working really hard together and pulling the same way.
Do you have any pregame rituals or superstitions?
I’m not really superstitious, I just do my own routine, just try to stay focused on the game, stay relaxed, loose, and go out there and have fun.
Mercyhurst twice this weekend, then a couple of Friday-only weekends to close it out. Are you guys worried about staying sharp through that stretch going into nationals?
I don’t think we’re really worried about it. We’re definitely going to keep working hard tomorrow night and through the weeks of practice we have left. We know that we’re gearing up towards nationals here and we all want to have a really good showing and try to win a national championship. This is crunch time here, so it’s really important that everyone’s at their best.