Hockey Preview: Penn State vs. St. Lawrence
Alissa, Devine, Eric Ohlson and George Stockburger preview opening weekend In Hockey Valley
The Nittany Lions gear up for their first two games of the 2016 campaign as they begin the season with a series against the St. Lawrence Saints. The Lions look to improve from last year’s third-place regular season finish and semifinal appearance in the Big Ten tournament. However, Penn State does come into the season as the youngest roster in the Big Ten after losing nine players and bringing in 12 new players, 10 of which are freshman.
Although there is a spectacular amount of young talent on this team, Penn State still needs older players to step up as they kick off the season and senior forward David Goodwin is looking to fill that role. The 2015 Big Ten Academic All-American was selected as a captain this season and looks to keep last season’s success rolling. He led the team in scoring with 38 points on 11 goals and 27 assists.
In their first live action of the year, Penn State impressed in an 8-0 scrimmage victory against the Queens Gaels of Ontario. From that offensive onslaught, three freshman emerged as real threats as both Liam Folkes and Brandon Biro each had one goal while Denis Smirnov scored two goals. The defense looked good as they helped put up a goose egg, even with a few Queens power plays throughout the night. The other half of that shutout performance was played by two netminders as both Peyton Jones (15 saves) and Chris Funkey (four saves) played tremendously. The special teams units also got a lot of good practice as Penn State scored four goals on a whopping 10 power plays.
As the St. Lawrence Saints come into town, there are a few areas that Penn State needs to be consistent in with energy and execution in if they want to come away with the first season victory of the year. The Nittany Lions need to keep up their potent, high-octane attack that set program records for goals in a season and goals per game. They also need to get their 10 freshman as much experience as they can while not overloading them with pressure. Finally, new starting goaltender Peyton Jones needs to have a solid performance to build confidence as the Nittany Lions build toward the Big Ten schedule.
Penn State is expected to do big things this year and it all starts with that potent offense that set so many school records last year. Returning members like David Goodwin and sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz need to lead the charge, as they did last year, and start this season off right with a strong performance to set the tone for the team.
The next key, if not the biggest key all year, is to find young players who can play well consistently and potentially step up into a leader ship role in years to come. Some players who have the early potential to do that are forward Denis Smirnov and defenseman Nikita Pavlychev. Smirnov showed his potential as he was one of two players to record two goals for the Nittany Lions while Pavylchev showed can play aggressively as he intercepted a neutral zone pass against Queens and dumped it to Andrew Sturtz who scored off the turnover in the second period of the matchup. Both players look to lead a large group of freshmen towards success for this series, this season, and seasons to follow.
One final key for the Lions is to give Peyton Jones a chance to succeed. The freshman netminder is going for his first regular season start and victory and is another freshman who is looking to lead this young team to a great regular season and hopefully a playoff berth. He performed well against Queens as he got the nod for the start and recorded 15 saves in over 31 minutes of play. However, he is going to face his first real competition with real implications and needs to keep his cool throughout the series. Without a confident goalie, it is hard for a team to operate at their full potential. Peyton Jones is going to be an important cog in this Penn State machine this season.
St. Lawrence comes to Happy Valley for their first games as well. They bring with them big goal scorer, Gavin Bayreuther, who led the Saints last year in goals with 11 while accruing 37 points on the season. The Saints goaltender Kyle Hayton is a stout force that the Lions need to break early on if they want to get some wins this series. Hayton was the starter last year for St. Lawrence and amassed a .933 save percentage in 69 games, averaging 2.03 goals allowed per game. The goaltending game is one of the Saints strongest aspects, but the Lions should be able to rattle Hayton with their electric offensive attack.
The Nittany Lions look to start the season off with a bang as they look to take a few games from a tough St. Lawrence team. These games are very winnable, but Penn State needs to come in with the mentality that this going to be a slug fest. The Nittany Lions have to bring their lunch pails to Pegula this week and go to work.
Travis Sutton is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email him firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
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Alissa Devine is a senior from Fairfield, New Jersey, majoring in broadcast journalism with a minor is business liberal arts. She is involved with play by play and beat writing for several Penn State sports, especially hockey. She is also a member of the talk show, The Sin Bin for Com Radio. Alissa’s love for sports and hockey has driven her to pursue a career in sports broadcasting.