Penn State men’s hockey had its most successful season in program history last year. Guy Gadowsky’s Nittany Lions won the Big Ten and qualified for the NCAA tournament, both of which were firsts in Penn State hockey history.
The key component of the team’s outstanding season was its offense. Penn State averaged 4.10 goals per game throughout the 2016-17 season, the most of any team in college hockey. The only other team in Division I hockey to average more than four goals per game was Harvard (4.06).
This is an amazing achievement for the Nittany Lions, but to compete on the same level this season, the offense will need to continue to put up similar numbers. While they don’t necessarily need to average more than four goals per game, here are a few ways Guy Gadowsky’s offense can repeat as the best in the nation.
Replace David Goodwin’s Production
The loss of David Goodwin to graduation will certainly hurt the Nittany Lions, but the talent on the roster can make up for his production.
The St. Louis native nearly averaged a point per game last season (38 points in 39 games), so it’s unfair to ask one player to replace someone who scored that many points on his own. The forwards will need to replace Goodwin’s offense by committee, and the current group is certainly capable.
Four of the team’s returning forwards scored more than 35 points last season, but players who may be thrust into top-six roles this season, like Brandon Biro and Liam Folkes, must step up. The two sophomores combined for 33 points last season, but both are capable of big seasons if they get the ice time.
Continue To Have A Shoot-First Mentality
Penn State recorded 1,719 shots on goal last season, averaging more than 40 per game, which is a massive number for a team at any level. It’s not like they were forcing shots on goal from low-percentage areas of the ice either; the Nittany Lions consistently generated high-percentage chances on their opposition. Penn State’s forwards were also tremendously successful following in missed shots and slotting home rebounds.
Based on simple logic, if a team shoots the puck more, players will score more as a result. Six players on last year’s roster recorded more than 100 shots on goal, and two more recorded more than 90. Vince Pedrie led all skaters with 167 shots, but he has since departed for the NHL, signing a contract with the New York Rangers after last season.
T maintain the high volume of shots, defenseman including alternate captain Erik Autio and sophomore Kris Myllari will need to make up for Pedrie’s absence. Shots from the point were a huge part of the offense last year, whether they caused panic in front of the goal or were deflected in. Based on Guy Gadowsky’s philosophy, the defense should shoot the puck just as much this season.
There’s no way this season’s incoming freshman class can match last year’s in terms of point production, mainly because there were 12 rookies on the roster last year compared to five this year. The freshmen who do play, however, must contribute.
Centers Evan Barratt and Alex Limoges both enjoyed strong seasons with their junior teams last year and will be expected to keep up their offensive production here in Hockey Valley. Barratt nearly averaged a point per game with the United States’ under-18 national team, so it’s easy to imagine him leading the scoring among Penn State freshman.
Cole Hults is a good puck-moving defenseman who could play a big role for Penn State this year. The Los Angeles Kings’ fifth-round pick scored 32 points in 59 games for Madison (USHL) last year, and the left-shot defenseman could replace some of Vince Pedrie’s production.
It won’t be easy by any means, but Penn State hockey is certainly capable of replicating last season’s goal scoring this year. The season starts October 6 when the Nittany Lions will take on Clarkson on the road.