Last season’s unprecedented success for Penn State men’s hockey was shadowed by the loss of standout defenseman Kevin Kerr to a lower-body injury.
Kerr went down during the February 10 game against Wisconsin, and he missed the remainder of the 2016-17 regular season and postseason. He made his official return to action during the Nittany Lions’ opening night setback to Clarkson.
This week, Kerr spoke about how frustrating his recovery was, and how thrilled he was to be back in the lineup.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “The [recovery]turned out to be a little bit longer than we expected, and it was a fantastic feeling to be able to be out there with the guys you go to battle with all the time.”
Down the stretch of the season, Penn State missed this impact from the Bensalem, PA, native, who scored 15 points in 25 games during the 2016-17 slate.
“It’s unbelievable [to have Kerr back]”, captain James Robinson said. “The things he does on the ice can’t be replaced just by plugging someone else in. He’s a guy that takes multiple guys to replace if he’s out of the lineup. He’s a huge piece of our team and we’re happy to have him back.”
The defenseman addressed how hard it was to watch his team compete in the Big Ten Tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on its road to the first conference title in the program’s five-year history.
“It was a hell of a lot harder to watch it than to be in it, I think,” he said. “I’ve been in a lot of games like that when you’re in it, you’re so focused on what you have to do and getting the job done. When you’re in the stands you kind of feel helpless and you’re just praying. I’ve never sweated that much in my life.”
Though the injury opened the door for sophomore Kris Myllari to shine in his absence, head coach Guy Gadowsky is certainly thrilled the junior is back.
“We’re a much better program with Kevin Kerr in the lineup,” he said.
Kerr and the Nittany Lions will be back in action on Friday night when they travel to Mariucci to take on No. 7 Minnesota in their Big Ten opener at 8 p.m.