After sitting on the sidelines for the last three series against Notre Dame, Arizona State, and Michigan State, Penn State men’s hockey’s star winger Denis Smirnov will be back in the lineup this weekend when the Nittany Lions head to Columbus for a clash with No. 11 Ohio State.
Coach Gadowsky just said sophomore forward Denis Smirnov will be available against the Buckeyes.
— Onward Sports (@OnwardStSports) November 27, 2017
While Smirnov sat out due to an undisclosed illness, the Nittany Lions, posting an 8-7-1 on the year, won three of the six games over the past three weekends. The Russian’s return comes at a crucial point in the year as Penn State, which is slipping well outside the NCAA Tournament picture after starting the year at No. 10, faces the red-hot Buckeyes who are coming off a sweep of then-No. 17 Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Smirnov played on a line with sophomores Brandon Biro and Nate Sucese prior to his three-week absence. This trio seemed to click and will be reunited this weekend in Columbus. While the Russian was out, freshman Sam Sternschein took the right wing spot alongside Biro and Sucese, scoring three goals and adding three assists.
The Colorado Avalanche draft pick’s return to the lineup will certainly be welcomed with open arms, but it does create a potential lineup logjam for Gadowsky. Sternschein has played well in Smirnov’s absence, so it will be interesting to see if he is in the lineup when the Nittany Lions open their series with the Buckeyes.
This weekend’s series gets underway Friday at 7 p.m. Saturday’s game will be played at 4 p.m. instead of the normal 7 p.m. start time due to the Buckeye football team’s appearance in the Big Ten Championship game.