Penn State men’s hockey forwards Brandon Biro and Nate Sucese may not be the biggest stars on the team, but the sophomore duo has quietly put up high-end numbers for Guy Gadowsky’s squad.
Sucese has scored ten goals and added nine assists in 20 games played, while Biro has posted five goals and 15 assists in 21 games. Both players are currently operating near a point-per-game clip, but their efforts fly largely under the radar among Penn State hockey observers. The left wing on its line — Denis Smirnov — grabs most of the attention with his silky-smooth skills and skating ability.
Although fans may not appreciate them as much as they should, the duo’s teammates and coaches certainly do.
Biro, a sophomore from Sherwood Park, Alberta, has already matched his scoring output from last season in 21 games. He finished the 2016-17 campaign with six goals and 14 assists and — barring injury or other circumstances — will certainly set new career highs in goals and points as this season comes to an end. Head coach Guy Gadowsky and his players’ prediction of a big jump from Biro in the offseason appears to have been a wise one through the first half of this year.
“If you ask the players who they thought would make the biggest jump [from last season to now], it would’ve been Brandon Biro,” Gadowsky said Monday. “His work ethic is top-of-the-charts. He wants very badly to be a hockey player and he’ll do everything in his power to make that happen. Because of that, he’s improving so quickly. He’s just a relentless guy. He’s not our biggest player, but he’s physical and wins battles.”
While Biro has shined on the right wing of what Guy Gadowsky considers to be his top forward line, Sucese has built on the success he had last year while centering Biro and Denis Smirnov, finishing last season with 36 points (17 goals and 19 assists) in 38 games. Only Smirnov, Andrew Sturtz, and David Goodwin scored more than Nate Sucese did last season. The Fairport, NY native has shown that he has plenty of skill and speed, but he has added some sandpaper to his game over the course of the 2017-18 season.
“Nate Sucese has always been extremely quick and skilled,” Gadowsky said, “but he’s taken it upon himself to try to add an element of winning battles to his game. When he’s doing that, boy, a lot of good things seem to happen to him. Friday night [5-1 victory against Wisconsin] was an exceptional game with his hat trick, but I really think he still would’ve been one of our top performers even if he didn’t score a goal. I thought he was great around the puck and without the puck.”
The two sophomores’ improvement has led to a fruitful 2017-18 campaign so far. Putting Sucese and Biro alongside Denis Smirnov creates a dynamic offensive line that is among the most fun to watch in all of college hockey and, more importantly, helps the team win plenty of games.
“The three of them are unbelievable players,” team captain James Robinson said. “They demonstrate it every night and even in practice, they’re the hardest-working guys on the team. The three of them work together so well; it’s pretty to watch. I’m glad they play on my team.”
Biro, Sucese, and the No. 13 Nittany Lions will take on No. 6 Ohio State in a crucial Big Ten series this weekend at Pegula Ice Arena. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. Friday for game one, while game will get started at 7 p.m.