Penn State Hockey: Midseason Report Card
By CJ Doon, Doug Leeson, and Greg Schlosser
The No. 20 Nittany Lions are off to their best-ever start in their short Division-1 history, as evidenced by the program’s first national ranking. The team has already surpassed last year’s win total and currently holds a record of 9-4-2, and has multiple players shining on a national scale.
In the middle of a three-week break and with the Big Ten schedule quickly approaching, here’s our first hockey report card.
Staff Grade: A
The Nittany Lions’ strong start should be credited entirely to the offense. Penn State is averaging 3.5 goals per game this year, up from 2.2 goals per game last season. The reason? Exceptional production from the first line of David Goodwin (6G 8A), Taylor Holstrom (4G 14A), and Casey Bailey (10G 8A), which is something the Nittany Lions never had last year. In addition, Penn State has gotten significant contributions from freshmen Scott Conway (3G 4A) and James Robinson (2G 2A) to take some of the pressure off of more defensive-minded players like David Glen and Tommy Olczyk. Given the fact that the Nittany Lions are putting a lot of pucks on net (39.6 shots per game), there’s likely won’t be an offensive slowdown in the forseeable future. — GS
Staff Grade: B
Behind the blue line, the Nittany Lions have remained solid enough to put together a strong first half, relying mostly on the strength of their potent offense. Led by senior defenseman Nate Jensen and team captain Patrick Koudys, the blueliners have held opponents to 2.6 goals per game, ranked smack in the middle at 30th in the nation. Where the defensive unit is excelling, however, is generating offense from the point. Junior Luke Juha leads all defensemen with six assists, while Finnish freshman sensation Erik Autio has chipped in four apples of his own. In addition to helping the offense, the Lions do an excellent job of chasing down pucks and winning battles along the boards, and the quickness and precision of the team’s transition from defense to offense out of its own zone is a big reason why Penn State leads the nation in shots on goal per game with an average of 39.6. The penalty killing unit, largely a function of solid defensive technique and strategy, is comfortably average. Penn State ranks 32nd nationally with an 83 percent rate with a man-down, not an outstanding number by any means but good enough for a team that ranks seventh in the country in scoring, averaging more than three goals per game. — CJ
Staff Grade: B
Matthew Skoff began the season on a hot streak, piling up wins left and right as Penn State stormed to its best start in three seasons at the Division-1 level. At one point, Skoff won four games in a row as the starter, allowing only six goals in four games as the Lions swept Holy Cross and Bentley on home ice. After allowing four goals on only eight shots in the opening 30 minutes against fourth-ranked UMass-Lowell, Skoff was pulled in favor of sophomore Eamon McAdam, who turned aside 17 shots to keep the Lions close before leading the team to an improbable 4-1 victory over the Riverhawks, making 24 saves. Skoff and McAdam have since split the goaltending duties from night to night, giving Penn State a solid group of netminders. The duo has combined to post a .914 save percentage and 2.68 goals allowed average to go along with an impressive 9 wins, already the most in a single season in program history. — CJ
Staff Grade: A-
The team’s improvement from last season to this year is tremendous, and a lot of credit goes to head coach Guy Gadowsky as well as his assisstants, Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay. The three coached together at Princeton, and have brought the same chemistry to the Nittany Lions in the last three seasons. They have also injected three freshmen into the lineup, and all three are playing at very high levels, as Greg and CJ already mentioned. Surpassing last year’s win total in 21 less games speaks volumes to how the staff has gotten every player on the team on board, and how they’ve picked up right where they left off after the Big Ten Tournament last season. — DL
Staff Grade: B
Penn State has converted on 16 of 60 powerplay chances thus far, good for 26.67 percent and the fifth-highest mark in the country. The powerplay was much-maligned last season, and for good reason, with a conversion rate of 17.7 percent. By retaining most of last year’s roster, the team has been able to improve upon its systems, and in no other aspect of the game is that more evident than the powerplay. The penalty kill, on the other hand, has stopped the opposition 39 of 47 times, or 83 percent and 31st in the nation. Last season’s squad killed off 84 percent, so the improvement that the powerplay has seen isn’t evident on the penalty kill. Overall, though, the Nittany Lions’ special teams are trustworthy contributors to the team, despite half having lots of room for improvement. — DL