Penn State Men’s Hockey Incoming Freshmen: What To Expect
As we’re still dodging sweat puddles and risking heat stroke on the way to class, it’s hard to believe that another hockey season is right around the corner. But the first game at Pegula is Oct. 4, a short 24 days away. Considering men’s hockey student tickets sold out in five minutes, it is safe to assume that Penn Staters are ready to see what this season entails for the Nittany Lions.
Under Guy Gadowsky, Penn State hockey enters its fourth season as a Division I program. Last year’s winning record (18-15-4) instilled hope in the Penn State community and fear in the rest of the Big Ten hockey world. It’s undeniable that the loss of key players Max Gardiner, Taylor Holstrom, Nate Jensen, Patrick Koudys to graduation, Casey Bailey to the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, and promising freshman Scott Conway to dismissal leaves huge skates to fill. Only David Goodwin remains as a relic of the dynamic Bailey-Holstrom-Goodwin line that shocked the NCAA Division I last season. We cannot expect the incoming freshmen to fill the Casey Bailey-shaped hole in our hearts. His recklessly awesome volume of shots on goal has followed him to Toronto, but this batch of freshmen brings defensive depth, talent, and even more goaltending (because why not?) to the 2015-16 Nittany Lions.
Kevin Kerr (Bensalem, Pa.) — This defenseman comes to Penn State from the Tri-City Storm (USHL). Kerr has shown improvement through his years with the Storm, putting up only one goal and nine assists in his 2013-14 season, then racking up seven goals and 22 assists in 2014-15. It’s no secret that Penn State struggled on defense last season, partly due to lack of defensemen in general, and his depth will likely improve that facet.
Derian Hamilton (Port McNeill, British Columbia) — Hamilton, another defenseman, enters his first year as a Nittany Lion with four years in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League under his belt. Showing offensive prowess, in 142 games (majority played with the Nanaimo Buccaneers and the Comox Valley Glacier Kings) in the league, he produced 28 goals and 116 assists. With the offensive gaps that the graduated, NHL-bound, and dismissed Lions left, Hamilton’s capabilities on the offensive front will not go unnoticed.
Chase Berger (St. Louis, Mo.) — A forward coming from the Tri-City Storm, Kerr’s past-and-future teammate Chase Berger netted 24 goals and tallied 33 assists in 119 games with the Storm. Berger seems like a good addition to the fourth line, but he will have to put in work this season to earn a secure spot on a lineup with high-caliber two-way players James Robinson and David Glen.
Andy Sturtz (Buffalo, N.Y.) — In his past two seasons playing for the Carleton Place Canadians of the Central Canada Hockey League, Sturtz put up impressive numbers that highlight his impressive scoring ability. In the 2013-14 season, Sturtz was named the CCHL MVP and the Canadian Junior Hockey League Player of the Year after leading the CCHL in points in the regular season and tallying 19 points in 14 playoff games. Although his 72-point showing in the 2014-15 season didn’t match his previous 104-point season, he exploded in the playoffs with 22 points over 12 games. He is a player to watch and we might expect flashy, dare-I-say Bailey-esque things out of Sturtz.
Vince Pedrie (Rochester, Minn.) — Another productive defenseman, last season Pedrie had nine goals and 13 assists for Bloomington of the USHL. At 6-feet, 190 pounds, and 21-years-old, he brings experience and impact to this year’s roster.
Matt Mendelson (Pittsburgh, P.A.) — The forward has shown steady improvement through his years in the USHL. In his first season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks (2012-13), he only saw playing time in 17 games, in which he managed two goals and one assist. The next year, he played 51 games and scored 14 goals and 15 assists. Last season he remained stagnant at 14 goals, but tallied 23 assists. We shouldn’t expect Mendelson to put up miraculous numbers this season, but he will likely be a steady player that will improve throughout his Penn State career.
Alec Marsh (Bridgewater, N.J.) — Marsh has had quite the USHL career, including two seasons with the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders followed by a three-team season in 2014-15 (Cedar Rapids, Sioux Falls, Fargo). Across 147 games, Marsh had 28 goals and 44 assists. Like Mendelson, there is room for improvement, but Marsh has potential to be a solid player for the Nittany Lions.
Chris Funkey (Orland Park, Ill.) — Funkey, coming to us from the New Jersey Hitmen (USPHL), will potentially serve as the third-string goalie for the Nittany Lions as PJ Musico’s replacement in the rotation. It’s doubtful that he will see much playing time this year, but based on last year’s goalie situation you can’t rule anything out.
Nine players who helped shape Penn State hockey as we know it have hung up their skates for the Nittany Lions. Eight new players have a chance to help build on the program’s steady improvement. Along with the rest of the team, they will lace their skates up at Pegula for an opening day matinee against Windsor on Oct 4.