Staff Predictions: Penn State Hockey’s Record
The 2014-15 Nittany Lions had their best record ever, posting an 18-14-4 mark in the regular season. Some of the program’s most prolific players have left the program, but the best recruiting class Penn State hockey has ever seen is coming in. Our staff expects that to culminate in another winning record, but time will tell how much (if any) improvement we’ll see.
Doug Leeson: 16-14-6
Out are Bailey, Holstrom, Conway, Musico, Koudys, and Jensen, as well as Eric Scheid for the next six weeks. In are Sturtz, Hamilton, Funkey, and improved depth all around. Will Penn State be better than last season? I highly doubt it.
On offense, at least for the season’s first month and a half, David Goodwin will be the go-to guy to help his line light the lamp. He was more than capable alongside Holstrom and Bailey, Penn State’s highest career scorers, but it’d be a surprise to see him find that level of chemistry right off the bat this year. The defense’s depth is much more impressive than it has ever been in the past. There’s a chance that Canucks draft pick Mike Williamson will see time on the third pairing — that speaks volumes to the blue line’s talent, even if there doesn’t seem to be one Koudys-esque guy who can eat minutes and play every penalty kill.
The team’s roster looks as if it’s built in an opposite way as last year’s, and if Guy Gadowsky can update his coaching system to reflect that, the Lions will be a legitimate threat on the national scene. Penn State was completely top-heavy last year, relying on its top line and top pairing to play big minutes and beat other teams. This year, depth will be the storyline. On a game-to-game basis, Penn State might struggle with its competitive schedule, but this roster seems built for the postseason. Last year’s strategy of “outshoot the opponent 60-20 at the risk of allowing great scoring chances” didn’t get it done in the Big Ten Tournament. This year, with four lines and three pairings that can roll out in front of two experienced goalies, Penn State’s chances to advance through the Big Ten Tournament are better than ever, regardless of how the regular season goes.
Matt Coleman: 22-12-2
The Nittany Lions come in ranked fourth in the Big Ten Preseason Coaches’ Poll, their highest ranking ever. Great things are expected from them, and there are reasons to believe they can accomplish those feats.
Eric Scheid and David Goodwin come in as Big Ten Preseason Players to Watch and will more than likely carry the offense’s high scoring capabilities, especially once Scheid comes back from his offseason injury. Losing Casey Bailey and Taylor Holstrom are big hits to this team, however, it should be able to make up for the losses.
Matthew Skoff, the Nittany Lions’ goaltender, should be able to be as efficient as he was last year. In fact, expect him to be even better. With a proven senior in net for Penn State, it shouldn’t have to worry too much going forward. One of the worst things in hockey is having a high scoring offense, much like the one Gadowsky loves to run, but having a goalkeeper who isn’t consistent. This will not be the case for Penn State. The offense should continue to shine, and with Skoff in net, the defense should be able to hold its own as well.
Penn State will face tough tests again this year in the Big Ten. It is ranked behind Michigan, Minnesota, and Michigan State but ahead of Ohio State and Wisconsin. Every game will be a test for this team, but if it wants to become even more of a nationally recognized program, it’s a test it must undergo. I expect the Nittany Lions to have a very successful season. Expect them to be in the hunt for a Big Ten title much like last year. They may not win it this year, but with a record of 22-12-2, they will take another step toward becoming an even greater program.