Denis Smirnov, Andrew Sturtz Off To Strong Starts For No. 11 Penn State Hockey
Through the first two weeks of the young season, No. 11 Penn State men’s hockey is getting plenty of production from its key men.
Denis Smirnov leads the team in scoring with three goals and six points through four games, and Andrew Sturtz is second on the team with two goals through the first two weekends of the season.
After Smirnov finished his freshman campaign with 47 points in 39 games, head coach Guy Gadowsky is not surprised his star Russian is still producing this season.
“He was pretty good last year,” he said, “so I just think it’s more of the same. I was extremely impressed with him last year, and I see a lot more of the same [this year]. He looks very comfortable and extremely creative against whoever we play. I’m not seeing any difference; I’m just seeing someone who’s completely confident.”
Separate from Smirnov’s on-ice talent, Sturtz praised the sophomore’s mentality and work ethic.
“Denis comes to the rink everyday and you would never know that he’s this superstar,” Sturtz said. “He treats everyone like they’re part of the team. He’s a very humble kid, but he’s very passionate towards the game. He spends a lot of time at the rink doing a lot of the little things that a lot of players won’t do because of how good they are, and that’s what elevates his game day in and day out.”
Gadowsky was also happy to praise Sturtz’s start to the season, but the Buffalo native’s strong start doesn’t stop at his goal-scoring prowess.
“The goals that he scores are extremely important,” he said, “but more important than that is, when he’s him, it’s incredibly uplifting to the entire team. His value is way greater than the goals he scores because of how he plays to get them. He’s an extremely infectious player. When he’s Sturtzy, the whole team gains 20 pounds. It’s hard to describe, but when he gets going, the whole team gets going.”
Smirnov may be a completely different type of player than Sturtz, but he can still learn something from the junior winger.
“I think I can learn from Andrew’s passion for the game, how hard he works in all zones, being positive on the bench, off the ice, and before games, and how he always gets to the dirty areas no matter what,” Smirnov said. “It doesn’t matter if the defenseman is 6’7″ or 5’8″, he always gets the job done.”
Sturtz knows that, like most hockey players, his hands are not nearly as good as his Russian teammate’s.
“I’d like to say I learn from him when he goes on breakaways,” he said. “I try to keep up with him, but the kid’s got some moves.”
Smirnov, Sturtz, and the rest of the Nittany Lions will be back in action tomorrow night when they take on American International at 7 p.m. A banner will be raised to honor last year’s Big Ten championship team prior to puck drop.
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