Breaking Down Chase Berger’s First 100 Games For Penn State Hockey
Penn State men’s hockey center Chase Berger became the first Nittany Lion to reach 100 career games without missing a single game in program history last Friday when No. 12 Penn State defeated No. 6 Ohio State 5-2.
The junior alternate captain has yet to miss a game in his collegiate career, becoming one of the most important players on Guy Gadowsky’s team since his arrival in Hockey Valley prior to the 2015-16 season. Berger is the consummate Penn State hockey player, combining speed and skill with determination, hard work, and a willingness to do anything to win.
“That’s actually quite an accolade,” Gadowsky, who was unaware of the milestone Friday night, said. “That’s tough to do, especially for someone who plays as hard as he does. He’s anything but a perimeter player; he’s involved in every faceoff battle, he plays as well on the defensive side of the puck as he does on the offensive side of the puck. If you were to say we had one player that [played 100 consecutive games], I think he would come to everybody’s mind because of the type of guy he is. He’s an excellent student, incredible representative [of the university], works extremely hard, and plays hard at both ends of the ice. He plays for the team, not for individual statistics, and that’s exactly the type of guy we want.”
Junior forward Andrew Sturtz has played alongside Berger for most, if not all, of his collegiate career, which also began in the 2015-16 season. The duo has played on a line with captain James Robinson for most of the 2017-18 season, creating a group filled with intangibles, leadership, and skill.
“Playing 100 straight games is unbelievable,” Sturtz said with a smile Tuesday. “What he does off the ice, all the little things from eating healthy to extra stuff in the weight room is unbelievable. The way he plays, too, it’s not like he’s a perimeter player. He goes to the front of the net and he battles and to play 100 games is an incredible feat. I couldn’t be more happy to play on his line for the past 65-70 games. It’s been a heck of a ride.”
Through 100 collegiate games, Berger has scored 33 goals and 82 points. The St. Louis native is surprisingly disciplined for someone who plays as physically as he does. He’s only taken 12 minor penalties throughout his career and just one this season. The alternate captain finished with the fourth-most points on the team in each of his first two full seasons in Hockey Valley and currently sits tied for fourth on the team alongside Nate Sucese with 20 points so far this year.
His first goal in a Penn State uniform came in his first NCAA game as he scored the third goal in a 6-1 victory over Canisius in Buffalo. Berger buried a Kenny Brooks pass on a 2-on-1 rush after Curtis Loik’s stretch pass set up the odd-man opportunity, extending the Nittany Lions’ lead to 3-0 less than 15 minutes into the game.
One hundred consecutive games may seem like a lot, but two in particular stand out from the rest: the team’s double-overtime victory over Wisconsin in the 2017 Big Ten title game and the following 10-3 walloping of Union in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Though he was held off the scoresheet at Joe Louis Arena, Berger scored twice and added an assist in the Nittany Lions’ NCAA Tournament debut, setting the tone in a game while playing on a line with Blake Gober and Andrew Sturtz.
While Berger’s offensive statistics are obviously strong, the center takes a lot of pride in being a well-rounded forward who plays a 200-foot game. His plus-39 career rating is second among Nittany Lion forwards to Andrew Sturtz and is a testament to the duo’s prowess in the defensive zone. Berger plays in all situations for Guy Gadowsky’s squad, whether it’s on the power play or penalty kill. Of his 33 career goals, one was a shorthanded goal, while ten were scored on the power play.
Berger himself reflected on the milestone after game No. 101 of his Penn State career, a 5-1 loss to Ohio State at Pegula Ice Arena.
“I didn’t really know about it until someone told me about it before the game [Friday night],” Berger said. “It’s cool though. I have to thank our strength coach Cam Davidson for keeping me healthy throughout my career, but I didn’t really focus on it too much.”
In a sport where players leave and join the program on an annual basis, Berger and Andrew Sturtz have managed to create one constant in Guy Gadowsky’s lineup over the past three seasons: No. 16 will be listed to the right of No. 8 on the lineup sheet prior to every single game.
“Every time we come to the rink, we know one thing,” Sturtz said. “We’re gonna be playing together. That’s it. We don’t know how it’s going to go and we don’t know anything else, but I know when I come in and look at the board, it’s going to say 8 and 16.”
Berger will play game No. 102 of his career Friday night when the twelfth-ranked Nittany Lions take on No. 20 Michigan at Yost Ice Arena in Ann Arbor. Puck drop is at 8 p.m. and the game will be telecast on the Big Ten Network.