Why Penn State’s Kevin Kerr Skates Better Than Your Average Defenseman
Penn State men’s hockey junior Kevin Kerr can trace back exactly where he learned the importance of being a true skater and not just relying on physicality to get the job done on defense.
Kerr’s mentor on the ice — his childhood skating coach Craig Feeney — impressed the fundamentals of the game on him as early as 3 or 4 years old. Feeney has since passed away, but his message remains stamped in Kerr’s psyche.
“He always talked about skating, and that was back in the time when maybe skating wasn’t the biggest thing in hockey,” Kerr said. “If you’re a big body and you could throw some people around, that was the kind of game it was back in the day, but he was ahead of the curve.”
Growing up in Bensalem, PA, just 18 miles outside of Philadelphia, Kerr gravitated to the playing style of the city’s star center Eric Lindros.
“His vision, his stick-handling, and his ability to help his teammates not just himself was something that I always admired,” Kerr said of the 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame inductee.
Kerr, a 6-foot, 195-pound defenseman, missed Penn State’s Big Ten championship and NCAA tournament run last year after suffering a season-ending lower-body injury. He also missed 12 games this season after breaking his wrist on Dec. 2 in a 4-0 win at Ohio State, a game he would go on to finish before realizing the extent of the injury.
Kerr said he sustained one semi-serious injury in juniors that required him to sit out a month, but that he had never been forced to miss as much hockey as he did over the last calendar year. Tallying 42 points so far in college, Kerr is easily one of the team’s most dangerous two-way players.
With senior defensemen Trevor Hamilton and Erik Autio both graduating after this season, Kerr will become the unquestioned leader of Penn State’s blue line in 2018-19. Widely respected by his teammates and coaches, Kerr could certainly inherit an alternate captaincy for his final year on campus.
“He’s a guy who can break the puck out very easily,” teammate Brandon Biro said of Kerr. “When he gets it, he doesn’t need much time to make an unbelievable play and beat two forecheckers. His biggest strength definitely is his hockey IQ.”
Head coach Guy Gadowsky stressed patience with Kerr’s return to the lineup, noting it may take a little while for him to get back to 100 percent.
“We have to remember with Kevin, he’s an exceptional talent — and especially how he sees the ice — but there’s a physical component to it as well,” Gadowsky said. “We totally expect him to get better and better every game he plays just because of the last year for him [dealing with injuries]. We’ve come to expect great from Kevin Kerr…We’re optimistic that he’ll get there.”
Penn State’s goalie, Peyton Jones, was quick to praise Kerr for his reliability as a defenseman.
“His vision is incredible,” Jones said. “He’s a smart player. He knows where guys are going to be. He makes simple, smart plays that end up meaning a lot to us.”
Kerr and the Nittany Lions host Minnesota Friday at 7 p.m. in the Big Ten quarterfinals, which features a best-of-three format for the first time.