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Penn State Hockey’s Defense Passes First Test Of 2018-19 Season Against Clarkson

It’s still early in the season, but Penn State hockey’s new-look defense passed its first test of the season with flying colors.

The Nittany Lions topped Clarkson, an NCAA tournament team last season, 4-3 on opening night and followed that effort up with a 5-1 rout on Friday to complete their first opening-weekend sweep in program history. Eight different forwards scored throughout the sweep, but the story of the series was the defensive performance.

Penn State blocked 27 shots in each game. Of those 54 total, 13 were made by junior Kris Myllari. Myllari has never been shy about filling shooting lanes and getting in the way of incoming shots, which he credits to the team’s culture.

The defensemen weren’t the only Nittany Lions blocking shots throughout the weekend. Center Evan Barratt gets in the way of a Clarkson shot during Thursday’s 4-3 victory.

“You’re committed to trying to help the guy beside you,” Myllari said. “It’s the forwards helping the D-men, who are helping the goalie. You might have 10 blocks one night and 30 the other night, but that doesn’t change the intent to try and block shots. I think the team as a whole did a great job blocking shots [against Clarkson].”

Head coach Guy Gadowsky said he was worried about the team’s shot-blocking after losing Trevor Hamilton, who led the nation by getting in the way of 104 shots last season. This wasn’t an issue on Thursday and Friday, however, as the Nittany Lions consistently filled Clarkson’s shooting lanes.

“What we thought right after both games was what impressed us when watching tape,” Gadowsky said. “You really have to give [the defensemen] a ton of credit, particularly in blocking shots. It’s nice to see that [Hamilton’s] influence lives on, I thought we were as good as we’ve been, and everybody was.”

Less experienced defensemen had to step up following the departures of Hamilton and Erik Autio last year, and Alex Stevens and Paul DeNaples stepped up in a big way last weekend. Stevens, a sophomore from Plymouth, MN, played in just seven games for Penn State last season, while DeNaples blocked five shots in his first two NCAA games.

“I thought [Paul DeNaples] played very physical and very smart,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said following Thursday’s season opener. “He looked a lot more comfortable than I thought he’d be.”

Junior James Gobetz spent the weekend on a pairing with Kris Myllari. He has full confidence in every single one of the team’s skaters when it comes to playing solid in their own end, including DeNaples and Stevens.

“We’re confident in everyone,” Gobetz said. “I didn’t see any learning curve at all from Paul. He played to his strengths, he’s a really good puck mover and didn’t try to do too much. Stevo has been a guy that’s always had a lot of talent, and that showed this weekend.” 

Gobetz added that the team’s defense is a five-man unit: The forwards complement the two defensemen in Penn State’s end of the ice, something that’s only possible because of the team’s depth at both positions.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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