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Confidence Is Key To Evan Barratt’s Growth Into Penn State Hockey’s Top Center

Picture this: Your team is down 3-1 after two periods of play despite outshooting the opposition heavily. How do you go about igniting a potential comeback?

Do you continue trying to establish your forecheck and keep sustaining plenty of time in the offensive zone? Do you throw everything but the kitchen sink at the opposing goaltender?

For Penn State men’s hockey sophomore Evan Barratt, the answer to that question was a little different last Saturday against Arizona State.

“I can’t tell you how special that goal was,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said of Barratt’s SportsCenter Top 10-worthy effort. “I don’t even know how describe it.”

Barratt joined Penn State’s hockey program as perhaps the headliner of his recruiting class. He was selected No. 90 overall in the 2017 NHL Draft by the Chicago Blackhawks; Eamon McAdam (No. 70) and Max Gardiner (No. 74) are the only other Nittany Lions to be drafted earlier.

Although Barratt was a highly-touted recruit out of the United States’ National Team Development Program, his collegiate career couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start.

Evan Barratt has 28 points in 39 NCAA games. He’s a dark horse candidate to represent the United States at the 2019 World Junior Championships in Vancouver.

The center suffered an injury in his college hockey debut against Clarkson, and he had to work his way into the lineup after getting healthy.

Once he was back, however, he centered a line with sophomore Alex Limoges and junior Liam Folkes. This trio is still together, and it’s probably the team’s best, most consistent offensive unit.

“I always knew [Barratt] was going to be a stud,” Limoges said. “It sucks that he got injured in the first game there, but I think it created a sense of hunger in his mind. He came back stronger, and it worked out that we became a line once he was back.”

A lot of the Bristol, PA native’s success has come as a result of his dynamite line combination, but it certainly isn’t the only reason he’s blossomed into a two-way star for the Nittany Lions. He and Limoges are tied for the team lead in points with 10.

“It’s having a lot of confidence on the ice,” Barratt said. “It’s crazy how much a year can do. At the end of [last season], I felt like I was hitting my stride, and I was feeling really good. I’m really happy that it’s carried over into this year, and hopefully it continues.”

Barratt and Limoges have had plenty of reason to celebrate — their line with Liam Folkes has combined for 28 points through the first seven games of the season.

Everybody got a glimpse of the center’s increased confidence Saturday night, but head coach Guy Gadowsky has seen him grow in many other ways. He said Barratt’s habits with and without the puck are much more mature, complementing his high-end skillset.

“He’s a much, much more consistent and mature hockey player,” Gadowsky said. “It’s not only that — I just love the fact that he brings a lot of energy. We’re very happy with his development. He’s very receptive to improvement and suggestions, and he’s just a really good teammate.

“When you combine those things with his skillset, you get a very special player.”

Having the confidence to try a move like that is one thing, but pulling it off in the third period of a tight game with your team down by two goals is, to put it lightly, insane.

“That says a lot about [Barratt’s] confidence,” Gadowsky said. “Trying that in that type of moment is unreal. That takes insane skill, but to do that in game conditions, let alone in the third period of a tight game is incredible. He’s mentally at a different place than I am, that’s for sure.”

Barratt cuts through Princeton’s defense to generate a good scoring chance for himself.

The thought of pulling off that move always crosses Limoges’ mind whenever he curls around the net. The sophomore from Virginia certainly has very good puck skills, but even he wouldn’t try a move like that at game speed.

“It’d be awesome, but I don’t have the confidence to do it in a game,” Limoges said. “I couldn’t believe it the first time [I saw it], and I couldn’t believe it the second or third time I watched it, either.”

Limoges and Folkes got a front-row seat to the goal, but they also may have gotten their 15 minutes of fame from the play. Barratt’s two linemates made a brief cameo at the end of the 20-second clip which aired on SportsCenter, and this gave their social media followings a bit of a boost.

“We got some new followers on Instagram [because of the clip],” Limoges said. “We’ve been thanking Evan a lot.”

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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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