Penn State Hockey Ranked No. 13 In USCHO Preseason Top 16 Poll
Penn State men’s hockey checked in at No. 13 in the USCHO’s preseason top 16 poll.
The Nittany Lions finished last season at No. 17 in the same poll after narrowly missing out on the NCAA tournament. Guy Gadowsky’s program actually finished at No. 16 in the final PairWise rankings of the 2018-19 season, which would typically be good enough to qualify for the big dance. However, AIC — the No. 31 team in the PairWise — won its conference to earn an automatic bid into the tournament and knock Penn State out of contention.
Penn State has now been ranked in three consecutive USCHO preseason top 16 polls. The Nittany Lions began the 2018-19 season at No. 16 in the poll — a year after starting as the No. 10 team in the nation.
This year’s iteration of the Nittany Lions is poised for a national title run. Gadowsky will return most of his core from the 2018-19 season aside from Chase Berger, Ludvig Larsson, Alec Marsh, Kevin Kerr, Derian Hamilton, and Chris Funkey, who all graduated and are not back with the team.
The team’s top line of Alex Limoges — who led the nation in scoring with 50 points last year — Evan Barratt, and Liam Folkes is back after scoring a combined 135 points (57 goals, 78 assists) last year. Opposing defenses will undoubtedly key on the three forwards this year, but Penn State has a wealth of options beyond them who can score at a high rate.
Seniors Brandon Biro, Nate Sucese, Denis Smirnov, and Nikita Pavlychev are all back, as is sophomore forward Aarne Talvitie. Talvitie, who got his college career off to an excellent start with 16 points in 17 games, is expected to be ready for the start of the year after tearing his ACL while playing for Finland at the 2019 U-20 World Junior Championship.
Although Penn State’s defense has been a sore spot in years past, this year’s back-end returns fourth-year starting goalie Peyton Jones and four of the six regular defensemen in the lineup last season. Cole Hults and Paul DeNaples — a finalist for last season’s Big Ten defensive player of the year award — will be back as the Nittany Lions’ top defensive pairing, while players like Kris Myllari, Evan Bell, and Alex Stevens will bring tons of experience and skill to the blue line.
The Nittany Lions will open their season with a two-game series against Sacred Heart on October 11 and 12 at Pegula Ice Arena.
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