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Evan Barratt Blossoming Into Emotional Leader For Penn State Hockey

Penn State hockey center Evan Barratt has never been afraid to play — and speak — with emotion.

The junior from Bristol, Pennsylvania will never back down from any on-ice challenges — whether it be chirping and trash-talking from opponents, a high-skill play, or a big hit. Sometimes, Barratt crosses the line, but his emotional, high-octane style of play was exactly what the doctor ordered for Penn State last Saturday night.

After a brutal 6-0 loss in its series opener to Michigan, Penn State completely shook things up by rearranging quite literally every forward line and defensive pairing. The team’s overall response to the challenge was good in a 4-4 tie that ended with a Michigan win in 3-on-3 overtime, and Barratt was at the forefront of the improved effort.

Barratt scored twice in the second game of the series — including the game-tying goal with 1:22 to play in the third period. Despite playing on a brand-new line combination with Aarne Talvitie and Denis Smirnov on his wings, the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect was seemingly everywhere. Neither of his goals were pretty, as he crashed the net to stuff rebounds past Strauss Mann in the second and third period.

“One of the things we were disappointed in [Friday] was our compete level for each other. Evan’s an extremely emotional player, positively and negatively,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said after Saturday’s game. “His emotion is something we feed off of. I thought he competed extremely hard, and he was rewarded for it. It’s not that you try to be [a leader like Barratt]. He just is.”

You could sense an understandable, perhaps justified hint of frustration in Barratt’s voice as he fielded questions from reporters both after Saturday’s game and on Tuesday afternoon. He said the team needs to be “pissed off” throughout this weekend’s upcoming series against Michigan State, which is tied with Penn State in the Big Ten standings on 25 points right now.

Despite his head coach’s opinion, however, Barratt doesn’t necessarily agree with his head coach’s assessment of his play.

“Honestly, I don’t really see myself as a leader. It kind of happens with the way I carry myself and play,” Barratt said. “When something’s not going right or we need a little kick in the butt, I’ll definitely raise my voice and say something. But I just try to be the hardest worker and the most competitive [player], and hopefully the other guys feed off that.”

Gadowsky’s view of his top center is probably correct — but not just because he works hard and plays hard on Friday and Saturday nights. Part of the frustration in Barratt’s voice on Tuesday was a palpable sense of accountability for the Nittany Lions’ Friday night effort.

On Tuesday, Gadowsky suggested that his players may have been overtrained and overworked at practice throughout last week. Barratt considered the possible truth behind that statement, but he also thinks that isn’t a great excuse for players at this level.

“The onus is more on us to be ready,” he said. “If practice was hard, we need to take a couple extra minutes to take care of our bodies.”

If his feelings on Michigan State goaltender John Lethemon are any indication, Barratt, who’s tied with Nate Sucese as Penn State’s leading scorer with 28 points (nine goals, 19 assists) in 24 appearances, will absolutely be ready to go this weekend in East Lansing. Penn State’s last encounter with Lethemon was a 2-0 loss at Pegula Ice Arena in which the netminder stonewalled all 48 of the Nittany Lions’ shots on goal.

The final score of that 2-0 defeat wasn’t a fair reflection of how the game played out at all, as Penn State put together what Guy Gadowsky feels is the team’s best all-around effort of the year. That’s all the motivation Barratt needs for this weekend’s two-game slate.

“Their goalie stole a game from us. It was insane,” he said. “We definitely owe him two good games, and we’re just going to try and get to the net and get him off his game. It’s going to be a long weekend, for sure. Every weekend from here on out is playoff hockey, so it’s a good time of the year.”

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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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