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Penn State Men’s Hockey’s 2020-21 Preview: Offense

The start of hockey season is almost upon us, folks.

Defending Big Ten regular-season champion Penn State should be hitting the ice in the upcoming weeks, meaning it’s time to look towards what the season may bring for the No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions. To start this year’s preview, let’s first take a look at Penn State’s offense.

Last season, the Nittany Lions had the best scoring offense in the Big Ten and seventh-best in the country, averaging 3.56 goals a game. The Nittany Lions ranked first nationally in both cumulative shots on goal (1305) and shots on goal per game (38.38).

Notable Departures

To understand this year’s team, it’s important to learn what the squad lost. Penn State dropped four of the top-10 highest point scorers in program history during the offseason.

All-time points and goals leader Nate Sucese graduated with 140 career points and 61 career goals. Captain Brandon Biro and Russian playmaker Denis Smirnov also graduated, leaving the Nittany Lions’ at fourth and fifth, respectively, on the all-time points list.

Liam Folkes was another big senior departure following last season. Folkes scored arguably the biggest goal in program history back in 2017, earning the Nittany Lions their first-ever Big Ten tournament championship. Folkes graduated with 103 career points, good enough to be tied for seventh all-time in program history.

Other notable departures from the forward group include 6’7″ Russian forward Nikita Pavlychev and current Chicago Blackhawk Evan Barratt. Those departing the team scored a combined 168 points last season, while the rest of the forwards had a combined 92.

The Returning Leaders

The upperclassmen trio of senior captain Alex Limoges, senior Sam Sternschein, and junior Aarne Talvitie highlight the returning players.

Limoges comes back as one of the best players in the Big Ten and was named the eighth captain in program history back in May. He ranked No. 6 in the Big Ten in total points last season with 32 but was second in the conference when it came to points per game.

In his sophomore year, he became the first-ever Nittany Lion to lead the country in scoring with 50 points and earned a nomination for the Hobey Baker Award, which is granted to the best player in the county. Limoges comes into the season tied seventh in all-time points scored in program history and should be the centerpiece of Penn State’s offense

Sternschein was tied for the team lead in goals last season with 12. He totaled just five assists last season, so coach Guy Gadowsky will hope to see improvement in Sternschein’s all-around game this season.

Talvitie, a junior from Espoo, Finland, will be thrust into a key role this year, as he was named an alternate captain. Talvitie flashed signs of potential during his sophomore year, notching 19 points throughout the season. It was nice to see, as he suffered a season-ending injury early in his freshman year.

Before that injury his freshman year, Talvitie was the captain of the Finnish National Team that won gold at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Those Who Need To Step Up

Outside of that trio, there are question marks across all areas of the group. Players like Connor McMenamin, who was tied for second on the team in game-winning goals (three) last season, will be asked to step into an elevated role and contribute on a consistent basis.

That also goes for sophomores Kevin Wall and Connor MacEachern, who were relegated into depth roles during their first season. The success of the team this season may depend on how well players like McMenamin, Wall, and MacEachern adjust to their new roles.

Notable Newcomers

Some help is coming into the program, most notably through true freshman Chase McLane. McLane played his junior hockey with Tri-City Storm of the USHL, and was drafted by the Nashville Predators in the seventh round of this year’s NHL entry draft.

He spent large parts of last season injured but still put up 16 points in the 18 games he played. McLane may be a big freshman coming into the program who can make an immediate impact this season.

The Nittany Lions’ offense didn’t suffer too much turnover last season, losing only Chase Berger and Alec Marsh. It should remain one of the most lethal offensive teams in the country.

There is no doubt that the Penn State offense will continue to operate with its system of quantity over quality shots this season. Losing one of the most important classes in program history will affect the team, but how much?

All questions could be answered when the Nittany Lions hit the ice this November. No schedule has been announced yet, but the Big Ten set November 13 as a tentative start date for the season.

The season will include a 24-game conference slate, four games against non-conference opponent Arizona State at home, and a modified Big Ten tournament at the end of the season.

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About the Author

Connor Donohue

Connor is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He hails from the great state of New Jersey and is proud of it. Lover of the greatest city in the world, New York City, he strongly dislikes the city of Philadelphia and will not hesitate to tell you that. He's also been cursed as a Penn State fan since birth. If you want to call him a bum or maybe go out on a date with him, follow him on twitter @ConnorDonohue00 or email him at [email protected]

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