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Strong Penalty Kill Fuels Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Early Success

Penn State men’s hockey is currently sitting with a 5-1 record after completing a sweep of Niagara over the weekend. Alongside Michigan, the Nittany Lions are one of two Big Ten teams with five wins.

While Penn State wound up in too many situations in which it needed to execute a penalty kill, the Nittany Lions have been wildly successful.

The Nittany Lions successfully escaped 11 power plays during the series. Yes, there was still a lot of offensive success in the series (notably Kevin Wall’s five goals in the series). However, the penalty kill was an integral part of the sweep.

After killing 27 of 28 power plays, Penn State currently sits at fourth in the NCAA with a 96.4% penalty kill percentage. The team has the second-best penalty kill rate in the Big Ten behind Notre Dame, which has yet to give up a goal on 24 opportunities.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky was thrilled with the way his team played against the power play but did have some criticism of winding up in the situation a little too often.

“Obviously, the [penalty] kill, which was an excellent six of six, included the five-minute [major],” Gadowskt said after Friday night’s victory. “You certainly don’t want to have to kill that much, but really I thought they did a great job leading by example. Obviously, if you’re going to kill well, you have to have great goaltending, which we did.”

Last season’s penalty kill struggled heavily as Penn State finished toward the bottom of the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions killed 48 of 63 penalties (76.2%) in the 2020-21 season. While the current sample size is small with only six games under the team’s belt, only giving up one power-play goal so far is nothing to sneeze at.

“I think part of it is last year, we played all power plays, but that’s not taking anything away from anybody else,” Gadowsky said. “If you look, typically, around the nation, the Big Ten power plays are one of the most dangerous in the nation, and I just got to be honest, that’s part of it…So far, our goaltending has been excellent. We put those three things together, and that’s the start, we’re having.”

The competition will only get more challenging as the season continues, especially with matchups against top-ranked opponents like North Dakota this weekend looming on Penn State’s schedule.

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About the Author

Gabriel Herman

Gabriel Herman is a journalism major at Penn State from Minneapolis, MN. He writes about several sports-related topics. If you want to discuss great moments in Minnesota sports history, you can reach him at [email protected]

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