Penn State Men’s Hockey Ensures National Esteem Following Historic 2022-23 Season
Ahead of Penn State men’s hockey’s season opener on October 7, expectations for the team’s performance were low. The direction of the program was trending in the wrong direction as the Nittany Lions finished under .500 in the previous two seasons. A pessimistic outlook was understood and widely exhibited among the fanbase, until the group opened its season 9-0.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky was confident about his team’s development before the season began. Gadowsky, along with the coaching staff and several veteran players, spent the offseason trying to improve Penn State’s culture, which is something he consistently attributed to being among the keys to success to this day.
In addition to working on the culture, Gadowsky brought in a promising freshman class and a pair of transfers with impressive track records. Perhaps most importantly, he had a good mix of veterans and young players that were already familiar with playing for Penn State.
In retrospect, it’s no surprise the Nittany Lions were arguably the biggest surprise in college hockey. Everything came together at the perfect time for the previously unranked group, especially considering the fact that this season represented a fork in the road for the program. If Penn State had a third consecutive losing season, there could have been a potential coaching change or recruiting could’ve taken a hit.
Fortunately for the program, this is far from what transpired.
The Nittany Lions instead finished 22-16-1, knocking on the door of advancing to the program’s first-ever Frozen Four in the process. By doing so, Penn State earned more respect on a national level.
Penn State started its season on a 9-0 winning streak and dominated the likes of Canisius, Mercyhurst, and St. Thomas to open the year. The Nittany Lions then effortlessly swept Wisconsin in Madison to open up the Big Ten schedule and upset then-No. 1 Michigan 3-0 in front of an incredible crowd at Pegula Ice Arena.
The next week, Penn State took down the No. 1 team for the second consecutive week in a 4-2 win at Minnesota. The Nittany Lions were beginning to turn heads across college hockey and quickly ascended in the USCHO Poll. At the start of December, Penn State was ranked No. 5 nationally, which was an impressive accomplishment given the team had been unranked just two months prior.
While Penn State was dominant in nearly every game of the first half of the season, things became more difficult in the second half. Penn State lost eight of the 12 regular season games after the New Year, which caused the team to drop in the rankings and raised concerns regarding a second-half collapse. Among the worst moments was Penn State’s 7-2 loss to Minnesota.
When the regular season concluded, Penn State was tasked with an away matchup against Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. The Nittany Lions ultimately lost in three games, but they had already essentially secured the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018.
Penn State was named the No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region, with a matchup against No. 3-seeded Michigan Tech awaiting in Allentown. The Nittany Lions dismantled the Huskies 8-0 in the NCAA Regional Semifinal, and a matchup against the No. 1-seeded Wolverines was next on the agenda.
Against Michigan, Penn State played one of its best games of the season despite the gut-wrenching 2-1 overtime loss that ended the season. Liam Souliere looked nearly unbeatable in goal, and the rest of the team flourished as it had throughout the entire season.
Souliere was Penn State’s most important player this season. With a 2.43 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, Souliere provided stability in the net game in and game out and showed up when the team needed him most. With the netminder expected to return in 2023-24, goaltending is the least of Penn State’s concerns.
Offensively, Kevin Wall was Penn State’s best player. Wall, a Carolina Hurricanes prospect, led Penn State with 17 goals and 31 points. Meanwhile, Ture Linden was the team’s assist leader with 18. As both players prepare to depart the Nittany Lions, the group can expect to fill big shoes.
At the end of the day, it’s hard to see the 2022-23 season as anything other than a huge success for the program. Despite low expectations entering the season, Penn State was a consistent top-10 team and nearly made the Frozen Four. The Nittany Lions rose to the occasion and bounced back when they needed to, providing a strong reason for optimism moving forward.
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About the Author
When paired with the Thespian Society by Penn State THON, the world changed for Theresa Illicete.
Fashanu is the Nittany Lions’ most recent First-Team All-American since Micah Parsons in 2019.
Johnson is the second Penn Stater to declare for the NFL Draft.