‘Working Hard And Having Fun’: Penn State Men’s Hockey Captain Christian Berger Leading Team With Grit & Tradition
Penn State men’s hockey held a team meeting on Saturday. The players and coaching staff took a vote, and Christian Berger, a senior defenseman, was named the 10th captain in program history. Joining him as alternate captains are Christian Sarlo and Xander Lamppa.
Stakes are high as the new trio of leaders has been tasked with navigating the program through significant turnover amid heightened expectations for the team. There was more turnover than most typical offseasons, as nine players left following a 2-1 overtime loss to Michigan in the NCAA Regional Final that ended Penn State’s historic season.
Heading into 2023, there are major questions looming over the program pertaining to the longstanding culture bred within departed players and whether or not it will remain intact.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky, as well as the rest of the team, are confident in each other.
“It’s not a surprise to anybody that’s been around the program because of how [the captains] are, but we really wanted to get the input of the team,” Gadowsky said. “It’s very evident that they’re here for the right reasons. All three of them are committed to the right thing. They’re committed to themselves as athletes, as students, they’re committed to this university and they show it.”
Gadowsky’s high praise is consistent with what the three have continued doing throughout their stints in Hockey Valley. Berger, most importantly, is the type to stay in his own lane and focus on his game, which is all you can ask from a player.
“I just kind of do me, and I think that’s why I’m in this position,” Berger said. “I don’t think I need to change too much… But I just keep doing what I’m doing: working hard and having fun.”
Additionally, fellow senior defenseman Jimmy Dowd Jr. had positive things to say about his new captain, specifically expressing admiration for Berger’s work ethic.
“Christian Berger is a guy who works his ass off every single day,” Dowd said. “I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a guy who puts his head down and works harder than him.”
Former captain Paul DeNaples, another defenseman who led the team for two seasons before graduating this past spring, had similarities to Berger. Although neither is necessarily the best player on the ice at any given time, they both lead by example. The Nittany Lions regained national respect under DeNaples, and now it’s Berger’s job to ensure that respect isn’t lost.
How does he do that? By changing absolutely nothing. The St. Louis, Missouri, native has the respect of his teammates, and he’s done it simply by being himself. Berger has the keys to the car. Now, he just has to drive it.
“He’s a natural leader,” Dowd said.
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Inspired by a truly awful cut three years ago, Shaun Flaherty started cutting hair to fix some questionable cuts from the barbers in upstate New York.
“I couldn’t really think of any other place to do it because everyone is the happiest there.”
Penn State fell to under .500 for the first time this season.