Ryan Kirwan Maintaining Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Historical Offensive Efficiency
Penn State men’s hockey is off to a hot start, having risen to No. 12 overall in the latest USCHO Poll following a 3-0 start with recent wins over Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
There have been questions to start the year about the team’s offense surviving the departure of several former key contributors, but the entire team has so far rallied to replace the production lost in the offseason, silencing doubters.
In his preseason address, head coach Guy Gadowsky was adamant that Penn State had lost several offensive pieces, which included leading scorer and point-getter Kevin Wall.
“We have lost a lot,” he said. “But keep in mind, those guys ate up a lot of quality offensive minutes, too, so now someone has to get that opportunity.”
Then, he hit the nail on the head with his prediction.
“There’s obvious people like Ryan Kirwan, with his natural gifts for shooting the puck,” Gadowsky said.
Fifteen different Nittany Lions have already made their mark on the stat sheet in just three games, but Kirwan has been arguably the brightest star in the lineup. His goal-a-game pace and two assists stack up to place him at 10th in the NCAA in goals per game and 14th in total points.
The junior winger is already at 30% of his points total from last season through less than 10% of this year’s campaign. It’s a combination of more ice time giving him greater opportunities and his improving efficiency with the puck. Last season, he scored on just 7.3% of shots, but his current clip is more than double at 18.8%.
Gadowsky is impressed with the step up in his performance and attributes the leap to Kirwan’s commitment to “being a pro.” Adding to that, he praised Kirwan’s fitness and how he’s kept himself in peak shape as the season has progressed.
“He’s been treating his body right, working out consistently, rehab, nutrition, sleep… It’s something that he continues to get better and better at,” Gadowsky said.
One instance of Kirwan’s impressive play thus far was when he stepped up during a power play in Friday night’s win against Clarkson, sniping a shot to add to the two-goal lead.
And, he scored a clinical, no-nerves finisher against St. Lawrence the following night.
“With him,” Gadowsky finished, “it’s just a natural progression of continuing to work on his game and getting confidence, and right now, he has a lot of confidence.”
Kirwan’s pace should continue as the Nittany Lions return to Pegula Ice Arena to face American International. A squad that forced overtime against defending 2022 National Champion Quinnipiac last weekend, the Yellow Jackets won’t be a slouch by any means, but he will match up well.
His position as a finisher on the power play will be instrumental in exploiting one of the NCAA’s worst penalty kill units to take them out of the game early. Given his pace so far, it would be reasonable to expect more points to come from Kirwan.
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About the Author
When paired with the Thespian Society by Penn State THON, the world changed for Theresa Illicete.
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