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Penalty Kill Essential In Penn State Men’s Hockey’s First Three Victories

Penn State men’s hockey has taken care of business so far by winning all three of its first games against Long Island, Clarkson, and St. Lawrence. A team-wide effort is responsible for the start, as 15 players have already seen their names appear on the stat sheet.

While the offense has been great so far, the penalty kill deserves significant credit for why the Nittany Lions have won all three of their matchups.

Opposing teams are just one-for-nine on the power play against Penn State. That statistic equates to a .889 penalty-killing percentage, which is currently tied for 17th in the country. Additionally, that number ranks third in the Big Ten behind Minnesota (1.000) and Wisconsin (.955).

A good penalty kill doesn’t just stop teams from capitalizing on a one or two-man advantage. It can, and does, serve as a boost for Penn State while simultaneously prying morale away from the opposing team.

“You can use it as momentum,” Gadowsky said. “So obviously, there are times when you’re worried about a power play gaining momentum but if you have a big kill, and you do it in a way that is stifling, then it can really help build the morale and the momentum — everybody’s pumped.”

It was evident that Penn State’s morale changed against Clarkson after the Nittany Lions killed each of their penalties. On the other hand, the Golden Knights had a morale boost of their own after scoring what ended up being the only power-play goal Penn State has allowed all season. After each of these instances, both teams appeared to have a spark that propelled them to both faster and more fiery play in the minutes that followed.

Penn State allowed just seven shots against Clarkson during its four power plays of the game. A team can construct a penalty kill and operate it the same way every time, but positive results aren’t guaranteed. As things tend to be with hockey, Gadowsky says, what happens on any given play is anyone’s guess.

“I think you saw that a couple of times, especially when we went down by one this past weekend,” Gadowsky said. “From a special teams standpoint, we’ve said many times, it’s a little bit like padding. You can do the same thing and do really well and they fall or they don’t so right now, I think they’re working hard at it. I think our execution has been really good for this early in the season, and fortunately, we’re getting success.”

Although Penn State clearly outplayed its opponents in the first three games of the season, a team only needs one good momentum-generating bounce to completely change the outcome of a game. In some ways, Penn State’s stifling penalty kill is the biggest reason why it’s off to a 3-0 start.

The more power play chances a team squanders, the harder it is to regain momentum and execute the necessary plays in order to win a game. Right now, Penn State is off to about as good of a start as one could ask which should lead to more wins down the road.

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About the Author

Nolan Wick

Nolan is a third-year journalism major from Silver Spring, Maryland, which means he's an avid fan of all D.C. sports teams. If Nolan isn't writing about or watching sports, you can probably find him listening to all sorts of music or traveling. To keep up with Nolan, you can follow him on Twitter @nolan_wick or email him at [email protected].

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