Penn State Men’s Hockey’s Freshmen Benefitting From Non-Conference Schedule
Reese Laubach waited in front of the goal, received a pass, and quickly shot it into the net. The horn blared and the crowd erupted into a frenzy at Pegula Ice Arena as another Penn State freshman celebrated his first-ever collegiate goal.
Although it’s early in the 2023-24 season and Penn State men’s hockey is playing non-conference teams, these games matter significantly for the development of young players such as Laubach.
Four other freshmen joined the program prior to the season. Laubach, Dane Dowiak, Aiden Fink, and Matt DiMarsico are forwards, while Casey Aman is the lone defenseman of the group. So far, the results have been promising. Fink is averaging a point per game, Dowiak has a pair of assists, and Laubach and DiMarsico have already scored their first career goals.
Fink said the start against non-conference teams has been beneficial for himself and other freshmen playing in their first games, as it helps them adjust to the fast pace of play that comes with college hockey. The games are also a chance to gel with the rest of the team.
“We’ve never played together, at least the freshmen with everyone else have never played with each other,” Fink said. “The chemistry is a big reason why these games are important.”
Good chemistry appears to be developing and the newcomers are fitting in with their older teammates, according to junior defenseman Simon Mack. The Canadian also acknowledged that the young players’ adjustments are helping the team be prepared for more meaningful games ahead.
“They’ve been great, they’re all just super mature,” he said. “It’s good to get acclimated to your new teammates and the guys come in and then, by the time conference play comes around, you’re ready to go.”
Mack also said that the newcomers have already made a big impact. However, Mack continues to help them whenever he can.
“They’ve played a key role in this team so far,” Mack said. “I just give them pointers here and there and where I can.”
Laubach echoed Fink’s thoughts, as he too was adamant that the early slate is a good opportunity to adjust to college hockey and prepare for Big Ten play with a visit from Notre Dame coming the first week of November.
“We know the Big Ten’s an unreal conference,” Laubach said. “So to get those games under our belt before is a nice thing for us to get up to speed and pace of play.”
Penn State has played Long Island, Clarkson, St. Lawrence, and most recently AIC to kick off the year, winning four out of five. Only one game has been decided by more than two goals with a 4-1 victory over St. Lawrence falling as the only true blowout.
Everyone else has given Penn State a competitive game, which prepares the freshmen for the madness that is Big Ten hockey. The tight contests have further emphasized to the players that each game matters significantly, regardless of the situation.
“Every game is important, no matter who you play, whether it’s Big Ten or non-conference,” Fink said.
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