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‘Every Centerman’s Stock Has Raised’: Long-Term Injury Forces Penn State Men’s Hockey To Adapt

Penn State men’s hockey was dealt another long-term injury this weekend. Its ace centerman, Chase McLane, was confirmed out for the year by head coach Guy Gadowsky following the Nittany Lions’ series against Minnesota.

Already thin at center, the Nittany Lions will miss McLane’s veteran presence and puck-winning ability.

“He was coming around and playing some of the best hockey we’ve seen him play,” Gadowsky said as he broke the news. “The team is going to have to step up… We’ve done it in the past, and we’re going to do it again.”

How does a team go about replacing the production and leadership McLane brought to the ice? For now, the coaching staff is set on replicating what made the senior so lethal at the face-off dot by seeking similar play styles from its depth forwards, mainly Dane Dowiak, Reese Laubach, and Carson Dyck.

“Dowiak is a little bit of a smaller package, but I can tell you this, he bench presses his weight 20 times,” Gadowsky said. “He’s also been a guy that’s been putting the puck in the net… He’s done a good job on face-offs, as well.”

The lefty freshman from Pittsburgh started the year at left wing but has converted to center out of necessity through the past two series. Dowiak hit his stride in four games at the position with a 56% face-off percentage after 66 draws taken. While the sample size is small, there’s reason to believe that Dowiak’s numbers will only improve as he learns the tools of the trade in the coming weeks. The coaching staff thinks so, too.

“It’s going to give Dane a whole lot of different roles that he might not have had in the past. So we’re looking forward to seeing how he takes,” Gadowsky said.

Next on the shortlist for the vacancy on the roster is junior Dyck. The forward has had a quiet start to his year, picking up two assists through 14 games dressed for the Nittany Lions. Often relegated to the extra skater role, his impact on the team is most noticeable on the penalty kill where his physicality makes him a menace in the defensive zone.

McLane’s spot as the penalty-killing center is perhaps the most crucial to fill quickly for Penn State. Dyck’s defensive instincts and puck-winning ability at the circle will need to continue to improve for the Nittany Lions to stem the bleeding on their bottom-10 man-down unit.

“He’s a right-hand-shot center like Chase, and he kills penalties like Chase. He’s got similar grit,” Gadowky said. “I think he’s going to have to really step up”

While McLane’s absence will certainly weaken the position in the short term, Gadowsky is still impressed and hopeful with the recent performance of the youngsters in the center slot, especially Laubach.

“This past weekend, he was our best center… It’s really good to see because he’s been working at it,” Gadowksy said as he praised the San Jose native.

Building off of his recent run will be the goal entering into this weekend’s road series against No. 6 Wisconsin. With six points in his last five appearances, Laubach will have the spotlight as the team hunts for its next ace centerman.

While winning the draw isn’t his strongest attribute, the grit and motor that Laubach displays on the ice will be a rectifying presence in a position missing some identity while McLane is scratched.

“We’re going to play like the guys are who are going,” Gadowksy emphasized to end his address this week. “Who’s getting it done the PK, the power play, the face-offs, you’re gonna see the guys that are hot.”

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About the Author

Jack Scott

Jack is a junior industrial engineering major from Pittsburgh, PA. Sometimes, he enjoys the misunderstanding of his friends and family that Penn State Club Ski Racing may be a D1 sport and usually won't correct them. Jack is way too into Thundercat for his own good. Follow him on Twitter @joscottIV and Instagram @jackscott._iv

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