Penn State Hockey Season Preview

Story posted October 1, 2019 in Sports, CommRadio by Kyle Cannillo

It’s finally October and that means hockey is back!

College hockey is one of the NCAA's most exciting and action-packed sports. The passion from players, coaches, and fans is unmatched. While there are a plethora of NCAA teams that people are keeping their eye on, one team in particular has many fans turning heads.

The Penn State Nittany Lions have begun to establish themselves as an elite hockey program, one that is still under 10 years of age.

Expectations for Penn State this season have never been higher. With a majority of the starting lineup returning, they believe they have what it takes to go farther than they’ve ever gone before.

Penn State is starting to receive some serious recognition around the NCAA. First and foremost, the rankings.

The Nittany Lions were ranked No. 13 by the USCHO, a poll known for acting like college hockey’s “power rankings.” As the season progresses, more and more people turn to the computer calculation called the PairWise that determines the field of 16. Last season, the Penn State Nittany Lions finished 17 on the PairWise poll, only one win away from cracking the top 16.

Penn State finishing anywhere below 16 on the PairWise poll would be nothing but a disappointment. On paper, this team is not only one of the best in the Big Ten, but also one of the most explosive and deadly this nation has to offer.

The USCHO poll isn’t the only poll people were impressed by. USA Hockey Magazine released their official rankings to start the year, listing Penn State at No. 9. The mark comes in highest among Big Ten foes.

Lastly, the Nittany Lions made history after finishing No. 1 in the Big Ten Hockey coaches poll, a mark they have never hit before. Recognition by both national polls and coaches shows why Penn State could be a serious force this season.

If Penn State is so highly regarded this season, why weren’t they able to get the job done the last? The answer is simple: defense and goaltending. On the back end, Penn State was hands down one of the most inconsistent and unreliable college hockey teams. Scores such as 7-6 were not uncommon for a team that put all of its focus on the offense.

There are a few reasons they improved in that category. For one, Penn State announced they have received a transfer defenseman from Minnesota in Clayton Phillips. Phillips has an impressive resume of being a shutdown defenseman, a player the Nittany Lions desperately need. He also is immediately the highest drafted player on the roster after being selected in the third round by the Penguins in the 2017 NHL Draft. In addition to Phillips, Carolina Hurricanes 6th-round draft pick Kevin Wall is another defenseman preparing for his freshman season.

Offensively, there is no question how lethal this Penn State team is. They return an offensive forward group that ran away with the NCAA’s scoring title. Forwards Evan Barratt, Liam Folkes and Alex Limoges are three players in particular that most Nittany Lion fans are excited to see. They put up a combined 135 points in 39 games.

The return of Aarne Talvitie is one that is flying under the radar. Before his season ending injury, Talvite was on pace for a point per game and was exceeding even the coach's expectations. He is being asked to play more of a center role this season.

Ultimately predicting Penn State’s season is like throwing a dart with your eyes closed. They are no question a wild card team. With all this talent, they have what it takes to compete for a national championship. However, they could crumble and fall short of expectations just like they did a year ago.

Here is a safe prediction: the Penn State Nittany Lions will at least qualify for the NCAA tournament. There is no reason to believe Penn State got any worse than they did a season ago.          

 


Kyle Cannillo is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. If you have any questions, please contact kcannillo1@gmail.com.