Penn State Hockey’s Freshest Faces

Story posted October 6, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Alissa Devine

Penn State men’s hockey is introducing ten new faces to the team this season. The freshman class this year has high expectations from coach Guy Gadowsky and hockey valley fans. The newcomers took the ice for the first time in Penn State’s exhibition game Sunday afternoon and immediately proved their skill, speed, and high hockey IQ. Nikita Pavlychev, Peyton Jones, and Trevor Hamilton are a few of the new faces to keep an eye on.

Offensively Penn State has always been a speedy team that is quick on the forecheck. However, the Nittany Lions will also have to fill a void with the absence of Tommy Olczyk for the gritty aspect of Penn State’s offensive production. Pavlychev is a key player to fill that role with his size, stature, and confidence. Hockey valley fans were able to witness Gadowsky’s use of Pavlychev and his big body in front of Queen University’s goaltender Sunday.

"With time I was getting good and getting better [at using my size]," Pavlychev said. "I try to be physical and make plays at the same time. I want to be the guy on the ice who can do things other than hit."

The sole fact alone that Pavlychev was drafted to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2015 Draft, shines light on the certainty that he is a special player with a lot of potential. Pavlychev will use his experience from the Penguin’s 2015 and 2016 development camps to contribute to Penn State hockey.

Defensively, Penn State will undeniably be able to utilize Trevor Hamilton on the back end, possibly being paired with Kevin Kerr. He will be key in replacing seniors such as Luke Juha and Connor Varley. Penn State has a more modern defensive style, having most of their players being two-way defenseman. The blue line for the Nittany Lions has always been a core that moves the puck exceptionally well to create offensive opportunities from the back end. Hamilton definitely fits this system and has already shown a glimpse of what he can do on offense, having ten out of the 50 shots on goal seen in the exhibition game. Hamilton will also add a gritty edge on the blue line, in addition to his puck handling skills. Gadowsky believes Hamilton is a player that is essential in the lineup, especially with the direction the program is moving.

“We’ve talked about the importance of moving pucks, but you want you want guys that are gritty, tough and can move pucks. He’s a guy that fits in,” Gadowsky said. He is very cerebral, has a high hockey IQ, but is also tough to play against. That’s a unique mix.”

One of the biggest question marks is whether Gadowsky will have another season with the two-goalie system he has implemented, or whether Jones will take over has the team’s number one starter. Chris Funkey is a smaller goaltender who has to rely on agility inside the crease. Jones, however, is a bigger goalie at 6-ft-4 and 210 pounds, and has a similar playing style to Eamon McAdam. Jones learned how to utilize his size between the pipes as he grew in size over the years.

"I used to be a smaller goalie, so when I did grow I still played like a smaller goalie," said Jones. "I had to get used to not coming out and challenging as much."

Many Penn State hockey fans believe that because of the similarity between Jones and McAdam, Jones will take the role of starting goaltender this season. The deciding factor is whether inexperience at the collegiate level will be an issue for the freshman in net.

The new incoming class has a lot of potential and skill, which will definitely lead to a more exciting season. Penn State’s hockey program is moving in the right direction, improving year by year. Last year Penn State had an incredible freshman class in Andrew Sturtz, Chase Berger, and Alec Marsh, who have gained experience since last season. This year, Penn State has an even more talented group of young guns in Nikita Pavlychev, Peyton Jones, Trevor Hamilton, and seven other newcomers. The combination of the two classes, in addition to veteran players such as David Goodwin, Erik Autio, and Dylan Richard, will make Penn State a strong contender in the NCAA this season.

 

Alissa Devine is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email alissadevine96@gmail.com.