Penn State men’s hockey looking to get off to hot start to open 2022-23 season
There is only one chance to make a first impression.
For Penn State, that chance comes as it opens its 2022-23 campaign against Canisius.
Last year’s first impression of the Nittany Lions resulted in a two-game series sweep against LIU. The rest of their season, however, they didn’t follow suit as the Nittany Lions finished regular season action 15-18-1 before making a short run in the Big Ten Tournament.
Following the sweep of the Sharks, Penn State was handed its first loss of the year by a team that will have the opportunity to do just that again: Canisius.
The Golden Griffins took the first game 4-1 before the Nittany Lions rebounded the following night for a 5-2 victory.
One day short of one year since the first game of that series, Penn State will take the ice against the Golden Griffins with seven new arrivals, but it had three key departures.
All those departures came on the defensive side, with defensemen Clayton Phillips and Adam Pilewicz exhausting their eligibility and goaltender Oskar Autio transferring to Vermont.
Autio was in net for the first game versus Canisius a season ago, in which three shots found their way past him before the Golden Griffins recorded their fourth on an empty net.
The next night Guy Gadowsky elected to hand the reins of the crease to Liam Souliere. Souliere allowed two goals on 38 shots to help the Nittany Lions secure the victory.
That change would parallel what would occur later in the season, where after splitting playing time, Souliere would take over the full-time starting spot, including for the four Big Ten Tournament games.
The junior netminder finished his sophomore campaign allowing 2.88 goals against per game with a .905 save percentage. The starting job is now his to lose, but he will be without the assistance of the two aforementioned defensive presences.
While captain Paul DeNaples returns for his fifth and final season on the blue and white defense, three of the eight defenders on the team are freshmen that could see their fair share of growing pains throughout their first collegiate appearances.
The first task for the defense will be a Canisius team that brings in 11 new players, including seven transfers while returning 19 members from last year’s 16-16-3 team.
Of those 19 returners, two of their top four goal-scorers are Max Kouznetsov and Keaton Mastrodonato. Kouznetsov paced the team with twelve goals, while Mastrodonato, who scored the game-winning goal against Penn State in Game 1, was in a three-way tie for second with 11 goals.
As for the 22 goals of Lee Lapid and Austin Alger, it will be up to Trevor Large to fill that production with a committee of the eight new forwards.
The opposing forward group did not lose anyone from last year but added three, including transfers, Ashton Calder and Ture Linden. Those two bring a combined 31 goals and 60 points from last year to Happy Valley.
They will be added to a group that includes Preseason All-Big Ten Second Team selection Kevin Wall and Preseason All-Big Ten honorable mention Connor MacEachern, who helped the team average 3.1 goals per game. The two forwards combined for three goals in the two games against Canisius last season.
In charge of slowing that offensive unit down will be Jacob Barczewski. The Golden Griffins’ goalie was named the Atlantic Hockey Association Preseason Co-Player of the Year.
Barczewski was ranked 14th nationally with a .923 save percentage while allowing 2.42 goals against in his junior year. The Missouri native made 39 saves in both contests against the Nittany Lions a year ago.
The nine-man defensive unit in front of him is composed entirely of upperclassmen except for one sophomore. Leading the way for that experienced group is captain David Melaragni.
Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. at Pegula Ice Arena, with the two clubs back on the ice Saturday at 6 p.m.
Justin Ciavolella is a second-year student majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
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