Penn State Men’s Hockey Series Preview: Canisius

Story posted October 8, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Evan Popalis

Bring on the Golden Griffins.

Penn State welcomes Canisius to Pegula Ice Arena for a weekend series starting Friday night. It is the first time the two sides will compete against each other since Oct. 29, 2016, in the same venue.

The Nittany Lions are fresh off a two-game sweep of Long Island University. Meanwhile, for Canisius, it will see its first puck drop this weekend.

“I think it is important to get these games under our belt,” coach Guy Gadowsky said about having non-conference games this season.

Fourteen different Penn State players contributed on the scoresheet in the opening series. Of the 14, five Nittany Lion skaters racked up a multi-point weekend against the Sharks. Danny Dzhaniyev leads the blue and white with three points. The freshman from Brooklyn, New York, asserted himself well with his third-line linemates, Ryan Kirwan and Chase McLane.

Trevor Large enters his fifth season behind the bench for Canisius. He leads an experienced Griffins squad encouraged to kick off the season on a high note. A veteran roster and newly assembled transfer pieces stick out as the main selling points for this particular series.

The 2020 campaign witnessed Canisius post an overall record of 11-6 and an 8-5 record in MAAC play. Junior British Columbia native Keaton Mastrodonato led the Golden Griffins with nine goals and 18 points a season ago.

Transfer sophomore Randy Hernandez joins the forward group after the dismantling of the program at Robert Morris. Hernandez tallied 11 goals and 25 points in 2020 with the Colonials.

Projected to be the second-ranked team in the MAAC conference, the Griffs pose a threat the Nittany Lions must respect.

Penn State looks to continue to lean on the youth of its group. Getting production from the entire team relieves pressure off the top line.

“We really found ourselves in the second game,” winger Christian Sarlo said about his line following the Long Island tilt.

Gadowsky’s second and third lines consist of all freshmen and sophomores. There remains a learning curve, but the optimism is off the charts for the young Nittany Lions.

The main story has been the eye-opening underclassman performance, yet the defense needs to be recognized. The back end provided solid performances led by Clayton Phillips and Paul DeNaples.

The man between the pipes proved to be excellent as well. Oskar Autio turned away 40 shots and allowed three goals to the visiting Sharks. The Fin showed out in the opener, holding off a bombardment of shots from Long Island in the final minutes to preserve the game for Penn State.

A similar recipe should allow the Nittany Lions to find its game. A fast-paced, active tempo provides comfort to Penn State as it searches for a consecutive series sweep.

Canisius brings rich experience that will prepare itself for the Pegula Ice Arena atmosphere. In the end, home-ice advantage mixed with speed and versatility will propel Penn State to a tightly-contested successful weekend.

Prediction: Penn State sweeps

Evan Popalis is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email 

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Evan Popalis

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Evan Popalis is a third-year from Lititz, Pennsylvania, majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a writer, analyst, and play-by-play commentator for the CommRadio sports department. His writings include weekly NHL betting previews along with power rankings for the NHL and NFL. He appears weekly on the NHL Podcast as a host and analyst reviewing the previous week’s action. If you would like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).