Dylan Lugris journey to Penn State men’s hockey is anything but ordinary
On the biggest stage in college hockey, an unsung hero stepped up for Penn State when it was needed most.
Freshman forward Dylan Lugris netted the series-clinching goal for the Nittany Lions, eliminating arch-rival Ohio State in the Big Ten quarterfinals this past Sunday.
Lugris is one of six freshmen on the Nittany Lions roster, but his journey to Happy Valley was unlike any of his teammates.
Lugris played the last two seasons for the Jersey Hitman of the NCDC. In his first season playing for the Hitman, he tallied 16 goals and 39 points in 44 contests.
Before the start of the 2021-22 campaign, he was named team captain and put up elite numbers.
In just 25 games, Lugris recorded 13 goals and 36 points and was on pace for a great season when his phone rang in the middle of December.
“I ended up going on the ice, and after I got off the ice, I saw a missed call from State College. I thought, 'Oh boy I better go call this one back',” Lugris said. “I went and called back, and they let me know that I could come in at Christmas. I said yes before they could finish [their] sentence, I was super excited about it."
Lugris was not the only person excited he was coming to Happy Valley, Coach Guy Gadowsky was extremely pleased the forward signed with his squad.
The Edmonton, Alberta, native has been coaching for 22 seasons, and this campaign marked his 10th at the helm of the blue and white.
Gadowsky mentioned that Lugris is the first player he has ever brought in mid-season and he is extremely impressed with the progression Lugris has shown.
“He fits in. That's sort of why we finally settled on him because of what his coaches said about him as a person and how he'd fit in with our culture, and they're 100 percent correct,” Gadowsky said. “He's been excellent and he's been a great addition.”
The Buffalo, New York, native made his debut on New Years' Day against Army and immediately made an impact.
Lugris scored his first collegiate goal just under four minutes into the second period giving the Nittany Lions a 3-1 lead. They held onto the lead coming away with a 5-3 victory in West Point, New York.
However, after scoring in his first game, the freshman struggled to adjust to the collegiate game, failing to record a point in nine straight games.
Despite not seeing his name on the scoresheet during this stretch, Gadowsky mentioned that Lugris grew as a player and that many guys in the locker room gravitated toward him.
He snapped his pointless streak on Feb. 19 notching an assist in a 6-4 loss against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Lugris finished the regular season suiting up in 13 games tallying just a goal and an assist.
Although he didn’t record eye-popping numbers out of the gate, Lugris was living his dream of playing D1 hockey.
“I think it's the best program in all of college hockey, and I've loved it ever since I stepped foot on the campus. It's just been a dream come true,” Lugris said. “It's pretty surreal playing at a place like this.”
The blue and white entered the Big Ten quarterfinals as the No. 5 seed, and we’re not expected to advance against the Buckeyes, who were ranked No. 12 in the nation before the series.
After the rivals split the first two games and entered the third period of game three deadlocked at one, Penn State needed someone to step up, and Lugris answered the call.
After hitting the post a few minutes prior, Lugris had another chance to break the tie, and this time the freshman made no mistake.
Senior defender Paul DeNaples made a great pass to Lugris, who ripped a shot past freshman goalie Jakub Dobes netting the go-ahead goal.
After scoring the late goal for his team, Lugris tried to remain calm for the final minutes.
“It was pretty surreal,” Lugris said. “I was shaking the rest of the six minutes until the game ended, but it was a great feeling.
His goal proved to be the game-winning goal and helped the blue and white become the first road team to win a best-of-three Big Ten quarterfinal series.
Lugris finished the series scoring two goals in the final two games, much to the delight of Gadowsky.
“Very impressive for a guy that didn’t know he was going to be playing college hockey in December,” Gadowsky said. “To come in and play so well in two games that we were facing elimination, and to come up with huge plays, not just the goals he scored, was really impressive.”
After taking down Ohio State, Penn State has its eyes set on its next opponent: Minnesota.
Lugris is confident that if his team plays as they did against the Buckeyes, they will be in a good position to pull off another upset on Saturday.
“If we played like that all the time, there's not a team that can beat us,” Lugris said. “When we’re going on all cylinders and everybody's buying in, staying positive and playing our way then there's not a team that can beat us.”
Alex Rocco is a second-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org