Freshmen Evaluation: Weeks Ten And Eleven
The last two weeks haven’t been so hot for our beloved Nittany Lions. 0-2-1 is not an exemplary start after dominating the first half of the year, including a great first two series against Michigan State and at Ohio State after winter break. Solid play has been hard to come by in the past three games, even amongst the freshmen, who have seemed to be sparkplugs throughout the year. However, there has been one player that has been worth watching over this past few weeks.
Kris Myllari has done everything in his power to provide energy and excitement to this hockey team, but it has not been enough to get any wins in these past three games. The Canadian born defenseman has even been picking up the slack left by older line mates recently. He was considered by Coach Guy Gadowsky as the “best player on the ice” Saturday night against Princeton. Myllari defended eight of the team’s collective 19 blocked shots in Saturday’s loss to the Tigers and is only behind Trevor Hamilton on the year in that category with 41.
Myllari has only gotten better as the season has gone on. He hasn’t hit the middle of the year slump that the rest of his freshmen teammates seem to be hitting. He began the year with experience in each game, but little time. He has earned more and more time, including being on the starting defensive pair against the Buckeyes two weeks ago in Pegula. Once the rest of the Penn State defense catches up with the freshman, the Nittany Lions’ blue line will turn into a blue and white wall.
Though a few freshmen have continued to play well, one forward who has fallen off and slipped down the leaderboards in the Big Ten and elsewhere: Denis Smirnov. Smirnov started the first half of the season with one of the best collections of performances in the conference. He led the Big Ten in points and assists until he was overtaken by Minnesota standout Tyler Sheehy two weeks ago.
This recent slip in play could be result of a number of things. No one should speculate, but young players like the Russian forward have struggled with consistency throughout collegiate and professional sports for as long as people have been spectating. It is something that can only be conquered with experience and attention from teammates and coaches alike. The freshman phenom will need to return to his former self if his team is to be successful in the post season.
The freshman core that once helped drive this hockey team is struggling and it is showing through the team’s recent record. This is a young team, but a team that is capable of rebounding and making a strong surge through the rest of the season. That will have to start this weekend in Minnesota as the Nittany Lions roll into Mariucci Arena and look to take a game or two from the Golden Gophers.
Travis Sutton is a freshman majoring in telecommunications. To contact him, email him at email@example.com.