Men’s Hockey Year in Review
Coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance and Big Ten championship, Penn State men’s hockey had high expectations coming into the 2017-18 season. Many had them as high as the preseason top 5, but inconsistency has plagued the team.
The team started the season by playing .500 hockey, going 4-4 in the month of October. They lost to Clarkson in their season opener before beating St. Lawrence the following night. The Nittany Lions would then split their next four series, against Minnesota, AIC, Michigan, and Mercyhurst.
After being swept by Notre Dame in mid-November, the team embarked on an absolute tear. They went 11 games without a loss, not losing in regulation from Nov. 11 to Jan. 13.
Unfortunately, what goes up must also come down.
They would proceed to go eight games without a win at nearly their most critical stretch. Held without a win against Michigan, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame on three consecutive weekends, Penn State finally got a win on the road against Michigan State.
And when NCAA Tournament hopes seemed on the ropes last weekend with Minnesota in town, the team came through by playing some of its best hockey of the year on the way to sweeping the Golden Gophers. This weekend, they’ll have to notch two wins out of three against the Gophers to keep their season going, in all likelihood.
With any luck, they will be able to count on their most reliable weapons. Andrew Sturtz led the team in points this season with 37, while Brandon Biro (27), and Trevor Hamilton (26) each had over 25 points this year. Denis Smirnov, Chase Berger, and Nate Sucese each had 25 apiece.
Along with Sturtz (+13) and Hamilton (+11), Kevin Kerr has been one of the best plus-minus players on the team at +10. This team has had tremendous help from underclassmen this year. On defense, freshman Cole Hults and sophomores James Gobetz and Kris Myllari have all played major minutes this year.
With the forwards, there are essentially more underclassmen contributing than upperclassmen. Evan Barratt, Alex Limoges and Sam Sternschein have made important contributions as freshmen, combining for 41 points this year. Meanwhile, seven different sophomores, including Biro, Sucese, and Smirnov all have been key cogs in the offense.
Peyton Jones, another sophomore, has appeared in 31 of 34 games this season. With a 15-11-4 record, the starting goaltender has represented his team at times. Very inconsistent, but can turn his game on when the moment requires it. He’ll have to this weekend, as Penn State will host Minnesota in a best-of-three series to try and recapture some of last year’s magic.
Zach Kaplan is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism with a double minor in history and Spanish. To contact him, email Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org.