Midseason Review: Forwards
With 19 regular season games left and all but one game against Big Ten opponents, the Nittany Lions are going into the belly of the season. Of those 19 games, 15 of them will be against teams that obtained votes in the most recent USCHO poll. 11 of those games are against teams ranked in the top 13 or higher.
This is part one of a three part series focusing on each individual player and what they have done through the first 15 games of the season. Part one will be forwards, part two the defensemen and lastly the three goalies will be meshed together with a breakdown of the special teams and an overall team evaluation. 3
Granted, he has only appeared in five games of 15 total games at this point of the season. When Friedman has played, he has brought tons of energy to the team and continues to epitomize what a true, “role player” should be. Not a big guy, but I like what he brings to the table anytime he’s in the lineup; speed and two-way play. Friedman keeps showing that he deserves a spot in the lineup.
Same thing that goes for Friedman applies for McDonagh, but to a lesser degree. McDonagh is another guy that had something to prove before last season, because he was a club player ‘carry-over,’ that had to earn his way on the team and into the lineup. When he has been put on a line with Ricky DeRosa and Tommy Olczyk, they have screamed, “solid third line material”. It actually seems like anyone that has been paired with DeRosa and Olczyk seem to play well.
It has been pretty incredible to see how Goodwin has been able to transition to the collegiate game so quickly, especially against the competition the Nittany Lions have faced.
Goodwin has stepped up and been one of the main sources of offense for a team that has only scored 37 total goals and getting minimal offensive production out of their top three scorers from last season (Bailey, Glen and Gardiner). Additionally, Goodwin is second in the Big Ten among freshmen in faceoff win percentage, behind Minnesota’s Gabe Guertler. He has also seen a good amount of time on the first power play unit as of late, alongside Eric Scheid and Zach Saar, which goes to show that head coach Guy Gadowsky is confident in Goodwin in important situations, despite only being a freshman.
Glen entered the season as the best pure goal scorer for the Nittany Lions, but the jury was still out on what he would do in year two against much better teams. After leading the team in goals last season, the first-year alternate captain submitted a disappointing one goal and two assists at the midway point.
Glen began the season with back-to-back game misconducts against RIT and Vermont and that subsequently led to a game suspension by Gadowsky, in order to get his mind back together. Since then, it seems like Glen looks like a shell of his old self and it is tough to see that from a guy that looked so promising last season.
What made him so unique last year was his ability to put the puck in the net, while also being a presence defensively, with a little edge tossed in there.
I thought he would make his way on the radar of some NHL scouts looking for undrafted college free agents. The thing is, I know he's really trying to get back to his old self and trying to find a middle ground of being the scorer he showed he is, mixed with that physical presence.
One positive: his 54% faceoff win percentage, which is third on the team, behind Holstrom and Goodwin.
He has been a great two-way forward, something that fits the mold of a Gadowsky system, and just seems to do everything right with what looks like little effort. His time with fellow freshman David Goodwin for most of the first half of the season helped build chemistry between the two and showed how poised beyond their years they both are.
Those two are on the path to be this season’s Glen and Kenny Brooks. Richard has seen more ice time than he probably expected, because of how easy his transition has been, similar to Goodwin’s. I would not be surprised if he has a letter on the front of his jersey in his junior year season (2015-2016 season) once Olczyk and Jensen graduate.
Brooks has been a stable presence in the Nittany Lions lineup since he threw on the Blue and White, appearing in all but two games since the start of last season. Some of his attributes that have made him a lineup regular are his strength down low in the zone (a Gadowsky system must), not being afraid to throw the body, and having a nose for getting to the net and creating chances. The only thing is, he is not really putting up the numbers offensively like he did last season. But because of the intangibles he brings, he still gets a decent grade.
What can you say about captain himself? Gadowsky has mentioned time in and time out that Olczyk does things that you sometimes do not notice because they don’t show up on the stat sheets or in most game stories. He prides himself in his ability to do the little things right that usually get overlooked, such as forechecking, penalty killing, blocking shots and bringing energy to the lineup.
Olczyk’s importance goes beyond his play on the ice. When Penn State suffered penalty issues for most of the first 15 games, most notably after their 5-2 loss against Vermont, Olczyk stepped up and voiced his displeasures like any good captain should.
“I watched the same video as guys on my team did about the new rules that the refs are enforcing this year,” said Olczyk. “I don’t know if guys were sleeping during the video. It’s monotonous and boring to watch, but those are the new rules. That’s how the game is nowadays.”
He got off to a fast start with a goal in the inaugural game at Pegula Ice Arena and then another against RIT in the next home game. The start was encouraging for those hoping to see a follow-up season out of the Glen-Brooks-Loik trio that was the most consistent unit last season for the Nittany Lions.
When the line of Loik, Glen and Brooks reunite on occasions, they seem to instantly find a way to click. But since that hot start to this season, Loik has been practically non-existent. He missed the two home games against UMass Lowell due to an undisclosed reason, (which Gadowsky hinted at grade issues during the follow week’s media availability). Following that, Loik did not dress for the home game against Sacred Heart.
Big guys like Max Gardiner and Casey Bailey thrived in Gadowsky’s physical, crash-the-net system last season, and so far Saar seems to be doing the same exact thing. Before the start of the season, Olczyk warned people to keep an eye on Saar, and the forward has proven his captain right.
Saar has used his 6-foot-4, 236 pound frame to his advantage, by establishing positioning in front of the net for scoring opportunities. I can even confirm myself that he is on the radar of the Winnipeg Jets scouts. So that means he is doing something right if NHL teams have their eye on him as potential undrafted free agent material. His one downfall has been some occasional meaningless penalties that have led to opposing team power play goals.
I knew coming into the season that the former Alaska Anchorage player would be an “X-factor,” because of his experience in the former WCHA conference. He started the year as a penalty killing dynamo when the team was having their penalty issues. His hard work on the penalty kill with guys like Olczyk and Koudys made him stand out early.
But since then, like Goodwin, Scheid has stepped up to become one of the main pieces offensively to a team lacking go-to threats. Also, it’s hard not to give the guy that leads the team in goals (8) and points (13) some much needed praise. His speed is also another asset that has helped him become one of the most important players for Penn State through 15 games.
The freshman was not able to crack the lineup until the third game of the season, but since then he has become a strong staple for the Nittany Lions.
DeRosa seems to be cut from the cloth of guys like Olczyk, epitomizing what “Penn State Hockey” and Gadowsky’s system is all about. DeRosa’s maturation process has been quick. Lately, he has been alongside Olczyk and Saar and they have been the Nittany Lions best line on both sides of the ice. What applies for Richard, also goes for DeRosa...I could very well see him grab a captaincy for the 2015-2016 season.
Milley’s inability to stay healthy not only this season, but most of last season, hurt his stock and it makes it tough to gauge what to expect from him. Last season, he only appeared in nine games due to a hip injury. Now this year, he has only appeared in seven games while battling an undisclosed lower body injury.
I imagined the trees of Milley, Saar and Casey Bailey finding themselves on the same line at the beginning of the season and maybe forming some chemistry to make for a punishing trio, causing pain to other teams.
Milley did have a solid Three Rivers Classic against Robert Morris and Boston College, including setting up Bailey for the first goal of the game against Boston College. Now that he is back in the lineup, he is someone to keep an eye out on with Big Ten play starting.
Just based off the common statistics, two goals and one assist, Bailey has definitely been a huge disappointment at this point just like Glen.
Disappointment comes, after Bailey led the team in points last season and finished second in goals behind Glen. Both he and Glen built themselves an early reputation of being key offensives pieces for this program, but have not been even close to following that up.
In the season’s first half, Bailey unsuspectedly had a four-game disappearance from the lineup. That cannot happen to a guy with enough talent to get an invite to Boston Bruins development camp this past summer.
The thing is, it’s not like he’s not creating opportunities. Bailey leads the team with 56 shots and in his last eight games played, he has had at least five shots on goal.
H does seem to be on the uptick as of late, most notably scoring the first goal of the game against Boston College in the Three Rivers Classic Championship game.
Gadowsky has mentioned before Bailey and Glen... once they find the back of the net, it might be only a matter of time before they start going on a run and return to the form we saw them at last season.
Gardiner missed two games due to injury after a first period hit against UMass Lowell on November 14th, but returned to the lineup in the second game against Union, after Thanksgiving Break. In addition, he was not in the lineup for both of the recent Three Rivers Classic games.
Last season, Gardiner had a hot second half, to finish third on the team in points and first in assists. So, maybe he could be a late bloomer again this season. However, even when he has been in the lineup this season, he has not really done anything to merit any attention, possibly displaying his failure to adapt to the level of competition.
Like Gardiner, Holstrom enjoyed a good second half of last season, when he was on a line with Gardiner and Bailey.
The stretch included game-winning goals in the three “program wins” against Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. At the midway point this season, he leads the team in the circle with a 57 percent faceoff win percentage and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in that category.
Holstrom has been on a line with Scheid for most of the season and seems to have found his place with him, following the lack of production from Bailey and Gardiner.
Holstrom dealt with an unnamed lower body injury after leaving the game against Sacred Heart, but has still managed to be one of seven Nittany Lions to appear in all 15 games.
Ross Insana is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.