Player Spotlight: Sam Sternschein
A slow start to the 2017 campaign for Penn State men’s hockey has led to a lot of questions surrounding Guy Gadowsky’s program. Peyton Jones has struggled in goal, and the defense, in general, has yet to come together. The team currently sits tied for third in the Big Ten with three wins and four losses.
Despite the team’s struggles, Sam Sternschein has been a pleasant surprise for the Lions. The freshman forward has notched at least one point in three of his last four games. In that span, the Nittany Lions are unbeaten, winning three games and registering a tie against Michigan State.
“We’ve just got to keep the momentum going. Take the last four games and use them going forward to this weekend,” Sternschein said. “We do that, and we keep playing the way we have been, things are going to go our way,”
Sternschein entered the season as a lower profile member of the freshman class, behind top draft picks Evan Barratt and Cole Hults. Barratt was kept off the ice early in the season due to injuries but has since started to find his game, tallying six points thus far. Hults has been a great addition to the Nittany Lions defense, replacing Vince Pedrie, who left to the NHL following last season. Hults has played in every Penn State game thus far and has recorded 11 points. He is also tied with Andrew Sturtz for a team best +8 rating while on the ice.
Sternschein first saw ice time around the same time as Barratt, but has had to work to earn his minutes. Since he has taken the ice, Coach Guy Gadowsky has not been disappointed.
“He has done what he needs to do with Denis [Smirnov] out to earn a regular place in the lineup,” Gadowsky said.
Before coming to Penn State, Sternschein was a member of the Lincoln Stars of the United States Hockey League (USHL). While with the Stars he scored 20 goals and added 12 assists but his shot was what had Gadowsky so impressed.
“Sam has good offensive instincts, and finds open ice to get his great shot off,” Gadowsky said.
Sternschein ranked inside the top 20 of the USHL in goal scoring and has continued to be aggressive while at Penn State. Especially with Denis Smirnov off the ice, his presence has been a welcome addition to the lineup, and he has earned more time moving forward. Smirnov himself entered his freshman season as a less touted recruit. However, he worked his way to being a regular in the lineup and eventually emerged as a star for the Nittany Lions. Sternschein is not quite there yet, but he has shown brilliant flashes with his goal scoring ability.
“Obviously the guys are bigger and stronger here, and a little faster. It took a few shifts, few games to get used to but I feel pretty good now, and I’m just going to keep playing my game,” Sternschein said.
Brian McLaughlin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.