Previewing Penn State Men’s Hockey in 2020

Story posted November 9, 2020 in Sports, CommRadio by Christopher Hess

With the start of Big Ten hockey just around the corner, the Penn State Nittany Lions enter the 2020-2021 season defending their Big Ten regular season championship, the first in the program’s short history.

Similar to the 2016-2017 Nittany Lions that became the nation’s No. 1 team at one point and eventual Big Ten Tournament champions, this team will have to deal with an incredible amount of roster turnover, losing 10 players to graduation and leaving early.

Players like Evan Barratt, Cole Hults, Liam Folkes, Peyton Jones, Denis Smirnov and Nikita Pavlychev all played intricate roles in boosting Penn State hockey into the national spotlight. But they’re all gone this year.

Guy Gadowsky will have to usher in a new era with some familiar faces alongside plenty of new ones.

The Nittany Lions added eight freshmen and one graduate transfer to the roster. The new players have been adjusting to Penn State in this “different year,” according to head coach Guy Gadowsky.

Two freshmen that Gadowsky had mentioned directly in his preseason media day press conference, Christian Berger and Jimmy Dowd, are players that can move the puck well. He’s also “very comfortable” with the other players he has brought in.

Graduate transfer Tim Doherty came over from Maine, where he registered 64 points in three seasons with the Black Bears. He brings a unique skillset to Gadowsky’s team.

“He’s a deceptive player,” Gadowsky said. “He’s really a fun player to watch.”

As for the returning players, Alex Limoges, Aarne Talvitie and Paul DeNaples are the three captains that will look to build on a championship season.

Limoges was recently named to the preseason All-Big Ten first team and has chalked up 103 points as a Nittany Lion thus far.

Talvitie is another player on the offense that will need to step up after recovering from a torn ACL suffered in the World Junior Championships during his freshman season.

Although he only recorded 19 points last season as a sophomore, Gadowsky says that Talvitie has been making great strides ever since that injury.

“He looks very comfortable, very confident, very powerful,” Gadowsky said. “There’s a very visible change to the confidence he has.”

In the defensive end, DeNaples and Clayton Phillips will likely be the team’s top defensive pair, and other players such as Evan Bell, Mason Snell and Alex Stevens will also play roles in anchoring the defense.

With Peyton Jones graduating, the goaltending situation is still up in the air. Gadowsky will have the choice of either junior Oskar Autio or freshman Liam Soulière.

Autio has seen action in just eight games through two seasons, boasting a 1.87 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in five games played last year.

Soulière, on the other hand, comes in as a highly touted freshman and will surely challenge Autio for the starting spot between the pipes.

Penn State will open its season on Nov. 19 at Mariucci Arena against Minnesota with the puck drop time and broadcast coverage being determined at a later date.

 

Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email christopherhess22@gmail.com.