Shorthanded Defense Shines in Sweep of UAH

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By Pat White Student GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In an electric atmosphere, both on the ice and in the stands, at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion as Penn State (12-13) posted a two-game series sweep of Alabama-Huntsville (3-19-1) this past weekend, even with a shorthanded defense.


Varley-Connor.jpegThe defense was undermanned due to injury against the Chargers, forcing Gadowsky to play five defensemen on Friday night. The unit took another hit with an injury to Joseph Lordo (St. Louis, Mo.) on Friday to thin the line even more.

Gadowsky leaned heavily on freshman Connor Varley (Lansdale, Pa.) to make up for the loss on defense. Varley's great conditioning played a major factor in the wins because of his puck moving abilities and his recovery on transition to break up plays.

A telling stat of the dedication to the team was the Nittany Lions 31 combined block shots on the weekend. Despite being thin on the blue line, guys sacrificed their bodies to alleviate some of the pressure on freshman goaltender Matt Skoff (McKees Rock, Pa.).

Freshman Kenny Brooks (Las Vegas, Nev.) was a huge part of the defensive success. Brooks scored a goal and added two helpers this weekend, but it was the little things he did that made a major impact. Brooks' style of play is a hardworking grinder who wins battles along the boards. He is a key cog on a line with David Glen (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.) that has really helped Glen's offensive numbers.

"I couldn't as for more in a line mate," Glen said of Brooks. "He works as hard as he can on every shift. He makes plays on both sides of the puck and that makes it much easier on me to try and get open. He's a heck of a player."

Brooks also pitched in on defense, logging some minutes in the absence of Lordo. He blocked a few shots and broke up some plays in the neutral zone with a fierce backchecking. Brooks said he played some defense while playing junior hockey in the USHL and Gadowsky described him as a hockey player's, hockey player.

"When Kenny scores, the team gets jacked up," Gadowsky said. "He's the type of guy that you love to see score because he does so many little things. He goes back and plays defense, kills a 5-on-3 and it's fitting that he scored that goal for us (Saturday)."

Freshman Mark Yanis (Grosse Pointe, Mich.) showed the greatest aspect of his game this weekend: heart. The big 6-foot-3 defender is still recovering from a broken ankle that sidelined him for two months, but he blocked a shot on Saturday while killing a penalty that shook him up a bit. Minutes later, he was rewarded with the game-winning goal when he teed up a slap shot that found the back of the net.

"It was a major change of pace," Yanis said. "A kid ripped a shot that hit between the ankle and my shot blocker. I couldn't really feel my leg for a while and rubbed it off and went back out there. The puck kind of came back to me right in my wheelhouse and I just buried it...I couldn't have had a better feeling than that."

Gadowsky was proud of his players after grinding out a 4-3 win on Saturday night. It would have been easy for the team to make excuses for being shorthanded, but Penn State battled back and showed its' resilience.

"You have to give them a lot of credit. I think it was really fitting that the game-winning goal was scored by a defenseman," Gadowsky said. "That's tough to do especially the second night. [Our defenders] had a hard night [on Friday] and I thought they did a great job [Saturday]."

On the offensive side, Glen led the way for the Nittany Lions, scoring four goals including the first ever hat trick for Penn State since becoming a Division I program.

"It's a really great honor," said Glen. "All the credit goes to my teammates, they made great plays all night. They were able to set me up in great positions and I was lucky enough to get a few [goals]...I'm happy to be a part of [history]."

Glen has scored in so many ways this season and does so many little things that make him such a fun player to watch.

"He knocks pucks out of the air, he scores highlight reel goals, he scores dirty goals," Gadowsky said. "He's not just a perimeter shooter, he gets dirty, and he plays as hard defensively as he does offensively. He is good on faceoffs and leads the team in hits. He does so many little things."

Glen also added an assist on Saturday, tying him with a team-high 25 points with fellow freshman Casey Bailey (Anchorage, Alaska). Glen now has 16 goals on the season, which is tied for sixth in the NCAA.

The series was unofficially dubbed the "Independent League Mega Bowl" because Penn State and UAH are the only two independent teams in NCAA Division I hockey and Gadowsky said it was a good motivator for the team to come out and win.

"It meant something to them," Gadowsky said. "Two independent teams and to play with four defensemen it's easy to have a built-in excuse to not play hard...I feel good about this weekend."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

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