By Pat White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was an emotional rollercoaster ride for Penn State men's hockey (13-14-0) in its first season as a Division I program. In the first installment of this two part series we take a look at the maturation of the offensive unit on the ice for the Nittany Lions.
There were many highlight goals that came this season on the offensive side of the ice for Penn State. Freshmen Casey Bailey (Anchorage, Alaska) and David Glen (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.) provided the bulk of the goals for the Nittany Lions, a trend which began the first weekend of the season.
Bailey scored the first Division I goal for Penn State on Oct. 12 in the season opening loss to American International. Glen got his season off to a roaring offensive start the next day in Wilkes-Barre, netting two goals against AIC including the game-winner in overtime.
A majority of the offense was generated by Glen and Bailey's lines. Bailey primarily played with sophomore Max Gardiner (Deephaven, Minn.) and junior Taylor Holstrom (Yorba Linda, Calif.) and combined to score 26 goals for the Nittany Lions. In the final 11 games of the season playing together, the three forwards combined for 17 goals and 26 assists.
Glen's line with fellow freshmen Curtis Loik (North Vancouver, B.C.) and Kenny Brooks (Las Vegas, Nev.) formed to be a 200-foot hockey line. They played a complete brand of hockey that encompassed all facets of the game.
Glen was the scorer on the line, leading the team with 16 goals. Glen had a knack for scoring goals in a variety of ways and was a threat from all over the ice. Brooks was what head coach Guy Gadowsky described as a "hockey player's hockey player." Brooks did all the little things; winning board battles, backchecking, killing penalties and being a disruptive force. Loik provided some secondary scoring and space for Glen to get to scoring areas.
"Both of our lines were hardworking lines," Bailey said. "They controlled the play with a lot of puck possession. I think with Holstrom and Gardiner, we were a little more run and gun. A lot of [offense] came from getting pucks deep and going to the net."
Penn State's offense always seemed to come up big on the big stage. The Holstrom/Bailey/Gardiner line was assembled on Dec. 29 in a game against future Big Ten opponent Ohio State. The trio combined for five goals and four assists and kicked off Holstrom's coming out party.
Holstrom finished the season on a tear, scoring eight goals and dishing out six assists down the stretch. He scored three game-winning goals on the season, all against Big Ten opponents, and said those were big games and that the team played especially well. He was proud of his team's play and was particularly proud of his game-winning tally against Wisconsin.
"It felt great [scoring those goals],"Holstrom said. "When you're put in those situations you always want to be that guy and luckily enough I was."
The Penn State power play was remarkably inconsistent all season scoring just 12 goals on 106 opportunities. Despite the power play struggles, Penn State was 10-2 when scoring a power play goal. The power play got an added jolt when freshman defenseman Mark Yanis (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) returned from a two month ankle injury.
"When we put that power play unit together it excited the guys," Bailey said. "Gardiner does a good job of taking away the goalie's eyes and when Yanis was [on the point] taking shots it was always a plus for our team."
Toward the end of the season, Gadowsky opted to use four forwards on the power play along with Yanis. Gardiner had a newfound role in front of the net clearing space and deflecting shots. Glen worked the wings with Bailey, providing multiple shooting options and making the power play more dangerous.
"You need guys that can score and can take a beating in front of the net," Holstrom said. "I think that [the power play] will continue to evolve with a few more recruiting classes. It gives us a little bit of a boost and helps us gain some momentum."
The freshmen class accounted for 58.2 percent of Penn State's points. The immediate impact was unexpected, but needed in the Nittany Lions first season at the varsity level.
"We didn't know what to expect with a lot of freshmen," Glen said. "We started building the foundation in the beginning of the year by working hard, backchecking hard, and going to the net. Everything seemed to come together at the end in the win [at Wisconsin]."