By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's no surprise that many Penn State men's hockey fans will remember freshman forward Liam Folkes' game-winning goal in the Big Ten Championship game for years to come, but the goal wasn't just luck. Rather, it was the culmination of months of hard work, culminating in a moment that will have Folkes' name etched into Penn State hockey history forever.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky spoke highly of Folkes' performance from the championship game, but added that Folkes was able to produce the game-winning goal because he was playing alongside two phenomenal linemates in freshman Brandon Biro and senior Dylan Richard.
Gadowsky specifically credited Richard's ability to back check during that final play and cause the turnover, which allowed Biro to get possession and pass it down the ice to Folkes.
"Playing with both of them is pretty easy," Biro said. "They move the puck well, they're fast players, so I was just trying to keep up with those two guys."
Biro said he saw Folkes wide open on a breakaway, and praised Folkes' ability to put the puck away and end the double-overtime game. Folkes said his game-winning goal was special not only for his teammates that he's worked alongside all season, but also for the familiar faces he had in the stands cheering him on.
"I had a lot of family there, a lot of friends, so that was just amazing to share that with them," Folkes said.
Prior to his history-making play, Folkes was determined to earn his spot in the lineup and make necessary changes in order to maintain a threatening presence on the ice.
"I think just keeping my foot on the gas pedal," Folkes said. "At times I felt like I was coasting when I eventually got into the lineup, but I figured out II had to keep my feet moving and to be fast to add to my game so I just kept working at that this weekend."
The Nittany Lions have played 37 games so far this season and Folkes has played in 25 of them. With six goals and six assists, his role on the team has been a game-changer since day one. Of Folkes' six goals, three have been game-winners, which is good for second on the team, only one goal behind freshman forward Denis Smirnov.
Two other familiar names also have three game-winning goals each, freshman forward Andrew Sturtz and sophomore defenseman Vince Pedrie.
When it comes to his contributions off the ice, head coach Guy Gadowsky has said before that Folkes is a hard worker in practice, and that culminates in him creating vital opportunities for the Nittany Lions, not just in the Big Ten Championship game. Folkes certainly earned the opportunity to play in the Championship game.
Folkes was reflective when talking about his game-winning goal, but also said there's more to come from this team."The feeling right now is pretty high," Folkes said. "But we know we have to get back to business and take on Union on Saturday."