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Exhibition Provides Starting Point

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By Erin Neri, student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey lost a hard-fought 4-3 overtime battle against Ottawa in an exhibition game Sunday at Pegula Ice Arena. Although an early exhibition, the outing proved to be a productive benchmark for what's ahead for the Nittany Lions. 

All three of the Nittany Lion goals were scored on power play opportunities, the first coming from freshman defenseman Cole Hults' stick in the second period. Sophomore forwards Denis Smirnov and Brandon Biro also respectively contributed goals in the third period. 

Penn State went 3-7 overall on the power play, while Ottawa only went 1-2. Although able to capitalize on opportunities offensively, the Nittany Lions have identified some areas to improve  on the other side of the puck.

"There is some work to be done," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "But because of the familiarity from last year, I thought at least when we got possession we did a pretty good job."

Even though a loss wasn't the outcome the team was hoping for, Gadowsky was still happy with the style of play and what it meant for final preparations ahead of the season opener. 

"I actually thought it was a good game," Gadowsky said. "It gave us a lot to work on and I think we got a lot out of it for an exhibition game."

Many of Penn State's newest freshmen also saw their first ice time in Pegula after a long preseason of captains practices and off-ice workouts. Even though the rookies played strong on their lines, there is still a long road ahead.

"I think it's good to get that first game over with," Gadowsky said. "It is a step up, but I don't think there was anything that really stood out."

Hults, specifically, arrived in Happy Valley with an impressive resume and high expectations on defense. During his first game at Pegula, Hults did not disappoint. The freshman scored his first collegiate goal to tie up the game halfway through the second period, forcing a goalie change for the Gee-Gees.

"I think he knew there was a possibility he would be playing in that position specifically because he's replacing Vince Pedrie and that's where he played on the power play," Gadowsky said. 

Hults committed to Penn State not long after Pedrie signed with the New York Rangers after last season and since his arrival, Gadowsky noted on media day that the Wisconsin native would be poised to skate alongside Autio as Pedrie's replacement.

Although the pair has only been together for about a week and a half at this point, while on the ice together, Autio and Hults displayed early potential,  both assisting on Smirnov's goal in the second period. 

"I thought it was nice to see them play, but it the experiment is not over," Gadowsky said. "But we didn't see anything that tells us it's not going to work."

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