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Experience and Youth Highlight Home Opener

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By Andy Kuros, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 11 Penn State displayed a combination of depth, youth, and experience in its 7-5 win against American International in front of its first regular season home crowd of the year at Pegula Ice Arena Thursday evening.

Setting a  season high mark with seven goals, Thursday's outing marked the first time since 2015 seven different Nittany Lions scored at least one goal. 

Head Coach Guy Gadowsky strategically opts to spread the wealth of talent between numerous lines something that plays a role in Penn State's depth.

"That is the plan," Gadowsky said. "We have never been a program that is very effective when we put all our eggs in one basket."

Gadowsky was pleased with Penn State balanced offensive attack and rightfully so.

"We (got) depth and scoring from everybody and when this happens, it's an indication we are going in the right direction," Gadowsky said.  

Although perhaps uncommon, Gadowsky is hoping the Nittany Lions will continue the trend.

"I would love to see more of that," Gadowsky said. "It's encouraging to see seven different goals scorers."

One of the Nittany Lions in the scoring column was freshman defensemen Cole Hults, who scored arguably the most meaningful one of all - his first collegiate goal.

Gadowsky was complementary of Hults, who has been a key contributor for Penn State on both sides of the puck so far this season. "He made a great play in the offensive zone. That was a very nice goal for any forward, let alone a defender."

Although Hults was drafted in the fifth round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, he has been especially impressive in the way he has carried himself on the ice, something Gadowsky made note of postgame.

"He always seems to be comfortable and never appears to be rattled," Gadowsky said. "He doesn't look like he will have any problems in transitioning (to the college game)." 

Thursday night's home opener not only served as a coming out party for Hults, but perhaps a welcoming back for the returning upperclassman.

Forward Chase Berger, who registered 36 total points last season, had a career-high three assists, while  Andrew Sturtz, who finished 2016 with 37 points, tallied one goal and one assist against American International.

Gadowksy praised both Berger and Sturtz not only for their good play, but also their veteran presence on the team.

"He (Chase Berger) played much better, and I thought (Andrew Sturtz) deserves a lot of credit for just being the guy (leader) he is," Gadowsky said. 

Gadowsky also noted the tremendous amount of energy his two juniors brought throughout the first period.

"They got us all going," Gadowsky said. "They provided a real spark for us early."

Forward Denis Smirnov picked up where he left off, finding the back of the net early in the third period. Even though he has scored in each of the past four games, Gadowksy made a point of mentioning his great vision and playmaking skills.

"Any time he is on the ice he is dangerous," Gadowsky said. "He makes things easier for his linemates and people gravitate to him when he has the puck."

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