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Freshman Feature: Sternschein Adds to Offense

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Growing up just down the road from the New York Islanders practice facility in Syosset, New York, Penn State freshman Sam Sternschein was introduced to hockey at a very young age. Skating lessons for him started at an early age and from there, learning to play hockey wasn't too far behind.

Since his early days on the ice, Sternshein has grown into a 6-foot-1-inch aggressive offensive option for the Nittany Lions. Originally verbally committed to Cornell in 2013, once he stepped on campus, Sternschein knew Hockey Valley was where he belonged.

"You come here you go to a game you see the fan base and the Roar Zone," Sternschein said. "From the coaching staff to the academic opportunities, it's exactly where I wanted to be."

The power forward does bring success with him from his past years in the USHL. The righty shooter ended his four season USHL career with the Lincoln Stars, after being traded from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders.

In his 45 games with the Stars, he registered 20 goals and 12 assists for 32 points, good for fourth best on the team. Even though the transition from juniors to college might seem like a big leap, Sternschein doesn't see it that way.

"A lot of those guys [in the USHL] played here, so the adjustment isn't too big," Sternschein said. "The biggest thing is guys are bigger and stronger."

The freshman forward is joining some successful Lincoln Stars alumni now playing for the Blue and White in senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton and sophomore goalie Peyton Jones.

Although he is a freshman, Sternschein is already contributing to the team. He earned both his first point and assist in his collegiate debut Friday night against Meryhurst. He was originally credited with the goal, before it was overturned to fellow freshman Alex Limoges, who was in front of the net to knock in the rebound.

"My first few shifts I was a little nervous, but playing in front of all the fans here and just playing my first college hockey game was really special," Sternschein said. "Those are two games I'll always remember."

After seeing Sternschein in action for the first time, coach Guy Gadowsky did note he liked the size and release of his shot, something he has been working on.

"I like his presence," Gadowsky said. "Size doesn't do anything to me unless your aggressive and he is, he seems to get in there."

For Strenschein, he'll continue to work toward growing his role on the team moving forward with the season.

"I'm here to play, I want to play," Sternschein said. "I'm just going to take advantage of my chance."    

Penn State Building Upon Positives

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Headed into its second consecutive week on the road, Penn State men's hockey has a lot of positives to build upon before traveling to the west coast to play Arizona State.

Pulling from game two of last weekend's series at Notre Dame, the Nittany Lions held the Fighting Irish to only one goal in an all-out defensive showcase. Although Penn State didn't put any goals in the back of the net despite various opportunities to do so, head coach Guy Gadowsky was still happy with the performance. 

"We had a lot of 'grade A' opportunities that we never finish on but we take that game any day, we really would," Gadowsky said. "If we could bottle that, we take that game against anyone."

The blue line stepped up and showcased improvements Gadowsky has been looking for all season, allowing zero power play goals through the entire series against the best power play scoring unit in the Big Ten. The defense also held one of the nation's top goal scorers, Jake Evans, to a lone assist throughout the weekend. 

Strength in the defense zone also led to better goaltending on behalf of sophomore Peyton Jones, who totaled 40 saves throughout the series and earned the third star in Saturday night's game.

"As Kyle MacDonald our goaltending coach said, 'It takes one game to turn the tide on goaltenders,'" Gadowsky said. "We know what Peyton can do and we have a ton of faith in him." 

For Gadowsky, it's something he hopes will boost Jones' confidence as well as that of the defense, sparking more improvement going forward.

On the other side of the puck, Nikita Pavlychev has been able to find the back on the net on a more consistent basis this season. Using his 6-foot-7-inch stature along with his aggressive style of play to his advantage, Pavlychev has become an integral part of Penn State's offense.

The sophomore forward registered a career-best point streak and extended his goal streak to four games going into game two at South Bend before it was snapped. 

"He actually had a lot of opportunities last year but he struggled in hitting the net," Gadowsky said. "Whereas this year, I know that's something he has really focused on in the summer and it's starting to pay off."

By the time game 12 arrived, Pavlychev had registered only two goals, but this season he has boosted his total to five goals headed into game 13.

The Russian native has been able to hone in on his shooting skills at the Pittsburgh Penguins development camp, where he spent this past summer. The Penguins drafted Pavlychev in the 2015 NHL Draft in the seventh round.

"He works hard every day, he really takes pride in playing in his own end," junior forward Andrew Sturtz said. "It's tough to do that every night and it might not always show up on the scoreboard, but those little things are what's going to help us win." 

As noted by Gadowsky, it's doing the little things that will ultimately lead to success for the Nittany Lions, and Pavlychev is helping to move things in the right direction.

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State remains on the road this week, headed to Arizona State for a weekend series. Check in with Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions Nikita Pavlychev and Blake Gober for a closer look at the week in review and what's ahead. 

Gadowsky

Pavlychev, Gober

Penn State Turning Focus Inward

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State men's hockey, success is found in doing the little things, something that's at the forefront of weekly preparations for the Nittany Lions.

"We know we have to improve, but just trying to do the small things right every day," assistant captain and senior defenseman Erik Autio said.

The Nittany Lions travel to Indiana this weekend, returning to Big Ten play against the newest conference member, Notre Dame. Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky isn't making the focus totally on the opposition this week in practice though, instead the focusing on improvements within the program.

"Right now we're all on us," Gadowsky said. "Where we are, I don't care if it's conference or nonconference, it's pretty well defined what we are doing this week."

After tying the Fighting Irish in game one of last year's series in South Bend, a win in game two marked the beginning of an 11 game win-streak for the Nittany Lions. In order for history to repeat itself this weekend, the defensive unit has to improve.

A point of emphasis for the Blue and White has been defending against the odd man rush. Last weekend alone, the blue line allowed three goals on nine power play opportunities.

"I think we have to initiate starting defense earlier," Autio said.  "Right now we're backing up too much on top of the goalie." 

Penn State's skillset on defense will be put to the test this weekend with the Fighting Irish already finding success in scoring on the odd man rush. Notre Dame leads the Big Ten offensively on the power play, converting their last nine of 35 opportunities.

The Nittany Lions will also look to rectify a slow start coming off puck drop. Mercyhurst scored in the first 13 seconds of game one, something the Nittany Lions will look to reverse headed into a four-game road swing.

"We just have to come in with the mentality of winning the first five minutes," senior defenseman Trevor Hamilton said.

The areas of improvement don't fall solely on the shoulders of the defensemen though, rather on the team as a whole. As Hamilton noted, it's a group effort for both forwards and defenseman to get back and help the goalies. 

On a more positive note, freshman Cole Hults continues to step up, making an impact in his first season for the Nittany Lions.  

Hults registered a pair of assists in each game of last weekend's series, extending his career-high point streak to eight games. He's also continuing to build the connection alongside Autio as line partners. 

"I feel like we have a lot of chemistry, we've been building that ever since he stepped on campus," Autio said. "Obviously he's an amazing player, a smart player, so it's really easy to play with him."

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey hits the road this weekend, having closed out a six-game homestand splitting the series against Mercyhurst. The Nittany Lions now travel to Notre Dame to meet the Fighting Irish for a weekend series beginning Friday, Nov. 10 at 7:35 p.m. in South Bend, Indiana. Check in with head coach Guy Gadowsky and a few Nittany Lions ahead of the road trip. 

Gadowsky

Autio, Funkey

Career Performances Lift Lions

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After losing the first game of the weekend series to Mercyhurst, Penn State men's hockey bounced back on Saturday night in record-setting fashion.

Saturday night, the Blue and White came out fast and aggressive, with senior forward captain James Robinson scoring his first of three consecutive goals on the night at 2:33 in the first period.

"Having a hot start tonight was something that we stressed right from the end of the game last night," Robinson said. "Getting that momentum rolling for the whole game was big for our team."

Center Chase Berger, Liam Folkes, Nikita Pavlychev and Andrew Sturtz also added goals in the 7-5 victory.

While head coach Guy Gadowsky noted after game one he was disappointed in his defensive unit, following game two, he was quick to give the Lakers their due credit on offense, despite a better performance.

"I really like the way Mercyhurst plays, we have to give them some credit here," Gadowsky said. "They have so much speed through the middle, it really caused us problems, I have to give them props."

Sturtz stole the show with his record-setting performance in game two of the series. The junior forward rose to No. 1 on the Penn State all-time goals list, passing Casey Bailey with his 46th career goal.

Sturtz scored on an empty net to help solidify a Nittany Lion win in the final minute of play in the third period. The goal was also Sturtz's eighth short-handed goal of his career, only furthering his own program record.

"He [Sturtz] obviously did some great things and that accolade of breaking Casey Bailey's record, that's extremely impressive and extremely well deserved," Gadowsky said. "It's great that it comes on such a great game for him."

In addition, the righty shooter also set a pair of Penn State single-game records, with four assists and five points. However, amidst all the record-book climbing, Sturtz didn't take the sole credit for his success, instead giving thanks to all his past and present teammates.

"Obviously it was something special to get it," Sturtz said. "I think a big credit to all those goals goes to every player I've played with over my two and a half years here."

Robinson also shared some of the spotlight, scoring the fifth hat trick in program history in the first two periods. Like Sturtz though, Robinson also shared the credit with the rest of the team.

"It was obviously super cool to put three in the back of the net," Robinson said. "However, stuff like that doesn't happen without your line mates and your teammates."

The trio of Robinson, Sturtz and Berger formed the first line of Saturday night's a game, a line that was non-existent Friday. While Berger and Sturtz did play together on the second line of game one, Robinson played on line four.

The line put up monster numbers, combining for five goals and five assists, but the idea to string together just the right combination of Nittany Lions didn't come from the coaching staff.

"I'd love to tell you it came from great minds of the coaching staff but it didn't, it came from a player," Gadowsky said.

Although he was reluctant to say who exactly came up with the idea, Gadowsky did note he was absolutely right in his thinking piece the trio together.

Nittany Lions Building Improvements

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After splitting its fourth weekend series in a row, Penn State men's hockey is moving forward, using a productive weekend series against Michigan as a boost in confidence.

Following a thrilling overtime goal by sophomore forward Blake Gober to clinch a win in Friday night's Big Ten home opener, the Nittany Lions fell short in game two. Head coach Guy Gadowsky was far from disappointed with his team though, noting the Nittany Lions played their best two games of the season.

"It was actually the first night [Friday night], win or lose, I was really, really happy, honestly," Gadowsky said. "Even if we lost in overtime, I would have been really happy, we definitely got back to our roots."

Crashing the Net
For the Nittany Lions, part of getting back to their roots means shooting the puck. 

Penn State racked up 98 total shots on goal throughout the series, holding a 54-35 advantage against Michigan in game one.  The shot total marked the first time the Nittany Lions have registered more than 50 shots since putting 63 shots on goal against Minnesota in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

"I think you really have to get a team philosophy and a team concept that sticks to everyone and that is difficult," Gadowsky said. "We're extremely confident in what we do and how we do it."

As Penn State will certainly work toward building its shot production, if there's anything last weekend's series shows, it's clear the Nittany Lions are headed in the right direction. 

"I don't think it's the number so much as the mentality," junior captain Chase Berger said. "We've seen if we shoot the puck a lot we can score, it works."

Although the outcome wasn't as pleasing from Friday to Saturday,, Gadowsky was still satisfied with the overall performance he saw on the ice.

"If we play that way, we're going to win a lot more games than we lose," Gadowsky said. "It was exciting to see, and a relief."

Improvements on the Blue Line
Gadowsky has noted since media day, that solidifying the Nittany Lion defense would be a top priority.. While the defensive unit as a whole is still looking to hit their stride, a few new pairings are showing some promise. 

Freshman Cole Hults and senior captain Erik Autio skated together this weekend, while Gadowsky tried out the pairing of sophomore Kris Myllari and senior Trevor Hamilton, as well as sophomore James Gobetz and junior Derian Hamilton. 

"We haven't fully made up our mind yet but I'm leaning toward keeping things the same," Gadowsky said.

Hults has been especially effective in his rookie season, registering a first period assist in game one and a third period assist the following night to continuing his six game point streak.

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey remains at home this week, set to welcome Mercyhurst for a weekend series concluding a six-game home stand. Following a 1-1 weekend at home, check in with head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions Chase Berger and Cole Hults. 

Gadowsky

Berger, Hults

Nittany Lions Resilient in OT Win

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By Andy Kuros, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A game-winning overtime goal by sophomore forward Blake Gober completed No.15 Penn State's comeback win against Michigan in a 5-4 victory Friday night. 

Junior forward Chase Berger's game-tying goal at the end of regulation set the stage for Gober, who sent the packed crowd at Pegula Ice Arena home happy after scoring his first goal of the season to cap the victory. 

"I just went to the net," Gober said. "Then when I looked up I saw my teammates screaming."

Coming on the heels of a stinging overtime loss last weekend, Friday's Big Ten home opener against Michigan was a different story for the Nittany Lions.

"I think these guys are mentally tough", Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "This game showed it." 

It was earlier this week that Gadowsky noted the Nittany Lions are still in the process of finding their identity, with the focus set on getting back to exactly what it is that lifted them to the success they experienced last year. 

"I thought we played our best game," Gadowsky said postgame. "We absolutely got back to our identity and it felt really good. It felt like us again." 

For junior forward Andrew Sturtz, who tallied one goal and a critical third period assist, the Nittany Lions are making progress.

"Our team worked hard tonight, from top to bottom," Sturtz said. "I think our performance was a step in the right direction."

With an emphasis on shot production also stemming from the 1-1 home opening weekend, Penn State made it clear Gadowsky's voice was heard.

"We got our pucks to the net," Sturtz said. "Our line had a target of 20 shots on goal and we finished with 15. We'll take that."

Penn State's physical play against a hard-nosed Big Ten team also satisfied Gadowksy.  

"It was a really tough and physical hockey game and that is the style we like to play," Gadowsky said. 

Penn State fell behind by two goals early in the first period, trailing Michigan three separate times throughout the game. The Nittany Lions, however, battled back. 

Freshman forward Alex Limoges, whose first collegiate goal tied the game at three in the third period, noted the continuous display of fight, regardless of the score. 

"I think we have a lot of resiliency," Limoges said. "The focus of winning the game was always there."

Michigan head coach Mel Pearson was also impressed with Penn State's ability to fight back as adversity struck. 

"We would get ahead and they would come back," Pearson said. "I give them credit for staying in it."

Penn State will attempt to complete the sweep against Michigan Saturday, preparing for game two in Pegula Ice Arena. Puck drop is set for 8 p.m.

Nittany Lions Embracing Positives

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By Erin Neri, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey split its opening series at home against American International College this past weekend. While winning the first game of the series 7-5 Thursday night, the Nittany Lions dropped a 3-2 overtime loss Friday night. 

While the team did have an extra day to recover from the weekend, Coach Guy Gadowsky noted Penn State will be working hard in practice this week to continue the process of finding its identity this year.

"We have to get back to doing what we do very well," Gadowsky said. "It's not easy to play the way we play, it's actually very difficult and very taxing, but we have to get back to it."

For Gadowsky, it's a gradual process though, something that isn't solved with just a flick of a switch.

"You have to work on it, you have to stress it and the biggest thing is you have to buy in," Gadowsky said. "Not only when the coaches are there, what happens when we leave the locker room. That's what's important."

There were some flashes of progress during the weekend's home opening series though, starting with a few newcomers. Freshman defenseman Cole Hults stepped up, named Thursday night's second star of the game. Hults scored in back-to-back outings for the Nittany Lions, registering a power-play goal to start the Nittany Lions' opening period of Friday night's matchup to close out the weekend extending his four-game point streak. 

"Cole is a great skater and a great shot as you've seen, but he has great offensive instincts," sophomore defenseman Kris Myllari said. "He's been a great compliment with Erik (Autio) and that's been huge for our d-core." 

Drawing on the positives of the weekend, junior goaltender Chris Funkey also made his first start of the year Friday night, making 21 saves. 

"Funkey played because he's an excellent goaltender," Gadowsky said. "He deserves to play, he's earned that and we want him to play." 

For Gadowsky though, among his skillset, Funkey is the type of Nittany Lion who brings tremendous value and leadership in other critical areas for the team, not just on the ice. 

"He's such a positive guy and such a good team guy who's not going to let one goal or one loss bring him down," senior captain James Robinson said. 

Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions will play Michigan this weekend, under the direction of a new head coach for the first time in more than 30 years with Mel Pearson guiding the Wolverines. Even with a new face behind the bench, Gadowsky doesn't expect a Michigan team that's drastically different than what Penn State has experienced recently. 

"I don't expect much differently because Mel Pearson, he's a great coach, he coached with Red [Berenson] for 23 years," Gadowsky said. "Red Berenson's footprints are all over everything that program does and they probably will be for decades and decades."

As it is with any Big Ten opponent, the intensity will be high this weekend, but Penn State is confident in its ability to remain positive and rise to the challenge in its first conference series at home this year.

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