Skip to main content Skip to footer

Recently in Men's Hockey Category

Behind the Mask with Penn State's Goalies

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Erin Neri, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A goalkeeper's helmet is far more than just a piece of safety equipment worn during each game. Instead, a goalkeeper's helmet represents individuality and all the things they hold close, acting as a personal canvas.

The Process
For Penn State men's hockey's three goalies, the process of designing a helmet took each one of them in a different direction but each one started in the same place with the same person. The team's equipment manager, Adam Sheehan, is tasked with initiating the process, handling the logistics while giving them suggestions and ideas or helping with sketches. 

"I tell [Sheehan] what I want to do and he gives me his ideas back, so it's not all me or all him," sophomore goalie Peyton Jones said.

Another key figure in the early parts of the design stage, is typically painter Jason Livery, head of Head Strong Grafx. A custom painter for 28 years, Livery traveled all over the world before creating his own custom goalie helmet painting business.

"Once we get the ideas from the goaltender my designer creates a pre-paint rendering of what all the elements will look like on the mask," Livery said. "Once they approve it, I paint it based on that rendering. I might change it and add is some elements of my own style but for the most part it will be pretty close to the rendering."

The often intricate masks fans see each goalie sporting this season are special to all of them, but each for unique and individual reasons. For some, the first of a few helmets, but for others it's either the only or the last helmet they'll ever have for the rest of their career in Hockey Valley.

Fortunately for Nittany Lion fans, this is only Jones' first gameday helmet, which means he'll get one more with two more seasons in net. Not only was this Jones' first helmet of his Penn State career, but the first helmet he has ever had a hand in creating for himself.

"I went online right away looking at different things different goalies did," Jones said. "This was my first real helmet I designed and it was pretty special to me because it was a school that I dreamed of going to."

For senior goalie Matt Erlichman, his helmet is his first as well as his last. The Pennsylvania native joined the team his junior year after playing two years with Penn State's ACHA Division II Ice Lions. 

Joining the team late, his mask junior year looked similar to those around him, but for his senior year when asked if he wanted a custom helmet, it was a no-brainer. 

"[Sheehan] asked me if I wanted a helmet and I said, 'Yeah, I'd love a helmet, I never had actually had a helmet designed,'" Erlichman said. "I just started throwing some things together, looking at different helmets." 

Junior goalie Chris Funkey was on the opposite end of the spectrum from his teammates, with his current helmet being the last of his college career. With a passion Penn State evident on all three masks,   Funkey knew he had a few adjustments he wanted to make headed into the process off designing his current helmet to make it better than his last.

"I didn't want to do as much for myself for the helmet as I wanted to do for the university," Funkey said. "So I definitely wanted to make sure I fashioned in some important things."

In addition to the multiple Penn State logos on his helmet, Funkey wanted to do something to make his last helmet even more special. On the chin, Funkey's helmet is painted with temperature magic FX paint which shifts color in temperatures less than 65 degrees, revealing hidden snowflakes and an image of the historic Nittany Lion Shrine.

Funkey is among a group of very goalkeepers in all of college hockey and even the NHL with temperature magic FX paint technology on his helmet.


Inspiration Behind the Mask
Many young goaltenders grow up watching hockey, dreaming of the day they will have their own custom helmet like the pros they watch on TV or from the stands.

While some look to professional goalies for inspiration, some find it in their own locker room. For Funkey, his helmet is modeled after former Penn State goalie and his own former mentor, Matthew Skoff (2012-16).

"[Skoff] had the toque version of the helmet where it looks like a winter hat and I thought that was really cool," Funkey said. "I wanted to get that to honor him being one of the first Division I Penn State goalies for four years."

Penn State's two other goalkeepers though, decided to look a little farther outside of Hockey Valley for inspiration.

Every young goalie has a role model at the professional level they watch and try to emulate, not only in their style of play, but also in their mask design. Jones looks to one of the best in the world who happens to be a five-time NHL all-star and an Olympic gold medalist.

"My favorite goalie is Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens and on a lot of his helmets he puts the laces of the jersey," Jones said. "So on my helmet, that's one thing I wanted to incorporate." 

On the front part of the chin is where Jones chose to put the jersey laces on his helmet. 

Things were no different for Erlichman, who looked to the same goalies he had been admiring for years when it came time to design his helmet.

"I always loved [Sergei] Bobrovsky's because he was my favorite goalie in the NHL and Tuukka Rask just because all his helmets are awesome," Erlichman said. "I based the helmet off those two." 

Erlichman drew inspiration from the classic brick wall design from Bobrovsky's old-style helmets, adding a bit of a twist. What looks like drops of spray paint all over the brick wall were added to shake up the traditional design.

Favorite Feature
All three goalies utilize their own mask to tell their own individual story, including things they hold close, opting to showcase these elements on the back plate of their helmets. While the elements might not be on full display all the time, they are always close.

Funkey's back plate showcases a Penn State tradition very dear to many students on campus, THON. With Funkey's busy hockey schedule, being a part of the 46-hour dance marathon can be a challenge. With THON weekend typically taking place in the middle of the season, it is not always a guarantee he can attend.

Fortunately, last year, the Illinois native was given the opportunity to attend THON with some of his teammates, an experience he will never forget.

"We were there for the last 15 or 16 hours and it was honestly a really life changing experience," Funkey said. "I just couldn't think of a better way or a better thing to represent the school than by putting the four diamonds of THON on the back of my helmet."

Jones' back plate honors two friends and teammates, Eric "Ebo" Eberling and Alexander "Zander" Thomas, who he lost his senior year of high school.

"My two buddies are on the back who are the most special to me," Jones said. "I put that on the back of my helmet to have them with me every time that I play." 

Accompanying the numbers of his friends is a quote that reads, "Life is not measured by the years you live, but the lives you touch."

For Erlichman, playing on the varsity hockey team was a goal he was hoping to reach before his time was up in Hockey Valley. Finally achieving his dream, it's been a surreal experience and he knew he wanted to make his team and school the focal point of his back plate.

"I wanted something more Penn State than just a logo, and I went with the Lion Shrine," Erlichman said.

Accompanying a hand-drawn version of the Lion Shrine is also Erlichman's nickname "Lichsy" which former teammate Vince Pedrie gave him just weeks into his junior season. 

"I got that nickname from the team a few weeks into the season when I walked into the locker room and Vince Pedrie looks at me and goes, 'Has anyone ever called you Lichsy?" Erlichman said. "I was throw off completely because it doesn't really come from my name."

 Needless to say the nickname has stuck around since, representing a special memory Erlichman will always carry with him on and off the ice.

The Reaction
After spending weeks on the design process followed by months of painting and waiting, the moment a goalie sees their mask for the first time is truly a magical one. All those long practices and conditioning sessions somehow seem worth it when a goalie gets to hold their mask for the first time. 

Even though almost every one of the team saw Erlichman's helmet before he had the chance to, it didn't take anything away from a moment he had been waiting for his whole career 

"I was blown away how great it came out, I couldn't ask anything better," Erlichman said. "I am so happy I got a helmet and I'm going to keep it forever."

Even though this is Erlichman's first and only mask Penn State, it will be one he can always keep to cherish a part of his college career.

Having been through the process before, Funkey was familiar with the moment having worked hard and waited for so long for. This time though, there was the bittersweet twist of this being his last mask, but he found solace in the fact that he got everything he wanted on his final helmet. 

"My jaw dropped, I couldn't get over how well it came out," Funkey said. "I was like a little kid on Christmas morning honestly, it was so cool."

Jones has experienced success in the relatively short time he has been in goal for the Nittany Lions and his current helmet has stayed with him through the journey. The sophomore will have a new helmet to start out his junior year which will also be his last in his college career.

Although getting his current helmet was very special to him, Jones is already planning for his next one. Just don't expect to get any insight into what will be on it. 

"I do actually have some stuff but it's a surprise I want to keep for when I get the helmet," Jones said.

Smirnov Leads Penn State past Robert Morris

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Andy Kuros, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No.18 Penn State extended its unbeaten streak to eight games following a 7-4 victory against Robert Morris in front of a crowded Pegula Ice Arena.

Sophomore forward Denis Smirnov, who scored a goal in Friday night's 5-2 win, capped off a great weekend with two more goals and two assists in the second game of the series to match a career-high mark.

After he was sidelined for the last few weeks, Smirnov, who is second on the team in goals scored, is picking up right where he left off. For Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky, he's an important addition back into the lineup.

"He adds a lot of offensive creativity to us, that's for sure," Gadowsky said. "His vision and creativity is really difficult to replace and it's fun to watch."

When asked about his recent success, Smirnov gave credit to his line mates, sophomore forwards Nate Sucese and Brandon Biro.

"Playing with those guys is fun," Smirnov said. "They're a little faster than me, so I always try to keep up with them."

The line played a crucial role in the potent Nittany Lion offensive attack Saturday. Skating together, they found the back of the net a combined four times to lead Penn State offensively.

Sucese scored two goals to go along with an assist, while Biro registered an assist of his own.

Despite the line's renewed success since reuniting, the unit of Smirnov, Sucese and Biro hasn't seen much time on the ice together this season.

"Not one of those units is the way it was at the start of the year," Gadowsky mentioned.

As a result, Smirnov noted the importance of hard work, keying in on the amount of practice the unit has spent dedicated to building chemistry to gel as a unit.

"We know what we have to work on," Smirnoff said. "We get out there as a line and work on some things together."

Come this week, it's seemingly paying off.

The Nittany Lions, who returned home after playing the first game of the series at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, registered 44 shots in tying a season high mark with seven goals.

For Gadowsky, he's pleased with his team's offensive performance headed into a nearly month-long break before returning to Big Ten play in early January.

"I thought we moved the puck really well," Gadowsky said. "When we got to the (attacking) zone, I thought we did a good job.

Freshman Feature: Stevens Shows Promise

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Erin Neri, Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - A native of Plymouth, Minnesota, Penn State hockey freshman Alex Stevens comes from a part of the country where hockey is seemingly in everyone's blood. Often growing up both living and breathing the sport things were no different for Stevens.

"I starting playing actual hockey when I was five," Stevens said. "I probably had my first pair of skates by three."

In between playing pee-wee hockey and finding his way to Penn State, Stevens skated a total of 120 games in the USHL with three different teams. The defenseman registered a total of 48 points, on 12 goals and 36 assists.

Stevens ended his three seasons in the league with the Dubuque Fighting Saints. While only on the team for about two months, he helped lead the team in a run in the playoffs, making it all the way to the Clark Cup Eastern Conference Finals.

"It was kind of a blur," Stevens said. "Once we hit the playoffs we were just a great team, kind of like here, everyone was close, everyone worked hard. Playoffs were a fun time." 

Growing up not far from the University of Minnesota, playing Big Ten hockey had always been a dream of his.

Although growing up watching the Gophers play, a team he'll get an opportunity to play against in Hockey Valley in late February, Stevens knew as soon as he stepped on campus, he'd be pulling on the blue and white for the next four years.

"It was a dream school for me once I saw the facilities," Stevens said. "Not just because of our awesome rink at Pegula but the student academic facilities are top-notch too."

Stevens saw his first time on the ice against Arizona State and Michigan State, having registered seven shots to date.

"My mentality is just wanting to get better every game, every shift," Stevens said. "The coaches preached to me to move pucks as quickly as I can, so that's what I've been trying to do."

The freshman also put his shot to the test in the overtime shootout against the Spartans in game two of the series. Stevens shot third behind junior Andrew Sturtz and sophomore Brandon Biro.  

While the choice to put Stevens in the shootout lineup was clearly a first, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky shed some light on his decision, telling the media at recent availability that Stevens has the highest scoring percentage on the team when they simulate shootouts in practice.

"He's got a bomb and he's got a really good shot," Gadowsky said. "That was a no-brainer to play him."

While the freshman still only has three games under his belt, both Stevens and the coaching staff remain confident that even while missing the first part of the season, he will improve and gain synergy with his teammates with more ice time. 

"It's hard to judge him right now fairly because those are his first three games and everybody else has played numerous," Gadowsky said. "I think when you take that into consideration he's done many things very well and I do think there's a certain aspect of his game that he'll have to tighten up if he's going to be successful."

Penn State Weekly Check In

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's weekly check in returns this week, catching up with Nittany Lion head coach Guy Gadowsky, as well as Andrew Sturtz and Trevor Hamilton. Check in this week as the Nittany Lions look back on a successful road trip at Ohio State, while also looking ahead to a trip to PPG Paints Arena before returning home to Pegula Ice Arena for a home-and-home against Robert Morris this weekend. 


Sturtz, Hamilton

Success on the Third Line

| No Comments | No TrackBacks


By Erin Neri, student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - During his weekly meeting with the media this week, Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky stressed consistency in both the offensive and defensive zones. Coming off two strong series against Arizona State and Michigan State, the team has been making practical strides toward their goal.

"Consistency is what our goal is, that's what we're after," Gadowsky said. "I do still think we're very aggressive deep, both offensively and defensively but I'd like us to be a lot more consistent in certain areas."

The Nittany Lions have been experiencing consistent success is their third line though, adjusted to feature sophomores Nate Sucese and Brandon Biro with the addition of freshman Sam Sternschein, who filled in for sophomore Denis Smirnov on the right wing.

Even with the line experiencing some shakeups, keeping the pair of Sucese and Biro intact was a no-brainer for the coaching staff.

"They've played together in the past and they've showed synergy," Gadowsky said. "They are two guys that do a lot of extra work."

Although the two line mates work well together on the ice, their bond goes far beyond the ice. They're roommates this year after rooming together last year, and both constantly collaborating on how to improve their game. 

"He's my best friend on the team, we rarely spend any time apart," Biro said. "We pretty much talk hockey all the time." 

Individually, Biro score in back-to-back against the Sun Devils along with three assists to earn himself the Big Ten Third Star of the Week honor last week. The Canadian native also extended career-high three-game point and assist streaks in game one against the Spartans. 

Sucese achieved his own success alongside Biro, with two assists and a goal in game one against ASU as well as an assist.

Complimenting an already efficient pairing, Sternschein made a smooth transition on to the line, playing like he had been there since the beginning of October. His efforts have not gone unnoticed by his counterparts on the left and in the center of the offense either.

"He's awesome, especially coming in for his first couple of games," Biro said. "He's a super fast player, he always seems to get open and he's getting more confident every game. "It's been really easy to play with him."

Sternschein registered his first career goal and an assist in game one against Arizona State, along with an assist in game two. In game one back in Pegula against Michigan State, the New York native put two in the back of the net in the first and second period. 

"Sammy Sternschein absolutely did what he had to do to make a case that he should be in the lineup every night," Gadowsky said. "Now it's just a matter of slotting him in and finding synergy with him and someone else."

With Smirnov's return into the lineup, Sternschein will have to readjust back to a different role on the team off of the third line. He is confident though in the success he has found so far in the season and that he can still contribute consistency to the team.

"I'm just going to do what I can, play my game, work hard every night and if I'm in the lineup that's awesome that's what I want," Sternschein said. "The rest is up to the coaches."

Penn State Weekly Check In

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State weekly check in is back, catching up with head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions Sam Sternschein and Kevin Kerr ahead of this weekend's trip to Ohio State.


Sternschein, Kerr

Penn State Weekly Check In

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a pair of road wins at Arizona State last weekend, Penn State men's hockey returns to Pegula Ice Area to host Big Ten opponent Michigan State in a weekend series.

Back from the road, the Nittany Lions will look to continue building on the momentum from the successful road trip, also currently slated 2-4 in conference play ahead of the series against the Spartans.

From Thanksgiving plans to what's next, check in with head coach Guy Gadowsky and sophomore forward Brandon Biro ahead of this weekend's action in Pegula.



Freshman Feature: Sternschein Adds to Offense

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Erin Neri, 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

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

By Erin Neri, 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

| No Comments | No TrackBacks
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. 


Pavlychev, Gober


  • Loading Tweets...
    1 second ago