UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State men’s ice hockey team completed its 10th season as a college program back in March and announced its 2021-22 team awards earlier this week.
After finishing the season in fifth place in the Big Ten, the Nittany Lions played their seventh consecutive conference semifinal and eighth overall, both of which are the top ten big, before finally making a hard-fought, 3-2, decision to become the top seed and champion of the regular season Minnesota.
In total, five team-specific awards were presented, including the fifth annual Team Culture Award as well as Team MVP, Top Defenseman, Freshman of the Year and Players’ Player. In addition, the team recognized its top scorer and top student-athlete as well as the Iron Lion, who recognizes the top player in the weight room.
Junior Connor MacEachern (Brooklin, Ontario) was named Penn State’s Most Valuable Player as well as the 2021-22 Players’ Player by his peers. The Players’ Player Award honors someone who best exemplifies work ethic and commitment to the Penn State hockey goals on ice.
MacEachern finished in second place on the team in points and goals this season with career-high totals of 28 and 14, respectively, while speeding up the team with an average of 0.78 points per game. The junior’s six powerplay scores also led the team, simultaneously breaking the Penn State record for single-season man-to-man advantage. MacEachern’s 14 goals were a draw as the ninth-most in the Big Ten, while his six powerplay markers were a draw in second place in the conference, placing him 19th nationally.
Freshman Ryan Kirwan (DeWitt, NY) achieved 2021-22 Freshman of the Year honors after delivering one of the best singles seasons of a freshman in Penn State hockey history. The rookie finished third on the team this year in points and goals with 26 and 13 respectively. His 26 points right in fifth place by a rookie in a single season at Penn State, while his 13 goals gave Chase Berger ’19 the sixth most in a single season of a rookie and most goals were scored by a freshman since Evan Barratt’s 11-year-old in 2017-18.
Kirwan’s 13 goals were drawn as the sixth most in the country by a novice and ranked number four among rookies in the top ten.
Senior Paul DeNaples (Moscow, Pa.), Who recently announced he will return to the Hockey Valley for a fifth season in 2022-23, was named Top Defenseman for the 2021-22 season. DeNaples went on the blue line with 60 blocked shots and a plus-12 rating while skating in all 38 games this season. The senior scored a few goals, including the overtime winner in Wisconsin, while adding six assists for eight points.
When DeNaples enters its fifth and final season next year, DeNaples will rank the top 10 ever for Penn State defenders in each offensive category. Moscow, Pennsylvania are currently eighth ever in points and are assisted by a defender in Penn State with 34 and 27, respectively. DeNaples is also the current leader in plus-minus in Penn State with a plus-50 rating in 133 career games.
Senior Adam Pilewicz (Sewickley, Pa.) Received the fifth annual Team Culture Award as the student-athlete who best influences a positive culture of quality and values off the ice. This marks the second season in a row that Pilewicz has won the Culture Prize, which is the first time since the beginning of the prize that a person has won it several times.
Pilewicz had a career year in 2021-22 on skates in all 38 games, which counted career-high across the board with three goals and four assists for seven points while blocking 50 shots.
Sophomore Christian Berger (St. Louis, Mo.) was named the Iron Lion 2021-22 as the best performance in the weight room as well as the best student-athlete. The Iron Lion recipient is one of the strongest pound-for-pound athletes on the team and possesses a strong work ethic, while being consistent in doing the little things right on a daily basis.
After only counting one assist in 22 games as a rookie, Berger skated in all 38 games this season and recorded career highs with two goals and 13 assists for 15 points, the second most on the team for defensive scoring.
Junior Kevin Wall (Penfield, NY) had a career year in 2021-22 and finished the season as the team’s top scorer with 16 goals and 13 assists for 29 points. Wall ranked sixth in the Big Ten with his 16 goals, as this character is the ninth-most in a single season in Penn State’s history and was the most goals scored by a single player since the 2018-19 season.
2021-22 Penn State Team Awards
Team MVP: Connor MacEachern
Top defender: Paul DeNaples
Beginner of the year: Ryan Kirwan
Players’ players: Connor MacEachern
Culture Prize: Adam Pilewicz
Top scorer: Kevin Wall
Top student-athlete: Christian Berger
Iron Lion: Christian Berger