The 2019-20 Penn State season is old history by now, but two years later it still serves as a reminder of what could have been.
For the first time in the program’s history, the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title in the regular season just two campaigns ago. But instead of competing for a shot to reach the Frozen Four, then-second-year Paul DeNaples’ season was interrupted due to coronavirus.
Since then, Penn State has gone 27-32-1, including a 17-20-1 finish this year, while struggling to consistently regain the magic of the past seasons.
“I do not think it was a successful season, we did not get where we wanted to,” DeNaples said. “We certainly took steps from last year – not that we had a bad year – but one would like to achieve something higher than the semi-finals of the Big Ten Championship.
“You want to win that championship.”
For Guy Gadowsky, an area that, if improved, could go a long way, be their backline defense. The program’s head coach said Penn State is recruiting a trio of defenders in an effort to strengthen that group.
Fortunately for Gadowsky and Penn State fans, second-year goalkeeper Liam Souliere has emerged as the leader of the blue and whites’ defense. He started each of the Nittany Lions’ last six games and averaged two goals per game. match over the last three competitions.
“You have to be excited about the way he finished, he was unique, if you look at his numbers in his recent matches, they were excellent at key times,” Gadowsky said. – It gives us a lot of optimism.
While Gadowsky now appears to have an invaluable product in college hockey in a growing junior goalkeeper, former status and senior netminder Oskar Autio’s status is in the air for the 2022-23 campaign.
Gadowsky indicated that Autio is “looking for opportunities” right now as it relates to the transfer portal or is staying at University Park.
Either way, Penn State problems have thwarted it over the last two campaigns being culturally based, Gadowsky said. The pandemic certainly threw a wrench into the upward momentum Penn State was building, which has served as a significant setback for a program that has just completed its 10th year of existence at Division I level.
“It will be a while before we can say we have 100 players in the NHL and more national championships,” Gadowsky said. “I mean, we’re somewhere else, and that’s okay. But we can not pretend to be something we are not.”
Another area that Gadowsky and his players are looking to address is rather to keep improving the physical qualities of the blue and whites as a team. In Gadowsky’s words, the Nittany Lions were “a little fragile” this year.
For DeNaples, who have been a part of winning teams like the 2019-20 team, there are some immediate differences between affluent teams and those who are the opposite.
“Guys did not make the mistakes they’re making right now, and if they were, it would not be the end of the world,” DeNaples said. “Sometimes, now, I think we make critical mistakes at times when we can not afford anyone – that’s what we need to clean up.”
DeNaples reiterated his coach’s thoughts that Penn State was not aggressive enough last season, noting that the Nittany Lions were operating in a flawed manner on the ice.
In his judgment, defenders like him gave up “too much” on their end of the ice and were susceptible to bad collapses.
But for the leader of the program, the pursuit of another Big Ten title in the regular season and success after the season is within reach. Gadowsky is confident that the Penn State program as a whole is going in the right direction.
Whether it will be a more fruitful 2022-23 season remains to be seen. Either way, Gadowsky welcomes the pressure to overcome two downturns in hopes of an upturn campaign.
“If you do not have it, then it would be a problem,” Gadowsky said. “It does not fit well [what] our staff want to do and definitely the student athletes we recruited. I like that there is pressure, absolutely. ”
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