An equal number of players will arrive on campus to replace the departing goalie and defensive players that have left the team. Departing are Peter Sweetland, Patrick Koudys, Nate Jensen, and PJ Musico. Koudys was a team captain and leader. Musico surprised many when he solidified the goalie situation in January and was also the team's go-to-guy for funny antics in the locker room. Nate Jensen played solid defense while not producing much on the offensive end. Sweetland was the lone defensive holdover from the team's club days and while he played hard his talent level was not the same as the players arriving on campus.
For the first time in his tenure coach Gadowsky will have eight defensemen that can play at the highest level of college hockey. Each of the three defensive players arriving on campus are above-average scorers, an element that the team was missing until late last season.
Let's Take A Look At The Incoming Players
Chris Funkey- Goalie. 21 years-old. Funkey played with the New Jersey Hitmen in the USPHL in '14-'15. He had a record of 26-4 with a goals against average of 2.14. He went 6-0 with a 1.41 GAA in the playoffs on the way to winning the league championship. It's likely that Funkey will start as the third goalie for the team. Unlike last season, it is doubtful that the third goalie will get more than mop-up time. One thing for sure is that he brings in the free-spirited humorous nature that was lost when PJ Musico departed. Based on his twitter handle and antics, he's a chip off the PJ block. Chris even cut his hair recently in order to look more like a varsity athlete and less like a caveman.
It's official, 8 AM tomorrow, I get a hair cut. First one in about 15 months. No more all you can eat salad bar. Sad day #CabbagePatchKids— Chris Funkey (@Funkinright33) May 22, 2015
Trevor Hamilton- Right Defense. 20 years-old. 6'0" 190 lbs. He scored 9 goals and had 19 assists this season for Muskegon of the USHL. Muskegon lost in the USHL finals to Sioux Falls. His nine goals this year surpasses his career total for the past six years (8). His size and steady play in addition to the potential for scoring make Hamilton a prospect similar to Erik Autio and Connor Varley.
Vince Pedrie- Right Defense. 21 years-old. 6'0" 190 lbs. He had nine goals and 13 assists for Bloomington (USHL). Vince has been a productive scorer for a defensive player. His experience will be the most valuable asset coming into the year. He's solid and has the body and skills that should allow him to make an immediate impact for the team. Pedrie finished the year with Bloomington but played the first twenty-three games of the year alongside fellow incoming defender Kevin Kerr with the Tri-City Storm. He had four goals and two assists with the Storm taking his season total to thirteen goals and fifteen assists. He's a capable scorer from the blue line.
Kevin Kerr- Left Defense. 20 years-old. 5' 11" 182 lbs. He had 7 goals and 22 assists for the Tri-City Storm (USHL) in '14-'15. Kerr is from Bensalem, Pa. and has the Philly Swagger that is common to the area. After committing to the team in 2013 he had this to say about the process.
Coach Gadowsky was by far my favorite of the coaches that I talked to. He's a great guy and an outstanding coach. His style should really fit my style of play, too. It allows you to be more creative and more free flowing.
Kerr is durable as he was able to skate in all 60 games the Storm played this season. He is expected to step in and make an immediate impact for the team.
This past season if there was a weak spot on the team it was on the defensive side. Luke Juha, Connor Varley, Mike Williamson, David Thompson and Erik Autio return for 2015. The addition off Hamilton, Kerr and Pedrie will solidify the unit. The loss of Nate Jensen and Patrick Koudys will hurt but overall the unit is expected to improve over last year.
Two years ago the defense ran out of bodies and had to borrow Kenny Brooks, a forward, and play him at defense due to lack of numbers. Last season Varley was injured for six weeks and didn't find his groove after coming back from injury for another month. Once Connor got his legs back underneath him, he showed flashes of being the scoring-minded defenseman that he is expected to be moving forward.
The team is still a little light in numbers for defensemen with eight but each can now play at the Big Ten level for the first time in program history. It's possible that Kenny Brooks could move back to defense for his final season, being that the incoming senior forward had only three points off three assists last season in 21 games played.
With the departure of goalie PJ Musico it is wonderful to have a name like Chris Funkey replacing him. At the same time it's sad that the two were not on the roster together as it would have been amusing to talk about the Funkey Musico. Funkey is no youngster at 21 years of age. He projects to be the team's third goalie next season. With Matt Skoff entering his senior year and Eamon McAdam expected to platoon, Funkey will likely be looked to for extra depth.
Funkey's experience as a 21 year-old freshman will be as much of a boost as anyone could want from the third-string goalie. With Skoff departing at the end of the year and the possibility that McAdam, a New York Islander draft pick, could jump to the professional level at any time, Funkey could find himself as the starter at some point in the near future.
Hopefully Funkey will sit and watch next year if he is unable to move up the depth-chart past Skoff or McAdam. If he is pressed into service as Musico was this past year, it probably is not a good thing for the team.
Last season's three-headed monster in goal for the Lions was an anomaly stuffed full of more anomalies. Penn State had an 18-15-4 record. The three goalies recorded five, six, and seven wins each. All three goalies had winning records. Considering there were no injuries to the goalies, no departures or mid-season additions, this was a first in college hockey.