The Penn State hockey team moved up one spot in the polls during the bye week--the team is currently ranked #14 in both of the national popularity contests, the USCHO.com and USA Today polls. More importantly the team is now ranked #14 in the PairWise standings, which mimic the process that the selection committee uses to fill out the sixteen-team NCAA tournament.
There are still many variables yet to unfold in the coming weeks, but as it stands right now, the Lions would be the final team to be invited to the NCAA tournament. The Lions currently trail Minnesota by 7 points and Michigan by 6 points in the Big Ten standings. With four games remaining in the regular season, they still hold their destiny in their hands for a first round Big Ten tournament bye. If the Lions win the final four games on the schedule it will clinch the bye and an NCAA tournament at-large spot.
One announcement made during Guy Gadowsky's Tuesday press conference was a major change in team strategy. Goalie Eamon McAdam will start both games this weekend when the team travels to Madison, Wisconsin; for the entire season McAdam has split time with Matt Skoff. Skoff has had a couple of shaky games over the past month and McAdam is playing the best hockey of his life, peaking at the right time to become a dominant force in the critical games at the end of the season. The job for the rest of the season appears to be McAdam's. Should he falter, Skoff will be ready to play as the senior has appeared in 75 games during his Penn State career.
Hobey Baker Award
Luke Juha is a nominee for the award given to college hockey's best player. Juha has had a great senior season, scoring 7 goals to go along with 13 assists. The senior defenseman has the second-highest plus/minus ranking on the Penn State roster with a +16. He has only been whistled for one penalty this season while logging close to a team-high amount of minutes, and it was probably a bad call.
Juha will not win the Hobey Baker Award, but the nomination is an honor that he will certainly cherish. Erica Avallone of Gopsusports.com recently interviewed the alternate-captain regarding his experience in Hockey Valley.
Senior Class Award
David Glen is one of ten finalists being considered for the Senior Class Award, given to the NCAA Division I senior that has had notable achievements on the field of competition, in the classroom, community, and in the area of overall character.
This season on the ice, the team captain has scored 6 goals and has had 13 assists to add to a solid plus/minus rating of +9. Off the ice Glen has had a remarkable impact on the community.
In 2014 he missed a few weeks of competition when he donated bone marrow during the hockey season. Glen took part in a Be The Match initiative in 2012 and a couple of years later the phone rang and he accepted the chance to donate bone marrow to an individual who needed a life-saving transplant. The procedure and recovery cost Glen several games during his sophomore season but the thoughtfulness of the donation and sacrifice made brought a great deal of positive attention to Hockey Valley as well as the Be The Match foundation.
On the ice, Glen is the consummate agitator; his intensity and instinct to fight for every loose puck or advantage usually has the opposing team angry with him by the end of the game. It is common to see Glen get pushed around after the whistle as a result of his foe's not appreciating his antics. He won't just get under your skin, he'll get into your bones if you let him.
Penn State has never had a Senior Class Award finalist in hockey (most recently, John Urschel won the award for football and Ariel Scott the award for volleyball, both in fall 2013), and Glen is a great ambassador for the program as it continues to expand on the college hockey scene.
Mike Richter Award
McAdam was named as a nominee for the nation's top goalie award. McAdam is one of 26 nominees and has had a very solid junior season. While he is not overly stick-happy, trying to do too much with the puck, he has had a great deal of success this season while using his stick as a sixth attacker on the ice. It is a great advantage for a team to have a goalie that can stickhandle well enough to pass the puck to streaking offensive players or start the break after a defensive stop.
McAdam has flourished this season with the puck on his stick, starting offensive attacks as well as scoring points. It's rare for a goalie to score an assist during a four-year career in college hockey. The New York Islander draft pick has had three assists this season alone, leading the country in the category of points by a goalie.
Axe, as he is known in the locker room, is having a tremendous year stopping the other team from scoring as well. His .928 save percentage and 2.43 goals against average are worthy of notice when you consider that he plays in the highest-scoring conference in the country. With a record of 11-4-1 this season and named full-time starter for the first time in his career, McAdam has a chance to showcase his talent in what may become his final season at Penn State.
USHL Forward of the Week
Denis Smirnov is one of the most highly-regarded Penn State hockey recruits in program history. Until earlier this year it was expected that Smirnov would join Penn State for this current season. This spring Guy Gadowsky announced that it had been decided to hold the arrival of the high-scoring forward back until next season, as he would have been the youngest player in division one college hockey had he joined the team in 2015.
Smirnov is making the most of his final season in the USHL with the Fargo Force. This weekend he tied the record for most goals scored in a game in the USHL when he netted four in the first two periods. As a result he was named the USHL's Forward of the Week. We'll see you next fall, Denis. Congratulations.
Penn State Hockey Legacy Prospect Award
This award is given annually to the player or prospect that most likely will have the greatest impact on the program in future years. The winner must be related to a current or former Penn State family member. Past recipients have included junior forward Zach Saar (1993) whose father Brad played on the 1982 PSU football national championship team . This year's nominee is Emily Rose Fisher.
Congrats to the Fisher family on their newest addition! Emily Rose Fisher was born at 1:25 PM: 8.7 lbs., 21 in. pic.twitter.com/kJo5miYZch— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) February 24, 2016
It won't be easy to pull a fast one on Emily, as she wasn't born yesterday. She was born last week. The daughter of Penn State hockey assistant coach Keith Fisher and his wife Kristi, sister of Anna, Emily was born during the bye week. Her hockey IQ and knack for being in the right place at the right time have already been established.
At just under nine pounds and 21 inches long, she projects to being a front-line player. It's too early to rule out anything at this point as prospects at this age can have growth spurts upwards of four feet or more by the time they reach college. It's completely conceivable to think that Emily could put on 122-135 pounds between now and 2034 and find a place on the blue line or even in net.
Black Shoe Diaries Player of the Year Nominees
In the spirit of many collegiate awards, the BSD hockey Player of the Year is going to the polls before the entire season has been completed. Why wait until the most important games of the year are over to decide which player was the best, right?
Eamon McAdam- McAdam is the lone player on the Penn State current roster that has been drafted by the NHL. He has recently become the player that the New York Islanders hoped he would develop into when they selected him three years ago. The 6'3" 190 pound goalie has the frame and athleticism to play in the NHL. This season he has been a reliable netminder and is beginning to turn heads on the national level. His 11-4-1 record this season along with a solid save percentage and goals against average put him in the running for BSD Player of the Year consideration.
Vince Pedrie- The freshman defenseman has made his mark on the ice this season. Pedrie is the offensive weapon from the blue line that the Lions have missed for the first few years of its division one hockey existence. With 8 goals and 14 assists through 32 games, Pedrie has immediately become a terror for opposing teams. His 118 shots on goal lead the team, which is incredible for a defenseman of any age, much less a freshman. He is also tied for third on the team with 34 blocks on the year, so he's not a one-dimensional player.
Andrew Sturtz- Sturtz has gotten a great deal of attention for his scoring prowess during his freshman campaign. He leads the Lions with 15 goals and has 8 assists. Sturtz is a player that every team fears when he has the puck on his stick in their offensive zone. He can score from anywhere and at any time. He's small, 5'8" 185 pounds, but he is set to replace David Glen next season as the team's chippiest player, the guy who bothers the other team the most and who draws the most penalties due to frustration.
One overlooked asset that Sturtz possesses is the ability to properly celebrate a goal. He frequently involves the crowd and puts just enough of a thespian touch on it without going too far, as he did after this amazing goal versus Ohio State. This skill will be useful for the next few years and it goes hand in hand with his propensity to score goals.
David Goodwin- Goodwin is the team's leading scorer with 10 goals and 22 assists. The junior forward from Des Peres, Mo. was the returning leading scorer from last year's team. It is expected that he will be a team leader, if not the captain, next season but he has played like a captain all year. His numbers don't illustrate the impact on the ice that he has had. The team at times has needed the stability and consistency that Goodwin provides to right the ship in delicate moments.