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Skate of the Union: The Youth Movement Features Older Players & NHL In Hockey Valley on Sept. 26

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The Lions are young in terms of eligibility but not experience.

Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Championship - Semifinals Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Coach Guy Gadowsky introduced a pair of forwards and a defenseman to round out the 2016-17 roster. Blake Gober, James Gobetz, and Brandon Biro will add much needed depth to the current roster. The trio joins eight other incoming freshmen, making this the largest recruiting class in program history. The quantity is great, but the quality, player for player, has formed the best recruiting class to date for the Lions. Last season’s crop of recruits produced at amazing levels. If this group can follow suit Penn State will be a force in the Big Ten this season.

Here’s A Look At The Three New Additions

Blake Gober- 5’10”, 180 pounds. Right-handed forward. Gober is joining the Lions after playing for the Bloomington Thunder of the USHL. Vince Pedrie and Matt Mendelson, two standout freshmen for the Lions last season, were teammates of his with Bloomington in 2014. He is a solid all-around player and character guy, as he was an alternate captain with the Thunder. On the ice he is a similar style of player as David Glen, last season’s team captain. Gober does not score a tremendous amount, but his aggressive play has drawn many penalties. He also averaged nearly two minutes of penalty time per game over the past three seasons.

James Gobetz- 6’3”, 195 pounds. Defense. Gobetz played one season in the USHL with the Des Moines Buccaneers after an illustrious high school career with Salisbury School in Connecticut. He was team captain and a member of three consecutive New England Prep championship teams. He is a sturdy blue-liner and will add much needed depth to the defense in the fall. Take a listen to an interview that he gave prior to last season to get an idea of what he is all about. Hailing from Long Island, New York, the bruising defender should bring plenty of grit to the ice this fall.

Brandon Biro- 5’11”, 160 pounds. Left-handed forward. Biro will be the smallest and youngest player to join the Nittany Lion hockey team in program history. He is a talented goal scorer who averaged nearly a goal per game, and over a point per game, during a productive junior hockey run. He was AJHL rookie of the year in 2015. While Biro is continuing to develop as a player, his skill set is comparable to Andrew Sturtz.

Age Isn’t Everything But It’s Something

The interesting part of the final three additions to the team is the age of the players. Blake Gober will be twenty-one years old when he takes the ice as a true freshman in October. Due to the usual delay between high school and joining a college hockey team, Gober is not a young newcomer. James Gobetz will be 20 years old when he takes to the ice this season. That is the average age for players that join NCAA hockey. The average age of the returning sophomores on the team is just under 21 years old. David Goodwin, the likely captain of the team, will be 25 years old as the team finishes the season.

The eleven freshmen added to the eight newcomers that joined the team last season gives Penn State a roster with much eligibility remaining. James Robinson is likely to be considered a sophomore although this will be his third year with the team. Robinson played one game and missed the rest of the 2015-16 campaign with a lower-leg injury. This will give the Lions a combined 20 underclassmen. They are new to college hockey but not young and inexperienced. The remaining roster is comprised of five seniors and one junior.

The noticeable exception is the third addition to the team, Brandon Biro. Biro will be the youngest player ever to join the Penn State program, at age 18 and 6 months at the time of the first game. Add that to incoming sniper-forward Denis Smirnov, who will be the third-youngest freshman in program history at 19 years and 2 months old when he takes the ice in October. Smirnov was scheduled to join the team last year, but decided to take an extra year in the USHL to develop. His age was given as one reason for the decision, as Smirnov would have been one of the five-youngest players in NCAA hockey last season had he joined the Lions.

Eamon McAdam was 19 years and one week old when the team played its first game in 2013, which makes him the second-youngest player in program history. Eric Autio was the fourth-youngest player to don the blue and white at 19 years and three months old the following season.

The reason that the ages of Smirnov and Biro are noteworthy is that it is an indicator that the program is taking hold, able to draw in the young, plug-and-play skaters that normally go to established programs. Penn State is getting high-end recruits that have many other options at the collegiate level. Players like Smirnov and Biro have an abundance of options in the amateur ranks or in the low-level professional realms of hockey. They are choosing Penn State because it is the best option for their hockey aspirations.

The Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild Will Play An NHL Preseason Game At The Peg On Sept. 26

The first NHL activity in State College will take place on Sept. 26 when the Buffalo Sabres take on the Minnesota Wild. The game was rumored to be in the works for a few days before the Penn State athletic department made its official announcement.

One thing is for sure, this is a huge opportunity to advertise the greatness of Hockey Valley and the facilities at Pegula Ice Arena. Minnesota and New York are hotbeds for recruiting in college hockey and anything that draws attention to Penn State is a good thing.

Many respected hockey analysts have come through Pegula Ice Arena and commented that it is the closest thing to a professional stadium that they have seen at the collegiate level. It will be nice to have the professional player’s reactions to the facility broadcast nationwide, and internationally, just a week before the start of the Lion’s season.