Guy Gadowsky always had a vision of the style of hockey he wanted Penn State to play. He scouted and recruited players who would fit the fast-paced yet intelligent brand he sought for the Nittany Lions.
The past two seasons, his crop of freshmen have shown the blue and white what that style looks like. Next year’s group will likely add another layer of that brand to the lineup while adding another highly touted goaltender to the mix.
Just a couple hours after Gadowsky’s weekly press conference wrapped up, Sam Sternschein announced via Twitter his commitment to Penn State.
Proud to announce my commitment to Penn State University. Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported me along the way! #WeAre #PSU— Sam Sternschein (@sternschein21) January 25, 2017
The 6-foot-2 left winger had previously committed to Cornell University back in 2013. But after a few seasons in the USHL, the Syosset, NY, native will now join the Lions for the 2017-18 season. He joins four other recruits in the 2017 class, including centers Evan Barratt and Matthew Jakubowski, defenseman Alex Stevens and goaltender Bo Didur.
Sternschein, a right shot on the left side, might best be suited in a similar role formerly occupied by Casey Bailey as the big shooter on one of the top lines and a top power play unit. Sternschein has routinely posted a point per game throughout his playing time, and has 14 goals in 34 games split between Cedar Rapids and Lincoln this season.
Barratt brings a different skill set to the Lions. At 5-foot-11, Barratt is slightly smaller than most centers, and would be the shortest center on the team. He brings a strong playmaking ability, however, and could one day be the Taylor Holstrom to Sternschein’s Bailey. Barratt continues a trend of recruits from Team Comcast, which features both Kevin Kerr and Peyton Jones as alumni of the team.
Jakubowski, another slightly undersized center, also has the makings of a top-flight playmaker, similar to Barratt. While playing for the Buffalo Jr. Sabres this season, Jakubowski has posted 27 points in 42 games. The Lions will be in need of depth at center next season, as both Dylan Richard and Ricky DeRosa will be departing, leaving only Chase Berger and Nikita Pavlychev as those who have experience at the position among returnees.
The Lions’ situation on defense is far less urgent. Only David Thompson will be departing after this season, but both Trevor Hamilton and Erik Autio will be in their last season of eligibility. That provides the perfect opportunity for Stevens to step into Thompson’s role and rotate on the third pairing with the likes of Kris Myllari, James Gobetz and Derian Hamilton.
Goaltending was one of the areas of concern heading into this season after Eamon McAdam forwent his senior season of eligibility at the end of last season. Those concerns have quickly been laid to rest as Jones has emerged as a talented, calm starter for the Lions. With Jones firmly planted at No. 1 and Chris Funkey being a talented backup, Didur will likely spend much of the season on the bench for Gadowsky, which is far from a problem. It will allow Didur to study and learn from his superiors as he waits his turn in the Lions’ net.