At Penn State’s season-opening press conference, Guy Gadowsky made note of the holes the Nittany Lions would have to fill in the lineup. There were top-six spots available after the departure of David Goodwin and Dylan Richard, as well as the fourth-line center role left by Ricky DeRosa.
The most pressing matter, however, was to find a replacement for Vince Pedrie, a top-pairing defenseman and one of the team’s most lethal offensive weapons, after he forwent his final two years of eligibility to sign an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers.
If Sunday’s exhibition game against the University of Ottawa was any indication, Gadowsky has found his man.
In the 4-3 overtime loss, freshman Cole Hults lined up in Pedrie’s former position alongside Erik Autio, and the Los Angeles Kings draft pick lived up to the hype.
Hults scored the Lions’ first goal of the game in the same manner that Pedrie netted a few of his program-record 16 goals at Penn State. Stationed at the top of the right circle on the power play, Hults one-timed a cross ice pass from Denis Smirnov, beating the outstretched glove of Gee-Gees’ goalie Anthony Brodeur.
That goal knotted the game at one after the Gee-Gees opened the scoring a little more than a minute into the game courtesy of a 2-on-1 rush which Cody Drover finished off.
Just a few minutes after Hults’ goal, the Gee-Gees responded with their own power play goal as Drover notched his second goal of the game.
Marco Azzano extended the Gee-Gees’ lead early in the third period. After dogged work by Jonathan Bourcier to regain control of the puck, he found Azzano in the slot for a one-timer past Chris Funkey.
Despite several opportunities for the Nittany Lions — including a partial breakaway for Brandon Biro that rang off the far post — the Gee-Gees held onto their two-goal lead well into the final frame. Gadowsky’s squad received a break in the form of a full-length 5-on-3 power play, and the Lions took full advantage of it.
Just nine seconds into the two-man advantage, Denis Smirnov fired a laser to the top corner, bringing his team to within a goal. A minute and a half later, Biro avenged his failed breakaway, tapping in a pass from Nate Sucese to tie the game at three and forcing the game into overtime.
A minute and a half into the extra frame, Quinn O’Brien charged down the right side of the ice, shielding the puck from the backchecking Nittany Lion. O’Brien drove to the goal and lifted a backhand shot over Funkey’s blocker, securing the win for the Gee-Gees.
One of the key areas of success for the Lions came with the man advantage, where Penn State went 3-for-7 with 15 shots. Even with the success rate, though, Gadowsky still sought to fine tune the team’s power play.
“There were a couple aspects of it which were very poor,” he said, noting the team’s faceoff trouble while on the man advantage.
Gadowsky recognized the areas of concern heading into the Lions season opener Friday against Clarkson.
“I thought we got a lot out of it for an exhibition game and got some good information,” he said. “It will make this week a lot more well-defined.”