Chemistry — or synergy, as Guy Gadowsky prefers to call it — is something that can take plenty of time to develop. Some players may never be partnered up with the right combination to reach their full potential.
Often, it helps to have a long tenure with the same team to explore all of the possible combinations at a coach’s disposal.
Ludvig Larsson hasn’t had that luxury.
Not that he’s needed it.
The graduate transfer from Merrimack has made a seamless transition to Penn State. Larsson made his Nittany Lions debut as the top line center between Nate Sucese and Brandon Biro, and the combination has paid instant dividends.
The trio combined for six points and the game-winning goal as Penn State won its season opener against Clarkson 4-3 on Thursday night.
Sucese and Biro each had a goal and an assist, while Larsson tallied a pair of helpers. While all three were rewarded on the score sheet, their performance went far beyond their offensive prowess.
One of the primary reasons Penn State sought Larsson — and why Larsson ultimately chose Penn State — was his faceoff ability. Perennially one of the top teams in that category, the Nittany Lions had a down season last year, finishing in the bottom third of the nation.
Larsson helped return the Nittany Lions to the norm, winning 13 of his 20 faceoffs as the Nittany Lions won 53 percent of the draws.
While the trio made most of their impact putting pucks in the net, they also made some key plays on the defensive end of the rink, notably a huge blocked shot by Biro as the game was winding down and the Nittany Lions were clinging to their one-goal lead.
“It obviously hurt a little bit, to say the least,” Biro said of the play.
After a scoreless first period that saw quality chances go both ways, Clarkson opened the scoring early in the second period. After Haralds Egle worked the puck around the net, he slid a pass to Nico Sturm, who was parked at the back door.
Sturm guided the puck into the net as Chris Funkey desperately dove to make a save.
Midway through the period, the Nittany Lions responded thanks to a two-man advantage. With the Golden Knights already down a man after being caught with too many men on the ice, Aaron Thow was sent to the box for slashing, giving the Nittany Lions 1:37 with a 5-on-3.
After Chase Berger received a pass from James Gobetz down low, he forced Jake Kielly out of position and fired a pass to Sam Sternschein, who buried a one timer into an open net. Here is the play and the call by Brian Tripp on the LionVision online broadcast provided by gopsusports.com.
After a goaltending duel through the first two periods, both offenses exploded early in the third period.
The Nittany Lions benefitted first from another power play opportunity. Liam Folkes finished off a tic-tac-toe play by tapping the puck into a wide open cage.
Just 19 seconds later, Egle tied the game at two, beating Funkey over the glove on a partial breakaway. During the play, James Gobetz was called for slashing, putting Penn State down a man after giving up the tying goal.
The disadvantage wasn’t a problem for the Nittany Lions, at least not right away, as Nate Sucese picked off a cross-ice pass and raced down the ice on a breakaway. Sucese slipped the puck between Kielly’s legs to put Penn State back in front just 33 seconds after giving up the tying goal.
Just 49 seconds later, however, the Golden Knights evened the game at three as Greg Moro wristed a shot past Funkey’s blocker.
Midway through the third period, the Nittany Lions took the lead for good. On a broken play, the puck sprung loose from the corner to Brandon Biro, who jammed it through the legs of Kielly.