For the second time in his career, Evan Barratt has become a viral sensation.
After manhandling Ryan Lindgren and the Minnesota Golden Gophers last season, Barratt captured the attention of the hockey community over the weekend with his lacrosse-style goal. “The Michigan,” as the move is dubbed, impressed both Barratt’s coaches and teammates.
That Barratt pulled off the move early in the third period with the Nittany Lions trailing by two goals is even more impressive.
“That says a lot about someone’s confidence,” Gadowsky said. “To be able to try that in that type of moment is unreal.”
After starting his freshman season in the press box with an upper-body injury, it took a while for Barratt to adjust to the collegiate game. When he finally hit his stride, though, he became one of the team’s most dynamic players on the team’s most dominant line with Alex Limoges and Liam Folkes, guiding the Nittany Lions to back-to-back sweeps of the Golden Gophers.
That performance has carried over to the 2018-19 season. Barratt and Limoges lead the team with 10 points. Folkes isn’t far behind with eight points.
“They’re amazing out there. Everything they do is really special,” Barratt said of his linemates. “So it’s pretty easy for me out there.”
For as much as Barratt improved during his rookie season, Gadowsky has been thrilled with the work he put in during the offseason to take the next step in his sophomore campaign.
“I think he’s a much more consistent, mature hockey player,” Gadowsky said. “We’re very happy with the work that he’s doing and the development that he’s had.”
Barratt’s growth should come as no surprise. For as gifted a player as Barratt is, he understands and accepts that it takes work to be a true star.
“He’s very receptive to improvement and suggestions to improvement. He’s a really good teammate,” Gadowsky said. “When you combine those things together and you have his skill set, you’ve got a pretty special player.”
Saturday night marked Penn State’s sixth all-time contest against Arizona State. After winning each of the prior five matchups, including Friday’s 6-5 comeback victory, Johnny Walker’s overtime goal gave the Sun Devils their first win over the Nittany Lions.
The win meant more to the Sun Devils than just handing the Nittany Lions their first loss of the season.
“From a program standpoint, absolutely the best win to date,” Sun Devils’ coach Greg Powers said via AZCentral. ”Not even close because of what it does for the confidence. To beat that team on the road is a huge milestone for our guys.”
Nittany Lions’ coach Guy Gadowsky found a silver lining in Powers’ comment.
“In a way, it’s a compliment after you lose,” Gadowsky said.
Now in their fourth season of Division-I action, the Sun Devils may be paralleling Penn State’s trajectory as a program. With a 7-3-0 record through 10 games, the Sun Devils are off to their best start in their short program history.
Gadowsky praised the Sun Devils for their composure and discipline throughout the weekend and spoke of the situation with nostalgia for when the Nittany Lions were in their position.
“What Arizona State is going through right now is a lot of fun,” he said. “They deserve it.”
Powers’ comments also had Gadowsky pondering which victory served as Penn State’s most memorable in their youngest days.
“The one that stands out is a 4-0 win against Michigan here [at Pegula Ice Arena],” Gadowsky decided. “At that time, there was a lot of overlooking. That’s when we actually felt that we were on our way.”
That win over the Wolverines came in the team’s second season as a Division-I program and the first in Big Ten play. Despite finishing the season with an 8-26-2 record, that night belonged to the Nittany Lions.
While many more milestone wins have come since that 4-0 drubbing of the Wolverines, that win will always be special to the Nittany Lions.
“It gives you a lot of confidence, not only in the players but in the staff, all the administration, everybody involved in the program, that we are doing the right things,” Gadowsky said. “I remember it fondly.”
A Sense Of Urgency
One of the key factors to Penn State’s 5-0-0 start was one of the most important areas Guy Gadowsky wanted to improve over the offseason — consistency.
In a somewhat disappointing 2017-18 campaign, the Nittany Lions could look like very different teams not just night-to-night, but sometimes period-by-period.
Gadowsky stressed playing with the same intensity for a full 60 minutes, and had gotten just that during the team’s five straight wins to open the season.
As the Nittany Lions split a weekend series with Arizona State, however, they looked like the Nittany Lions of last season. Both nights, the Nittany Lions were inconsistent through the opening 40 minutes, heading into both third periods trailing to the Sun Devils.
Those deficits brought out the Nittany Lions’ best, however.
“There’s certain indicators of when we play fast collectively and what happens. It sounds easy but it’s not,” Gadowsky said Monday. “It takes a lot of work. It takes a lot of energy. Everybody has to be on that page.
“What you saw in the third period both nights was collectively us doing just that.”
In those third periods, the Nittany Lions outscored the Sun Devils 5-1 and outshot them 30-13. While the performance secured a victory on Friday night and forced overtime on Saturday, Gadowsky would like to see that performance for more than just the final 20 minutes.
“The challenge is to play that way earlier, right from the drop of the puck, which I think we’ve been doing a good job of, but we haven’t been able to sustain it,” Gadowsky said.