The partnership between Nate Sucese and Brandon Biro started off purely by coincidence. The two first met as assigned roommates on move-in weekend prior to their freshman year.
“I hadn’t even had his number or talked to him once before I walked into the dorm door,” Sucese recalled.
Almost four years later, the two are still roommates.
“We like being around each other. We like watching hockey every single night. So we’re pretty compatible for roommates,” Biro said. “So it doesn’t really surprise me that we have the chemistry on the ice.”
The two weren’t paired up right away. Sucese has been one of the team’s top scorers since the very beginning. In mid-November, he passed Andrew Sturtz for the program’s goal-scoring record. Roughly a month ago, he passed David Goodwin for the points record.
“It’s just the mentality of having it in your head that you’re going to get pucks to the net,” Sucese explained. “I like to have a goal of having at least three to four shots a game.”
Sucese is right on target this season, averaging a little more than three shots per game.
Biro took more time to find his game, starting out as a fourth line grinder until his physical ability caught up to his mental ability.
“I think when I was a freshman, it was kind of a pre-puberty sort of thing,” Biro said.
As the youngest player to don the blue and white, Biro weighed in around 150 pounds that first season. Since then, with the help of Sucese, Biro has put on nearly 30 pounds. The results have certainly paid off.
After posting 20 points as a freshman, Biro has hovered around a point per game since, reaching 40 points as a junior.
Biro hasn’t just matured physically. Before the season, Biro’s teammates named him captain for his senior year. The soft-spoken Canadian may not seem the obvious choice for what can be a rather vocal role. Sucese certainly didn’t see it after they first met.
“He was a little 18 year old, pretty shy. Honestly, doesn’t really do too much vocally to be a leader, but his antics and his actions definitely show it,” Sucese said.
Biro is “lead by example” personified. He’d be the first player to go to battle for a loose puck in the corner, happily throws his body into shooting lanes, and does his best to get his still relatively small frame in the goalie’s line of vision.
“I think he’s been a stud since day one,” fellow senior Liam Folkes said. “He came in as a true freshman and he didn’t act like it. On the ice, he just does everything right.”
That mentality has helped Biro enjoy one of the more special careers Pegula Ice Arena has seen. He’d be the first to tell you he couldn’t have done it without his teammates, especially his running mate.
“A lot of guys will tell you if you get a point or something or something good happens early on the rest of the game just feels more slow and you feel more confident,” Biro said. “He’s a guy who can make that special play and get things rolling early. Then, from there, you just kind of roll with it.”
The Mayor of Madison
Some players just have a team’s number. Still, Liam Folkes is something of an anomaly. With two goals against Wisconsin over the weekend, Folkes brought his career total to 48.
Twelve of those have come against the Badgers, in just 17 games.
“I don’t know if I like that stat, to be honest,” Folkes said. While he can always be relied on to torment the Badgers, Folkes wants to bring that lethality against as many opponents as possible.
“I just happen to score goals against them,” he said. “Hopefully Minnesota can be the next team.”
Folkes faces the same round of questions every time the Nittany Lions travel to Madison or the Badgers come to State College. Some might grow tired of answering them time after time.
He’s happy to oblige, so long as the goals keep coming.
“I mean, every single time we play well against them,” he said. “Hopefully that’s not my last time playing against them.”
The Badgers couldn’t have picked a better time to show up for Folkes. Since netting a hat trick on Nov. 29, Folkes had just one tally in 16 games. Though the puck wasn’t going in the net for Folkes, coach Guy Gadowsky wouldn’t call the run a slump.
Folkes did tally seven assists in those 16 games. Linemates Evan Barratt and Alex Limoges had 13 and 11 points, respectively, in the same time frame.
“For them, they have very high expectations of themselves, and high standards. So, for them, I think they do feel that they need to put the puck in the net,” Gadowsky said, “but I do want to say they have been playing very, very well.”
The Scarborough, Ontario native became a household name because of his heroics against the Badgers. His fame — and confidence — only rose when he was partnered with Barratt and Limoges.
Folkes netted a modest six goals as a freshman. He’s hit double digits every season since, including 18 last season as the trio formed the highest scoring line in the nation.
With at least two weekends remaining, Folkes has regressed to 11 goals this year, due in large part to that scoring drought. He trusts that breakthrough against the Badgers will carry over to this weekend against the Golden Gophers and beyond.
“My dad always says when you score goals, they come in bunches,” he said, “so hopefully I can keep this rolling.”