Penn State Hockey: 3 Takeaways from the Nittany Lion Sweep of LIU

By Jacob Cheris on October 6, 2021 at 8:30 am
Penn State forward Connor McMenamin scores his first goal of the season against the Long Island Sharks at Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State Athletics

Penn State completed its first non-conference series since January of 2020 in its opening-season sweep of LIU. Though they still played the same brand of Penn State hockey we are used to (fast and emphasizing shots on goal), there were three things that we noticed in the opening games that looked different than last year.

1. Active defense

The Penn State defense was incredibly active in its series vs LIU. They were jumping into the play and creating lots of offense, even below the goal-line. Clayton Phillips and Christian Berger both got their first tallies on the year by getting to the net and becoming part of the offense.

"It's part of the offensive identity that they've talked about," Guy Gadowsky said after Monday's win. "We've always needed to generate offense from the backend."

The risk teams run into while playing this system is giving up chances in transition. Whenever a defenseman goes up on the rush, a forward must stay back covering the point. The Nittany Lion wingers did a really good job of this, covering for not only Phillips and Berger but every defenseman who got involved on that end of the ice.

2. Heavy forecheck

The Nittany Lions forecheck was outstanding in this series. The forwards were pressuring the Sharks' defense, forcing them to retreat back in the defensive zone.

Lamppa's goal was off of a terrible turnover in the LIU defensive zone. The Sharks defenseman was forced to make a quick decision with the puck because of the Penn State pressure. Christian Sarlo did a terrific job anticipating the breakout pass and was able to find a wide-open Lamppa for the goal.

3. Freshmen starting strong

Though the entire freshmen class was terrific in both games, there were two players that stood out above the rest. Ryan Kirwan and Danny Dzhaniyev both scored their first career goals. Dzhaniyev also had a pair of helpers in Game One.

The Brooklyn, New York native currently leads Penn State with three points. He has played extremely well despite his small size.

Kirwan scored his first goal on the man advantage. So far, he has fit very well on the first power-play unit. The left-winger is currently slotted into the third line with Dzhaniyev and Chase McLane.

Simon Mack also got his first point. It was the secondary assist on Kirwan's power-play tally in Game 1. He has been skating very well and making smart decisions with the puck.

Next up, the Nittany Lions will take on Canisius in a Friday-Saturday series where they will look to move to 4-0 on the young season.