Penn State hockey is 3-0-1 in its last four games and the reinforcements have arrived. The Nittany Lions are set to see the return of star forward Denis Smirnov this weekend against Ohio State. Smirnov had missed the past several weeks with an illness.
The standout sophomore has registered 11 points through the eight games he played prior to sitting out.
If there was any silver lining following Smirnov's departure though, it was the coming out party for freshman Sam Sternschein, who may have played himself into the lineup somewhere else on the card.
“They were our best line before Denis’ injury,” Gadowsky said of his top line. “But Sam Sternschein absolutely made a case for him to be in the lineup every night.”
Either way Penn State enters the thick of the Big Ten race in the coming weeks as healthy as ever. Although the Nittany Lions are still awaiting the services of defenseman Erik Autio who is still day-to-day, and questionable for this weekend's series. However Penn State did return fellow defenseman Kevin Kerr, who made an immediate impact in the second game of Penn State's series against Michigan State this past weekend.
“He’s the one that set up [the game tying goal],” Gadowsky said of Kerr. “It was great to have him back. I know there’s still some question marks about his health, but having him in the lineup made a huge difference.”
Sitting at No. 21 in the PariWise rankings Penn State has its work cut out for it to make the postseason conversation for the second straight year at 8-7-1. The good news, most of the Nittany Lions' biggest games are still ahead of them.
"I'm not ready to concede it to them just yet," Gadowsky said of Big Ten leading and conference undefeated Notre Dame. "There's a lot of hockey left."