Penn State Hockey: Larsson Elite At The Dot, But A Bigger Dream Lies Ahead
Ludvig Larsson has lost a lot of hockey games.
He has lost so many in his collegiate career that they blend into a messy portrait of frustration and disappointment.
Three years at Merrimack, never winning more than eight games in a season. It's something that wears on you. For all of the pop-culture glory that comes with sticking it out with a bad team, it does little in the way of addressing the fact that losing is not in fact why anyone is playing sports.
Meanwhile, Penn State has won more games this month alone than Merrimack did during either the 2014-15 and 2015-16 campaigns.
Why wouldn't you want a change of scenery? Especially so close to next phase of your career.
The point isn't to offer up a long-distance dragging of a program otherwise trying its best. But it does much when it comes to explaining why Larsson transferred to State College this past offseason. He needed a new opportunity, a new chance to play the game he loved and remember why he did.
And Penn State needed a face off expert.
The irony in all of this is that Larsson is a very good hockey player. It stands to reason that for all of their shortcomings as a collective group that his teammates at Merrimack weren't bad either, but Larsson's skills at the dot are elite.
In fact, heading into Saturday's game against Notre Dame, Larsson has won 388 face offs this year, second best all-time in a single season at Penn State (Chase Berger won 462 in 2016-17). His 59.5-percent success rate will be the program's best ever in a single year. In total the senior has taken 753 of them, 54-percent of the available opportunities Penn State has faced this season.
Nationally he is 11th in face off percentage, although that ranking includes players who have seen far fewer attempts to hurt or help their numbers. In the Big Ten, Larsson is effectively first in face off percentage if you only count players who have won over 100 of them this year.
But those stats don't mean much to Larsson, not because he doesn't care, but simply because he has something bigger in mind.
“It’s hard to kind of put words to exactly what it means,” Larsson said. “I just want this really, really bad.”
It's a unique perspective on a team that has largely done nothing but win at a high level the past three years. Penn State might not be Denver or St Cloud State, but Larsson never even sniffed the notion of the playoffs for the past three years while the Nittany Lions sit a win away from three-straight postseason appearances.
Going from the worst, to among the best, just like that.
“I've cried after each season so I'm probably going to cry after this one as well,” Larsson said. “Hopefully it'll be happy tears."
-Penn State face off numbers-
- 2018-19: Ludvig Larsson 388 wins, 59.5% win rate.
- 2017-18: Chase Berger 314 wins, 49.1% win rate.
- 2016-17: Chase Berger 462 wins, 57.8% win rate.
- 2015-16: Chase Berger 346 wins, 54.2% win rate.
- 2014-15: Taylor Holstrom 355 wins, 55.6% win rate.
- 2013-14: David Glen 310 wins, 56.9% win rate.
- 2012-13: David Glen 302 wins, 58.4% win rate