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Penn State Men’s Hockey: Nittany Lions Now 8-0 Following Sweep of Wisconsin

Penn State men’s hockey is 8-0 on the year following a road sweep of Wisconsin this past weekend to the tune of 2-1 and 4-0 victories over the Badgers. While Wisconsin has stumbled out of the gates this season with just two victories through eight games, Penn State’s sweep was still just the Nittany Lions first on the road against a Big Ten opponent since Penn State upended Minnesota during the 2019-20 campaign.

The record aside – the best the program has posted to open the season and the only team in the nation to be unbeaten and untied – Penn State has gotten back to some of the DNA that has helped turn the Nittany Lions from a fledging program into a name within the sport to be respected: scoring goals.

So far this year Penn State has netted 37 of them, just five shy of the national leader [Michigan]. Perhaps more noteworthy, 77.5% of Penn State’s goals this year have come during even strength play, a mark that is the best in the nation by nearly 8% ahead of the next closest team. A bevy of talented forwards have helped propel Penn State back from a struggling offense in 2020 and 2021 and into an early season offensive juggernaut. So far this year 10 different players have scored at least two goals. Kevin Wall leads the way so far this season with five to his name why sharpshooter Ryan Kirwan and Ashton Calder have each added four to the box score.

“The depth of our forwards has produced some very positive internal competition,” Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said earlier this year. “I think they all understand that there’s good players sitting out every night.”

Perhaps even more importantly, Penn State is getting defense so far this season. A longtime bugaboo for the Nittany Lions, this particular team has only given up 16 goals, the third-best number among the 25 teams who have played just eight games so far this season. The leader in this effort has come in the form of junior net minder Liam Souliere who sits sixth-best in the nation with a 1.50 GAA and a fourth-best .945 save percentage. Time will tell if those numbers will hold up under the pressure of Big Ten play, but so far the newly minted starter has earned his keep in conference play. Souliere has faced 155 shots this season through nearly 360 minutes spent in goal, a respectable ratio, but Penn State’s defense in front of Souliere will have to stay steady as well.

In either case all signs are good ones for a Penn State team looking to bounce-back to its pre-COVID form. With a home series against Michigan looming this weekend, the Nittany Lions will face their stiffest test of the year so far and their best indicator of how much their early season returns are a sign of things to come, or fools gold from less rigorous out of conference play.