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Penn State Hockey Media Day Notebook

on September 28, 2017 6:40 PM

Penn State hockey has never been lacking when it comes to high expectations, but heading into the 2017-18 season the Nittany Lions find themselves in uncharted waters.

Opening the year ranked No.10 in the USCHO.com poll Penn State finds itself in the thick of the national conversation and with it, facing down the barrel of more than a few hopeful fans anxiously awaiting the return to the ice following a historic NCAA Tournament 2016-17 season.

That being said, there are still plenty of questions left to be answered before postseason hopes turn into reality over the next several months. Some of those answers started to take shape during Penn State's media day on Thursday, and here is what you need to know. 

[Penn State will face Ottawa this Sunday for an exhibition game and open the season the following Friday.]

Expectations:

If people outside the program are excited about what the season could bring, you wouldn't know it inside the locker room. "Just block out the noise." goaltender Peyton Jones said. "If we focus on what is right in front of us we'll be fine." echoed fellow netminder Chris Funkey.

That sentiment can be found across the program. Speaking to media head coach Guy Gadowsky repeated what he has said for years, that rankings aren't all that important. Or rather, they are a reflection of how well Penn State is playing, which is more important to the number next to the name itself.

Another lesson, learning from the year before. "I wouldn't say it got to our heads," Jones said of Penn State's brief No.1 ranking last season. "But it's only human nature, it feels pretty good. We just have to play the same game that got us to that point."

Peyton Jones: 

Speaking of Jones, Penn State's No.1 goalie is one of the most athletic players on the Nittany Lions' roster, which means it's the little things that will make him even better rather than more time in the gym.

"Flexibility," Jones said of what he worked on this offseason. "The millimeters matter." As Jones looks to improve on his freshman campaign his .903 save percentage was No.50 nationally, his GAA of 2.68 paired well with Penn State's offense happy system and while it wasn't in the upper levels nationally, Gadowsky isn't concerned.

"The Big Ten has some of the top power play teams in the country, and when you look at the talent on those units it isn't hard to see why" He said when referencing Big Ten goaltending numbers being lower than most conferences.

New Faces:

Penn State ought to be keeping pace in the talent race this year, the Nittany Lions add six new faces after adding 10 last year. While nearly all of the new names will look to make an impact, few bring the buzz as freshman forward Evan Barratt who was selected in the third round of the NHL Draft this past spring by the Chicago Blackhawks and played with the US National U18 team.

"It was unreal," Barratt said with a smile. "I can't even begin to explain it. This summer has gone by so fast."

New Captains:

Erik Autio and Chase Berger will skate alongside teammate and captain James Robinson this fall as alternate captains. Robinson is the sixth captain in Penn State's short Division I history and a longtime favorite among players and coaches. 

"There are so many leaders in that locker room," Robinson said. "It's a great honor to be named captain."

New Parings:

Autio won't be without his own challenges this season. The longtime defenseman will be without his linemate Vince Pedrie who opted to forgo the remainder of his collegiate career to sign with the New York Rangers. The pairing was one of the best in the nation, leading the country in +/- and a complementary use of aggression and stay-at-home defending. As of right now Autio is working with freshman Cole Hults, but both he and Gadowsky are open to trying other options in the early going.

Opening Weeks:

Penn State doesn't have an very favorable opening two weeks as the Nittany Lions will bus to New York to face Clarkson and St Lawrence on back-to-back nights in different locations. Penn State will then travel to Minnesota to play the Gophers the following week before finally returning home to open the home slate.

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