From the start of the season, Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky has wanted his team to “build a solid foundation for the future.”
A common characteristic of a first-year program is a lack of depth on the roster. The Nittany Lions currently have only one full recruiting class amongst several transfers and players from the Icers club team.
As the season has wore on, the team has been beaten and battered after facing an even amount of highs and lows that were both mental and physical. However, the team has gone on to win big games against programs such as Air Force, R.I.T., Ohio State, Vermont and Michigan State. Those wins can be attributed to doing the little things, Gadowsky said.
There are official statistics that can be compared to on-base percentage like in baseball, which was one of the stats highlighted in the movie “Moneyball.” In hockey, stats like winning faceoffs and blocking shots are the ones that are often overlooked. Gadowsky said they may not be “sexy, but they’re effective.”
David Glen said he is one of those players who takes pride the little things and it helps him on the ice.
“I’m trying to find a seam and just try to find enough space to get a shot off and get the puck towards the net,” said Glen, who leads the Lions in goals with 16.
Philadelphia Flyers analyst Steve Coates raved about Glen’s faceoff stats during the TV broadcast of Penn State’s 4-2 victory against Vermont at the Wachovia Center. So far Glen has won 202 of his 289 faceoffs (.589 faceoff win percentage) taken this year.
“I’ve worked hard on it in the last couple of years in juniors and it has translated over here,” the Fort Saskatchewan, Alta. native said. “I want to keep working on it...It’s an obscure stat but I try to be the best at it.”
The freshman does more than just excel in the important columns. His play at the other end of the ice is so valuable for the team, Gadowsky said.
The number of blocked shots is the other stat that is important, but skating in front of a fast moving puck is something that is not a natural thing a player just does.
“You got to suck it up and do it,” Gadowsky said. “Blocking pucks that go 95 MPH is not something that your brain says ‘this is a good idea to do.’ It is a good indication of how this team sticks together and how committed they are.”
Other stats that are not as “sexy” as goals, assists, and points are not officially recorded in the box score, but the Penn State coaching staff charts the number of battles along the boards that they win themselves for their own records and keeps a close eye them.
It helps the team learn what they need to do better, Gadowsky said. Those battles help in another aspect that the Lions have improved on this year. The team has improved greatly during the last month and a half in what Gadowsky called “stick on puck” or time of possession.
The Nittany Lions will be relying on some of those smaller characteristics to carry them through the four remaining games left on their schedule. They will face club team Oklahoma at home this weekend before finishing out the season on the road at Wisconsin, Feb. 24 and 25.