Surrounding the end of last season at Penn State was the ominous question of who would replace former Nittany Lion Peyton Jones between the pipes.
To this point in the season, there is still no clear starter nor is there a discrete plan as to what Guy Gadowsky will do going forward.
Both junior Oskar Autio and freshman Liam Souliere have split time, yet one has been much more productive and given his team a better chance to win.
If the Nittany Lions want to get going, they need to turn to Autio in net moving forward.
As it stands now, Penn State is 4-6 and last in the Big Ten with only six points.
While Autio has had his fair share of games this season where he has struggled, he has been in net for three of Penn State’s four victories and has given up only two goals in his past two games.
He also posted a 23-save shutout in his last outing, while Souliere followed up the next day by allowing four goals on just 20 shots.
While neither goalie has been otherworldly this year, Autio is trending in a better direction and, being a junior, has more maturity over the young freshman.
Not only is Autio playing better as of late, but the Espoo, Finland, native has been better all season.
Souliere is currently tied for the fourth worst save percentage in the entire country at .850, while Autio sits at .883.
However, the bigger discrepancy comes in the goals against average department, where Autio blows Souliere out of the water.
Souliere is again, fourth worst in the entire nation with an abysmal 4.37, a whole 1.21 more than his netminder partner.
Naming Autio the full-time starter will help in a myriad of different fashions, but perhaps the two most important are overall performance and confidence.
It goes without saying: Autio has been better than Souliere this year hands down, and the numbers back that up.
From goals against average to save percentage to just the basic “win” stat, no matter how simplistic it may be, Autio reigns supreme.
Naming the better goalie the full-time sooner rather than later can help Gadowsky’s squad climb back to relevance in the Big Ten standings and gain a better first round tournament matchup than — what would be right now — the juggernaut that is Minnesota.
The other level that factors into the decision is confidence.
How much being named starter would help Autio’s confidence, and in turn his performance, is impossible to say.
However, some members of the team feel very confident playing in front of Autio, which leads to more aggressive offense and more shots.
“We know if we make a mistake he’s got our back,” senior captain Alex Limoges said. “It allows us to be a little more aggressive.”
Sure, there would be a negative impact on the confidence of Souliere, but he is a freshman, and Autio could serve as the mentor Jones was for him.
At the beginning of the season, Gadowsky said Autio “certainly is going to be getting every opportunity.”
While right off the bat the junior did not impress, he has since capitalized on the opportunities and deserves to be named the full-time starter.
It’s now time to give Autio the opportunities that he not only deserves, but has earned, to give Penn State the best chance moving forward and name him the full-time protector of the crease.