Future forecast: Notes from Lions' exhibition opener

David Eckert, BWI Staff
Blue White Illustrated

Penn State dropped its international exhibition game with Ottawa in overtime, 4-3, at Pegula Ice Arena on Sunday.

The Nittany Lions fell behind, 3-1, late in the third period, but came storming back with two quick goals, only to see their efforts erased when the Gee-Gees scored just over a minute into overtime.

Though meaningless in the big picture, the exhibition offered a few themes that could extend into the regular season when it begins later this week.

Let's take a look at some of the news and notes from the afternoon, here:


1.) Cole Hults is Penn State’s next scoring defenseman

A freshman playing against live competition with his teammates for the first time, Hults didn’t seem to miss a step in the offensive zone.

He scored the Nittany Lions’ first goal of the game on a power-play one-timer after Denis Smirnov made a nice pass to to find him from down low.

Hults’ play style is similar to that of Vince Pedrie, who departed after his sophomore season to sign an entry-level deal with the New York Rangers.

Hults knew over the offseason that he would be filling Pedrie’s role on the ice when Penn State has a man advantage, giving him the chance to prepare.

“I’ve been taking one-timers the whole preseason here, so I think it’s good to finally have it pay off,” Hults said. “I think I’ve shot probably over 1,000 one-timers so I think it’s just nice to see it pay off.”

2.) Penn State’s power play unit was its biggest strength

On a day where not much went right for Guy Gadowsky’s squad, the Nittany Lions were able to stay in the game by taking advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.

Ottawa was sent to the box seven times on Sunday, and Penn State scored all three of its goals while on the power play.

After Hults scored in the second period, Smirnov and Brandon Biro each found the back of the net late in the third period to tie things up for the Nittany Lions.

Gadowsky was frustrated with his team’s inability to win faceoffs in the offensive zone while with the man advantage, but noted that because many of the Nittany Lions have played on power play units together before, there’s more chemistry among them than there typically is this early in the season.”

You do have some guys that have some familiarity, specifically Autio and Smirnov,” Gadowsky said. I think that looked really good. Nate Sucese and Brandon Biro [as well]. So we have some familiarity.”

3.) The Nittany Lions must improve on their own side of the ice

Turnovers and other mistakes in the defensive and neutral and defensive zones caused a lot of trouble for Penn State.

Though Ottawa only registered 21 shots on goal to the Nittany Lions’ 53, several of them gave the Gee-Gees a legitimate chance to score, putting Penn State goaltenders Peyton Jones and Chris Funkey in a difficult spot.

Mistakes on the blue line were also prevalent throughout Big Ten play last season, but were somewhat masked by the Nittany Lions’ prolific offense.

Biro attributed much of those mistakes to rust, but recognized puck security as something that must improve before Penn State opens regular season play next week.

“I think one thing is we turned the puck over a little bit too much,” Biro said. “When you do that it’s hard to get your speed going and that’s kind of a staple of our team is using our speed, transitioning quickly.”

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