Penn State men’s hockey has had its ups and downs this season without a doubt. While hope remains for a third straight NCAA tournament berth, fate is not in the hands of coach Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions. Still, the remarkable progress made by this program during its brief stint at the Division-I level is worth noting.
Saturday night, six seniors suited up for one final regular season contest at Pegula Ice Arena. Each was recognized during Penn State’s senior day festivities. Throughout the individuals’ careers at Penn State, whether long or short, each has contributed to the growth of the college hockey culture throughout the Penn State community. On ice performance, but more importantly, character has been shown by each of these individuals to get the Nittany Lions to where they are today.
Ludvig Larsson has the shortest tenure by far out of any senior Penn State players. Still, his contributions are bountiful in quantity for this Nittany Lions squad.
Larsson is a graduate student from Merrimack college. He chose Penn State as his destination after three efficient seasons with the Warriors because he believed in the all-around great experience the university offered to him. His experienced also allowed him to offer extensive leadership to the rest of the team. Gadowsky has raved about his leadership qualities throughout the season.
Larsson has also led by example for the Nittany Lions. He has played in all 31 games this season for Penn State. He has been a solid contributor as a net front presence on the power play, scoring four goals on the season with the man-advantage unit. Larsson has contributed 20 points in total for the best offense in college hockey.
Larsson’s most impressive trait without a doubt is his success in the faceoff circle. He has won 318 out of 535 draws taken on the season. This has helped the efficiency of the Nittany Lions, allowing their deadly offense to keep the puck in the zone, and allowing their struggling defense to get easy chances to clear.
Larsson is also the first Swede to play for Penn State, hopefully opening that recruiting ally down the road.
Alec Marsh has seen injuries become a hindrance to his senior campaign. Marsh has missed a stint of this season and been on the receiving end of a few serious hits along the boards throughout Big Ten play. This has no doubt affected Marsh’s production as well. The forward has managed just 12 points and a career low 41 shots this season.
Regardless of statistics, Marsh will be best remembered for his toughness displayed in blue and white. Despite his physical play style, it took a lot to keep Marsh away from the ice, and from embracing Penn State culture.
Following a devastating blow to the ribs earlier this season against Minnesota, Marsh did not let the pain he was feeling keep him from his scheduled postgame autograph session with the fans. He instilled a toughness and willingness to sacrifice for his team and the fans within Penn State hockey. Marsh loved the culture of hockey valley and will be remembered fondly by the Nittany Lions faithful.
Chris Funkey never quite saw a window of opportunity to become Penn State’s No. 1 goaltender throughout his four years in the program. In fact, his playing time has dwindled even more with the emergence of freshman Oskar Autio as Gadowsky’s new preferred backup to Peyton Jones.
Funkey became known as a fantastic locker room presence, and a huge reason why Penn State was able to overcome the adversity of a deep Big Ten conference the past two seasons and make the NCAA tournament and win the Big Ten tournament in 2017.
All his hard work in the blue and white was rewarded, as Gadowsky subbed Funkey in to play the third period of Saturday’s contest after Wisconsin took a 6-2 lead.
It was an emotional sendoff for Funkey, as he skated over to greet a Roar Zone full of students one last time after the game. The students chanted “Funkey,” showing just how much of a fan favorite his bright character made him.
Kevin Kerr struggled mightily this season, as did most of the Penn State defense. Still, Kerr put in countless shifts through the thick-and-thin for the Nittany Lions. His 27 games played after Saturday is the second highest mark of his career.
Kerr also acted as a mentor for transfer student Evan Bell. Kerr and Bell paired for the second half of the season and both individuals worked together well to improve each other’s offensive game. There is no doubt Kerr’s mark will be left on Penn State hockey, as he has prepared Bell and others for the future.
Derian Hamilton was one of the few bright spots for the Penn State defense this season. Hamilton set a career high in games played, and also managed a clip of +10 on the season.
Hamilton proved to always be a reliable option when called upon to replace scratches on defense throughout his Penn State career. He was a gritty defenseman who could handle the puck and lay it all on the line for his teammates every night.
Berger has accomplished several remarkable feats in his Penn State career. He has eclipsed the 100 games played plateau. He also became the third player in program history to pass the century mark in points.
No statistics, however, measure his leadership both on the ice and in the locker room. These aspects of his game justified him becoming Penn State’s sixth ever captain.
Berger found the back of the net Saturday to match his career-high for goals in a season with 13.
Senior day and the season alike may not have gone in favor of the Nittany Lions, given all the talent on their roster. Still, these individuals should hang their heads high with the mark they have left on Penn State hockey in terms of on-ice success and character alike.
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