Most athletes, in some form or another, are superstitious. Andrew Sturtz is no different.
The Penn State sophomore gets to Pegula Ice Arena at the same time before every home game — three hours before faceoff, or between 4 and 4:10 p.m. for a 7 p.m. start. As soon as he gets to the locker room, he tapes his sticks.
“I do the same thing every time I walk into the building,” Sturtz said. “The rituals are definitely there for me.”
And before he leaves his apartment for the rink, he watches the same four videos on YouTube — one of Montreal Canadien Brandon Prust, two of the Canadiens’ Andrew Shaw and one of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane.
He is looking for inspiration.
Sturtz has definitely been inspired this season. He leads the team, and is tied for 12th in the nation, with five goals on the young season heading into a pair of home contests against Niagara at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday.
The video that seems to have inspired him the most of late is of Kane on a breakaway.
It’s worked — the past two goals for Sturtz have been on breakaways. The most recent was this past weekend against Canisius, when he batted the puck out of the air and raced most of the length of the ice to score. The goal before was the game-winner in overtime to beat then-No. 3 Notre Dame.
He said he wanted to model his breakaways after Kane, but after a little consultation he has made some alterations.
“I like how he comes in fast and hits the brakes,” Sturtz said. “I’ve practiced that move with (goalie Chris) Funkey a lot, and he told me if I just keep the speed then it should work on most goalies.”
The other videos inspire him in a more general way. He says he likes to model his game after players like Shaw and Brendan Gallagher, also of the Canadiens.
“I like watching the grittiness of those guys and how they’re tough to play against every night,” Sturtz said. “They go through a war every night and keep getting up. That’s kind of how I try to come into games.”
Sturtz has an impressive combination of skills and grittiness. He has quick hands, good vision and a solid hockey IQ to go with his toughness.
It helped him net a team-high 18 goals as a freshman.
“He was very, very good last year,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He had the same bulldog intensity and the same enjoyment for the game, and actually a lot more than that. The same fierce love for the game, and you see that.”
Notes: The Purple Eagles are struggling to open this season, losing 10-2 and 6-2 to Ohio State last weekend. They are scoring just 2.43 goals per game, tied for 44th out of 60 Division I teams, and allowing 5.71 goals, which ranks 59th. They also are among the most penalized teams in the nation, drawing over 20 minutes per game.
Men’s ice hockey
Who: Niagara (0-5-2) at No. 14 Penn State (5-1-1)
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday
Where: Pegula Ice Arena
Radio: WAPY 103.1
Leading scorers: PSU — Denis Smirnov (3 goals, 6 assists), Chase Berger (3 G, 5 A), Trevor Hamilton (1 G, 7 A), Andrew Sturtz (5 G, 1 A). NU — Kris Spriggs (2 G, 4 A), Derek Brown (3 G, 2 A), Johnny Curran (3 G).