Penn State’s Trevor Hamilton skated through the high slot and unleashed a rifle slap shot last Saturday night, in the third period against Wisconsin.
The blast found its way through all five Badger skaters and was blocked by goalie Matt Jurusik. Freshman Brandon Biro, the only other Nittany Lion in the zone, was waiting for the rebound but it was cleared away by a Badger — right onto Hamilton’s stick as he swept in, flipping a backhanded shot into the net for the final goal in the 5-2 victory.
In his first season with Penn State’s men’s hockey team, Hamilton, a junior defenseman, has certainly gotten involved in the offense. He scored twice at Wisconsin to give him six goals on the season to go with 17 assists, with the latter already setting the program record for a defenseman.
Hamilton’s tied for fourth on the team in points (23) and is third in assists as the No. 9 Nittany Lions (18-6-2, 7-4-1) host No. 5 Minnesota (18-8-2, 9-3) at 6:30 p.m. Friday and 8 p.m. Saturday at Pegula Ice Arena.
He’s a warrior. He plays hurt, he blocks shots, he eats pucks. … He’s the type of guy that plays better in the bigger games.
Guy Gadowsky, Penn State coach on Trevor Hamilton
Hamilton will play a major role, and he’s more than happy to jump into plays.
“When the team’s doing well, everyone’s doing well scoring,” Hamilton said. “Our forwards are so skilled they can pull up and hit you late in the rush and you’re going to have a mini breakaway. I like to get in the rush.”
He scored 20 goals and 43 assists in 97 games over the last two seasons playing juniors in the USHL. Before that, he played one season at Miami (Ohio), making him a junior in eligibility.
Coach Guy Gadowsky isn’t surprised that Hamilton has been involved so much in the offense, but he is stunned by the big numbers, which also include a shorthanded goal last Friday.
“For defensemen to get the number of goals he has now, off even-strength goals, is surprising,” Gadowsky said. “For a D-man to get a shorty and an even-strength goal, obviously a tremendous weekend for him.”
And it’s not that Hamilton is slacking in his blue-line duties. He’s a strong shot-blocker and a good protector for Jones.
“He’s a warrior,” Gadowsky said. “He plays hurt, he blocks shots, he eats pucks. … He’s the type of guy that plays better in the bigger games.”
This weekend’s games might very well be the biggest of the season — to this point — for the Nittany Lions. If Penn State has plans to win the Big Ten, or at least finish in the top two to earn a bye in the conference tournament next month, the team needs to do well against Minnesota.
Fresh in the Lions’ memories is a sweep by the Golden Gophers two weeks ago in Minneapolis. They played much better in the second game than in the first, but beating Minnesota is a tall task.
“I still think there’s a feeling that we can atone (for) that,” Gadowsky said. “We believe we can play well against Minnesota because we have, but … it’s Minnesota. There are teams that are going to play a very good hockey game (against them) and lose.”
Who gets to play their style will play a huge role this weekend. Penn State’s free-wheeling, up-tempo play has helped them rack up the wins, including the sweep over the Badgers, but the Gophers controlled play two weeks ago.
Having the home ice, with a full-throated Roar Zone stoking their fires, should help heat them up, and the Nittany Lions know what they have to change to find success in the rematch.
“We played the game we wanted to play,” captain David Goodwin said of the second meeting at Minnesota two weeks ago. “At the end of the day we still got swept.”
Who: No. 5 Minnesota (18-8-2, 9-3) at No. 10 Penn State (18-6-2, 7-4-1 BIg Ten)
Where: Pegula Ice Arena
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday
Radio: WAPY 103.1
TV: BTN (both games)
Leading scorers: PSU—Denis Smirnov (14 goals, 20 assists), David Goodwin (6 G, 21 A), Chase Berger (10 G, 16 A), Andrew Sturtz (17 G, 6 A), Trevor Hamilton (6 G, 17 A). Minnesota — Tyler Sheehy (17 G, 24 A), Justin Kloos (14 G, 20 A), Vinni Lettieri, (15 G, 14 A), Leon Bristedt (11 G, 16 A).