Penn State does not have the most talented team in college ice hockey.
No one on the roster will be confused with Wayne Gretzky, Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin, they do not have the fastest skaters or the most elegant of stick handlers.
What they have are a bunch of guys who are willing to work hard and give every ounce of effort they have in every game.
That would be why, after every win this season, the team’s player of the game, as decided by the team, receives a construction worker’s hard hat.
Exemplifying that dirty work in getting the team to its current 5-2 record is David Glen, a freshman who likely will never cause an NHL scout to go drooling back to his club exhorting his team to spend a first-round draft pick on him.
“You don’t define David Glen by how many goals he gets,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “He does so many other things.”
But Glen is leading the Nittany Lions in scoring heading into a big weekend series – perhaps the biggest home series of the whole season – with Air Force. The teams play at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Glen has three goals and four assists, and while they may not be remarkable numbers, they are impressive for someone who was not expected to be making major contributions in scoring – just everywhere else on the ice.
“It’s not a matter of pretty tic-tac-toe plays,” Gadowsky said. “He’s getting dirty, getting grindy, he’s getting big goals that way.”
Glen takes care of the basics, like crashing the net looking for rebounds, screening the opposing goalie and working hard against the boards behind the net and in the corners. He’s also among the team leaders in faceoffs won, hits and plus-minus.
“We’ve just been working hard and doing the little things,” said Glen, whose 1.29 points per game ranks third in the nation. “Luckily enough it’s been transferring over and we’ve been able to help offensively for the team too.”
They were not the No. 1 or even No. 2 line at the start of the season, but Glen, Curtis Loik and Kenny Brooks – all freshmen -- have been the most productive line. Loik has two goals and two assists, and he and Glen have each had at least one point in the last four games.
Glen was sure to pass the credit for the scoring success to Brooks and Loik.
“There’s nothing fancy about it,” Glen said. “We like to keep it simple – focus on hard work, protecting the puck, getting the puck to the net and crashing the net. Thankfully it’s been working.”
It’s what has to work for the Nittany Lions, with a young program, a young team and nowhere near the tradition and depth of their future Big Ten brethren.
“We need a lot more of him,” Gadowsky said of Glen. “You can’t win with just one. … Someone that leads the team in goals is also a great example of how to play in dirty areas and how to win battles. Really, you have to get everybody to do that or you’re not going to have an overachieving team.”
That hard work is one fo the reasons scoring has gone up. In the season’s opening games, Penn State was racking up 50 and 60 shots on goal but only a few scores to show for it. Now, they’re converting at a much better rate, averaging five goals over their last three games.
“Early in the season we weren’t doing a good job of getting traffic and crashing in front of the net,” Glen said. “I think we’ve really simplified our game.”
This weekend’s opponent will be the toughest to skate in Greenberg Ice Pavilion all year. The Falcons have been in the NCAA Tournament five of the last six seasons, and while they are not ranked currently with a 2-3-3 record, they began the season 19th.
“It’ll be a really good stepping stone for our team,” Glen said. “We’ve got to stick to our principles of hard work, back check, pressure and that, and just playing hard and playing to our strengths and I think we’ll be fine.”
It starts the toughest stretch so far of the new season, with a two-game series at Union, which played in the Frozen Four last season, next on the slate Nov. 24-25.
Penn State will be short a few big pieces for these games. Two of the team’s bigger defensive-minded players are hurting, with 6-foot-3 defenseman Mark Yanis suffering a broken ankle last weekend to likely sideline him two months and 6-4 forward Jonathan Milley questionable with a hip pointer.
“Coming up against Air Force and Union at any time is going to be difficult,” Gadowsky said. “Right now we’re going to have to fine some other guys stepping up as well. It’ll be a great test. I’m really looking forward to it. You can’t predict anything but I’m curious to see how it goes.”
Penn State enters the weekend on a four-game win streak, and during that stretch has trailed for only 6:17 of game action. … After giving up six power play goals on their opponents’ first 19 chances, they have surrendered just one goal on the last 20 man advantage opportunities for their opponents. … The team will host a brunch with Gadowsky, Air Force coach Frank Serratore and team members at the Nittany Lion Inn at 10:30 a.m. Saturday. The event is $20 and open to the public.