It was a scary scene, and for a few seconds, hearts had to be in the throats of nearly everyone in Pegula Ice Arena.
In an exhibition hockey game on Oct. 2, Slater Doggett of Queens University of Canada dragged Penn State’s Kevin Kerr down from behind, with both skating at a decent speed, and they barreled into the boards.
There was an audible gasp in the arena, followed by a cascade of boos directed toward Doggett, who was soon given a game misconduct and tossed from the ice for the rest of the day.
After lying on the ice for a few minutes while being tended to by trainers, the sophomore defenseman was helped to his feet and off the ice. There were visions of arguably the team’s best defenseman possibly being lost for a long time.
Even Kerr was worried, but concerns were allayed by the time he was back in the trainer’s room.
“It turned out to be a lot better than I thought it was,” Kerr said. “I got really lucky there.”
The first concern, with the way he was dragged into the boards, was for a concussion. Then, as he left the ice, he had his arms around two trainers and was not putting any weight on his left leg.
“Initially when I got hit I kind of felt the guy coming behind me and as soon as I got hit, my first thought in my head was not let my head go head-first,” he said Monday at the team’s weekly session with the media. “I tried to pull my head back a little bit, and by doing that my knee went directly into the boards.”
His knee hurt from the collision, and trainers wanted him to not use the leg as a precaution when he left the ice.
But it was just sore, he was ready for the season opener last Thursday and Friday against St. Lawrence — Penn State split the games with the Saints — and he expects to hit the ice again this Friday at Mercyhurst.
“I was extremely excited,” Kerr said. “Initially I didn’t want to get hurt like that in a preseason game where it doesn’t really mean too much. I was really excited I wasn’t going to be missing any time.”
With a pair of inexperienced goaltenders, the Nittany Lions figured to see a few ups and downs this season. The games against the Saints were a prime example.
Freshman Peyton Jones was solid in his debut, a 4-2 win, but had a tough start in a 6-3 loss the next night.
The entire team took the blame for the Friday loss, which was flat at the start. They were outshot 8-1, lost four straight faceoffs and were generally poor. Still, coach Guy Gadowsky expects more from his goalie even if he is let down by the men in front of him.
“There are going to be times when we aren’t very good when he’s going to have to be at his best,” Gadowsky said. “I think that would be a good learning experience for him, but by no means can we blame the results of the first five minutes on him, for sure.”
Down 3-0 less than five minutes into the game, Jones was pulled in favor of Chris Funkey, whose only time last season was in relief during bad losses. Funkey also gave up three goals.
“What a guy,” Gadowsky said. “What a mentally tough guy to get thrown in not prepared and he always comes up with great performances.”
Gadowsky declined to name a starter Friday, but said both netminders already have good reputations as dependable teammates.
“I thought (Jones) handled it extremely well,” Gadowsky said. “He continued to try to help the team as much as he could with stats and was calm, and wasn’t letting any negativity that he might have had spill onto the team at all. I thought he handled it like a pro.”
Gadowsky, who grew up in Edmonton, Alberta, has developed a pipeline to the Canadian prairies.
Freshman Brandon Biro and senior forward Dylan Richard are both from Sherwood Park, in the Edmonton suburbs, and played junior hockey for the Spruce Grove Saints, also near Edmonton.
They didn’t play together in juniors, and Richard was not involved in recruiting Biro, but the senior has been mentoring the freshman.
“He’s doing everything to fit in and more,” Richard said. “… I really haven’t had to do a lot with him.”
The Nittany Lion program is in just its fifth season in Division I, but four players have come from the Saints program and the Edmonton area. Former defenseman Mike Williamson is from Leduc and former captain David Glen is from Fort Saskatchewan.
Richard said knowing Glen was at Penn State played a role in his college choice, and the connection “kind of does play a part” in a number of players from the same junior team choosing the same school.