A word kept rolling off Guy Gadowsky’s lips last week as he praised Trevor Hamilton.
The Penn State men’s hockey coach used the word “warrior” four times in fewer than 40 seconds in describing his senior defenseman.
“That’s really his best trait,” the coach said in backing up his choice of words.
Hamilton is the very definition of a two-way defenseman, just as important at both ends of the ice in helping the No. 15 Nittany Lions roll to an eight-game unbeaten streak heading into a 25-day hiatus for the final exams and the holidays. They return to the ice Jan. 5, hosting Wisconsin at Pegula Ice Arena.
There are a few other defensemen on the Penn State roster with more extensive resumes, like Los Angeles Kings draft pick Cole Hults, or Erik Autio, who has played with Finland’s national program.
However, it’s hard to ignore a player who leads the team in shots blocked, while also tied for third on the Lions in points.
“It certainly says a lot (about) him,” Gadowsky said. “Someone that has the ability to produce on his own, which he has been doing. He sees the ice well and he’s a real tough kid. He also can shoot it. He’s got a bit of a goal-scorer’s mentality for a guy that’s so defensive, that plays so tough.”
His 17 points match Denis Smirnov’s total and is one behind forward Brandon Biro. Only Andrew Sturtz’s 16 assists and 26 points surpass Hamilton, who also is tied for third in the nation among defensemen in scoring, and tied for second in assists. He is at the top of both categories in the Big Ten.
He admits being productive at both ends of the ice is taxing, but he gives most of the credit to the teammates who receive his passes.
“It is tough,” Hamilton said, “but with our forwards, how skilled they are, how hard they work, it’s pretty easy to generate points when you’re just giving them the puck, let them do what they want.”
On defense his 45 blocked shots easily lead the team. Kris Myllari is next with 38.
Being willing to put not only his stick but his body in front of a rocketing puck takes a special kind of will power, but Hamilton is more than willing to make the sacrifice.
“I’ve had a lot of broken bones, bad bruises,” He said. “Obviously it’s something to help the team, keep the puck out of the back of the net, so I say to myself every time, ‘It could be worse if the puck hit the back of the net (instead of) me.’ ”
He has found this success, and given the team stability, while the lineup gets continually shuffled. Injuries to fellow defensemen Autio and Kevin Kerr have played a role in Hamilton getting paired with pretty much every other defenseman on the team over the course of this seaon — a never-ending game of defenseman musical chairs.
“I just know a lot of songs,” he joked at the reference.
Gadowsky said Hamilton played much of last season hurt, but he never missed a game as the team marched into the NCAA tournament. He netted six goals and assisted on 20 more scores.
The numbers he is putting up are a far cry from his first two years of college hockey, with no goals and just five assists in 31 games with Miami (Ohio). He then took a year off, playing in the USHL and finding his game again, before he got to the Penn State campus.
Gadowsky also pointed out, as impressive as his statistics may be, Hamilton has been just as valuable as a person and as a leader.
“The only thing I really regret is that we only get him for two years,” Gadowsky said. “We just love him. He’s so good for a team, he’s such a good person. Honestly, I wish we could have him for 12 years, not two. He’s awesome.”
Notes: The Nittany Lions are one of five Big Ten teams in the USCHO rankings. … The team’s unbeaten streak is currently third-longest in the nation. … After a sluggish start to the season, Penn State has moved up the national rankings statistically heading into the holiday break. The Nittany Lions lead the nation in goals (82), assists (144), points (226), shots (825) and shots per game (41.25). Sturtz is second individually with his 26 points.