Penn State Hockey

Penn State men’s hockey: Nittany Lions ready to fire against No. 16 St. Lawrence

Penn State’s Dylan Richard skates down the ice with the puck around Windsor’s Kenny Bradford during the exhibition game at Pegula Ice Arena on Sunday, October 4, 2015.
Penn State’s Dylan Richard skates down the ice with the puck around Windsor’s Kenny Bradford during the exhibition game at Pegula Ice Arena on Sunday, October 4, 2015. CDT photo

There is a fairly basic adage in sports.

You can’t score if you don’t shoot.

It works in basketball, soccer and certainly in hockey.

The odds of scoring a goal definitely go up when you actually fire the puck at the net.

Penn State is a big proponent of that philosophy, not to mention thinking the more tries you take, the better your chances the puck gets past the goalie.

That’s why when fans take their seats in Pegula Ice Arena, this year or any other, they can expect to be entertained by a fast-paced game and plenty of shots from the Nittany Lions.

The shooting range will be open again Thursday and Friday when Penn State (4-1) hosts its first ranked opponent of the season, with a visit from No. 16 St. Lawrence (4-2) at 7 p.m. both days.

It goes without saying the Nittany Lions will be firing pucks at the net early and often.

“It’s fun to get shots, fun to get chances,” junior forward Dylan Richard said. “That’s exactly what it is — it’s fun. It’s great to come to the rink, even in practice, to play that kind of style.”

Penn State leads the nation in shooting this season, attempting 44.2 per game. Quinnipiac is next, taking four fewer attempts per game. The Nittany Lions threw 57 shots at the net last Friday against American International, and the season low, albeit in just five games, is 36.

Yes, they love to fire at will.

And this is far from an aberration. They led the nation at 39.2 shots per game last season.

It’s also a part of head coach Guy Gadowsky’s philosophy, to play an up-tempo style and to pepper the opposing goalie.

“We like to think that we’re hard to play against,” Gadowsky said of the style of play, which he brought from previous coaching stops in Alaska and Princeton.

“Because of my belief in how important it is,” Gadowsky said, recalling a certain Wayne Gretzky-led four-time Stanley Cup champion team from his days growing up in central Canada. “I’m from Edmonton. They had a few teams that liked to shoot the puck. They were pretty successful. Go back to your roots, you know?”

Again, the sample size is small, but so far it seems to be working. Penn State also easily leads the nation in scoring at 5.6 goals per game. The Nittany Lions and Massachusetts (5.25) are the only programs scoring better than 4.75 goals per night.

Judging by past styles, the Saints figure to fight fire with fire. Gadowsky said St. Lawrence has also tended toward an up-tempo style, and that could bring plenty of end-to-end action at the corner of Curtin and University the next two nights.

“That could make it exciting, that’s for sure,” Richard said. “I don’t know if Coach might have a heart attack or not, but that’ll make it fun and interesting to see.”

Compared with Penn State, however, the Saints’ offense is almost pedestrian at a mere 32 shots and 3.17 goals per game.

However, the Saints’ defense may prove to be a more stout challenge. They are allowing just 2.0 goals per game, which is tied for eighth-best in Division I, and the defense allows just 26.8 shots per game. Sophomore goalie Kyle Hayton has been in the net for each game this season to anchor the defense.

“They’re a really good team,” said senior goalie Matthew Skoff, who has one win in two starts this season and will be in goal for one of this week’s games. “Their goalie is really good. They count on him a lot. He’s really good and is a good test for our team.”

Skoff, fellow Penn State netminder Eamon McAdam and Hayton all figure to see plenty of shots this week, and Pegula Ice Arena fans will benefit from the show.

“We expected them before the season to be very good,” Gadowsky said. “Their recent performances have validated that. We don’t need the polls to tell us that.”