Reprinted with Permission
By Jackson Buchenauer, Student Assistant / GoPSUSports.com
Dylan Lugris was piecing together a strong 2021-2022 NCDC season with the Jersey Hitmen when a State College number popped up on his phone.
The Buffalo, New York native knew this was a call he couldn’t ignore. Weeks later, he was skating inside Pegula Ice Arena as a Penn State Nittany Lion.
Lugris broke the barrier for recruits entering Happy Valley at the midseason point last year. Head coach Guy Gadowsky never welcomed a new player into the Nittany Lion lockerroom during the holiday break, but the coaching staff saw something in Lugris they couldn’t pass up.
“We weren’t going to take anybody unless it was a homerun,” Gadowsky said. “They (Jersey Hitmen) just raved about him as a leader and a player. He was an excellent student and an excellent person, and we said ok, because of that, we’ll do it.”
The first weeks in State College were nothing short of hectic for Lugris, but through team support, and a gritty work ethic, he found his footing rather quickly.
“Everyone pretty much came in and helped me. My roommate, Carson Dyck, was a really good friend and mentor through it all even though we’re the same age and year,” Lugris said.
Lugris didn’t disappoint. During his first game with the Nittany Lions he netted a highlight reel goal on his first collegiate shot in a 5-3 victory at Army. However, once the unrelenting Big Ten schedule resumed, Lugris was still adapting to the college game.
“Everything happened really quick for him. There would be a loose puck in the neutral zone, and he’d get it and guys were on him,” Gadowsky said. “I think he was used to having more time and you could see it.”
Lugris remained persistent and his hardwork and determination paid off. In the first round of the Big Ten Tournament Penn State shocked Ohio State in Columbus to become the first team to win a best-of-three road series. Lugris scored in both elimination games in the series and netted the game-winning goal with less than seven minutes remaining in the series’ final game.
“I had 16 or 17 games in a row where I didn’t get a goal and that was something that I was struggling with,” Lugris said. “I think staying positive through the whole thing and understanding it’ll come when it comes, as well as playing on a line with MacEachern and McMenamin was the right place, right time for me.”
Lugris ended the tournament with three goals in four games including a power play goal in a 3-2 loss to Minnesota that ended the Nittany Lions season. Gadowsky is confident that Lugris can build off this performance and become a pillar of the Hockey Valley program.
“Around the net he’s got a knack,” Gadowsky said. “He’s got a knack for figuring goalies out.”
Lugris took the 2022 offseason to work on his game after experiencing half a year of collegiate hockey. For him, the adjustment between the NCDC and collegiate hockey was a focal point of his work.
“Pace of play is obviously so much faster when you’re playing college hockey,” Lugris said. “Also, mistakes… everything is tape to tape, you rarely see a bad pass. So being consistent with that, and making the right plays when you need to be, and making good passes.”
Lugris also made his neutral zone play on breakouts and regroups a top priority of work. Too many turnovers between the blue lines was a trend that stumped the Nittany Lions last season.
“A lot of the stuff that was going wrong was my blue line turnovers, and that’s not something that you go out onto the ice and skate by yourself,” Lugris said. “Just thinking of that when I’m at practice, making sure that I make the smarter plays and not try to do too much.”
Additionally, the team’s Assistant Director for Performance Enhancement Kristina Jeffries took time this summer session to help Lugris perform physically and skillfully on the ice.
“Skill-wise I always want to be faster and stronger. She’s been great in helping me out with that,” Lugris said.
Lugris expects to carry the momentum from last March into the new season. The Nittany Lions open their 2022-2023 campaign with Canisius visiting Pegula Ice Arena on Friday and Saturday.
“I definitely feel that once I started getting into my groove I definitely felt more confident,” Lugris said. “I just want to do the best I can and start where I finished.”
Penn State will debut one of their deepest rosters in recent memory with the addition of some high-profile prospects. Gadowsky forsees a battle in every aspect as veterans and rookies compete for ice time.
“I think the role for (Lugris) is going to be a little bit different for him initially but we’ll have to see where things shake out,” Gadowsky said. “Regardless of what happens this year, he’s a guy that we really want to be a big part of this program and play a significant role in the future.”
Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions are ready to jump on the ice and begin the new season. With a chip on their shoulder after last year’s Big Ten Tournament exit, Penn State is ready to roll following a long offseason of work.
“Everybody is together this year, we all have the same goal. We all want to win, we all want to get to that tournament,” Lugris said. “Right now everybodys confident, everyone knows that we can do it. It just comes down to actually completing it and doing it.”
Penn State will begin its season at home against Canisius Oct. 7 at 7:00 p.m. and Oct. 8 at 6:00 p.m. For tickets visit ticketmaster.com.