|Mark Yanis protects the middle of the Penn State zone October 19th against RIT.|
Freshman defenseman Mark Yanis suffered a fractured right ankle during Saturday's game against Buffalo State and will miss approximately two months, head coach Guy Gadowsky confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
The loss of Yanis is a huge blow just before a vital stretch of the schedule that - quite frankly and my opinion - will determine what sort of aspirations are realistic for this first NCAA season. The Nittany Lions are 5-2-0 overall and 4-1-0 against NCAA Division I competition, but any honest assessment of things so far needs to include the fact that the record has not been built against powerhouse programs. That changes starting Friday and Saturday when PSU hosts defending Atlantic Hockey champ and 2012 NCAA tournament team Air Force. Two weeks later, Union will be the opponent in Schenectady, NY. The Dutchmen were a Frozen Four team last season, and so far this year are 5-1-1 and ranked eighth in the USCHO poll.
In seven games, mostly spent skating with usual defense partner Luke Juha, Yanis has impressed with his physical style, and has also offered an unexpected source of occasional offense. His four points on two goals and two assists are half of what he put up in 57 games with the USHL's Muskegon Lumberjacks last season. As someone who received interest from hockey powers like in-state schools Michigan and Michigan State as well as NHL Entry Draft consideration, he was clearly one of PSU's biggest early recruiting victories.
Gadowsky now only has seven healthy defensemen at his disposal, so the implications for the lineup are pretty obvious: more ice for seniors Brian Dolan and/or Rich O'Brien. O'Brien in particular is physically inclined and a right-handed shot, and would therefore seem the most likely option as a straight-up swap for Yanis. He was a regular in the lineup for the first few games before being edged out by Pete Sweetland. Another alternative may be to reunite Juha with Connor Varley (they started the season together) and leave the third pair to some combination of Sweetland, O'Brien and Dolan.
However the line chart ultimately looks, it could probably be said that Penn State now faces its first depth crisis of the NCAA era.