Just when it seemed as if Penn State had survived the dreaded holiday break without any personnel moves, Bryce Johnson, a forward initially hailed as one of the first varsity players in PSU's NCAA history, has left the team.
As a transfer from established NCAA Division I program St. Cloud State where he played three games in 2010-2011, Johnson was expected to immediately jump in as a top contributor. Perhaps owing to the surprising competitiveness of the first-year NCAA team, Johnson was not a significant part of Guy Gadowsky's forward rotation. While he did appear in roughly half of the team's games, it was usually without significant ice time, and despite his vaunted speed, he was generally not an impact player on this season's inaugural NCAA squad.
Johnson was a member of the Icers in 2011-2012, playing in 22 games (he missed significant time in the middle of the season with a concussion) and posting 34 points, including two goals each in blowouts of Pittsburgh, Mercyhurst (ACHA version) and Kent State. But his undisputed biggest moment of the season - and ultimately at Penn State - was his two goal, two assist outing in a 6-3 win over Oklahoma on March 4, 2012 at the ACHA National Tournament in what turned out to be the last-ever Icers win.
Before PSU, Johnson played for the USHL's Omaha Lancers in 2010-2011 after leaving St. Cloud, and for the NAHL's Topeka Roadrunners in 2009-2010 prior to his first college stop.
Despite his recent struggles, everything seemed fine as recently as one week ago, when the Iowa native tweeted his excitement to return from break.
Johnson did not appear in either Three Rivers Classic game, although he was listed as a game-time decision for the Ohio State game December 29th, with Kenny Brooks eventually getting the nod for that forward spot. Officially, Johnson's last Nittany Lions appearance was against Robert Morris on December 15th, when he was -2 in a 3-2 loss to Robert Morris.
While it's not my place to speculate as to the nature of the personal reasons involved (they could almost literally be anything), should something leak out in that department, I'll be sure to pass that along.