Three Rivers Classic: Penn State’s Erik Autio Misses Out On Finland’s World Juniors Team


Penn State freshman defenseman Erik Autio handles the puck against Holy Cross earlier this season. He’ll be with the Lions for the upcoming Three Rivers Classic. (Photo credit: Abby Drey – Centre Daily Times)

(Editor’s Note: Penn State alumnus Ross Insana is assisting City of Champions in covering the upcoming Three Rivers Classic college hockey tournament.)

by Ross Insana

On April 23, Erik Autio signed his National Letter of Intent and etched his name in Penn State hockey history by becoming the first non-American trained exclusively overseas to sport the blue and white.

However, the freshman defenseman came up just short of crossing off yet another first in program history: becoming the first Nittany Lion to participate in the prestigious IIHF World Junior Championships.

Autio was one of four cuts made by the Finnish men’s national hockey program on Monday, along with fellow blueliner Mikke Levo and forwards Teemu Vuorisalo and Juho Lammikko. With that, he will be able to join the rest of his fellow Nittany Lions in the upcoming Three Rivers Classic at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.

In August, Autio was invited to the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, New York, as a member of Finland’s national under-20 team. This camp is viewed as an early barometer for players to face some of the best international competition and see who has the potential to make the final roster.

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Earlier this month, he became one of 29 players named to the Finnish World Juniors Camp in Canada and battled with 12 other defensemen vying for a spot on the final 23-man roster.

Representing his native country of Finland at the international stage is nothing new to Autio, either. He won a silver medal in the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and bronze at the 2013 IIHF U-18 World Championships in Sochi, Russia.

At the start of the season, head coach Guy Gadowsky referred to Autio as an “unknown commodity” and expected him to be a “solid, cerebral defenseman” for his team. Having to adjust to a great deal of challenges such as the language barrier and the North American style of hockey, he has seamlessly transitioned to become a stable part of the Nittany Lion blueline, appearing in all but one game this season.

Autio has collected four assists on the season and is fourth on the team with 15 blocked shots.

The Finns, who are led by 2014 Penguins first-round pick Kasperi Kapanen, are the reigning World Junior champions and will open the tournament against none other than the United States.

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