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Penn State Hockey: After Historic Season, Program Looks Forward

by on March 31, 2017 2:00 PM

For a building that is relatively empty these days there is still a palpable amount of excitement inside of Pegula Ice Arena.

Maybe that's to be expected, Penn State's 2016-17 campaign came to a close this past weekend in fairly emphatic fashion, but it also came in the postseason. Five years after the first-ever game in Pegula there are now at least two banners ready to be raised come next season. A Big Ten Tournament title, and the start of what the program hopes will be a near-anual cataloging of NCAA Tournament appearances.

So hurt and disappointment are still lingering in the air, but the energy is undeniably positive, perhaps best described by coach Guy Gadowsky's grin and his patented gritted teeth as he gets into a discussion about the game of hockey.  

“Getting to the tournament, and getting a taste of a chance to go to the Frozen Four was really motivating,” Gadowsky said earlier this week. “I’ve got to be honest, that’s something that I think everybody in this program really wants now. I don’t think I’ve felt this way before. We really want to apply the lessons that we learned, and I’d like it to start very quickly.”

It's hard to blame them, for a program that has talked about national titles and NCAA tournament appearances in very hypothetical term, finally going up against the nation's best is undoubtedly a rewarding experience. In truth Penn State was not far off from a performance that could have beaten Denver and the Nittany Lions in turn would have sat a win away --against a Notre Dame team it already beat this season-- from playing for a national title.

Those final few steps are easier said than done, but also easier to reach for once you've seen them.

“It’s motivating in a way that you did it, so you want to do it again and you want to do more and you want to be better,” freshman goalie Peyton Jones said. “There’s still a lot to accomplish.”

When those final few accomplishments are checked off a list of firsts in Penn State's locker room very much remains to be seen, but it is readily apparent that the Nittany Lions are not far off from the completion of the building process. A dominant first round victory over Union the most evident confirmation of that fact.

"If you look on paper we were supposed to lose and I think that's probably what a lot of people thought," Gadowsky said of Penn State's 10-3 win over Union. "I'm sure some thought we had a chance to win, but not like we did. I loved it, I thought it was a little bit validating."

--Records--

By the season's end Penn State players had set 65 new program records. Some of the most notable; David Goodwin departs Penn State with career records in points (128), assists (84) and games played (147). Denis Smirnov set the single-season records for points (47) and assists (28) while Andrew Sturtz matched Casey Bailey’s record for goals in a season (22).

--Incoming--

While Penn State's roster will have most of its familiar faces come 2017-18, a handful of future Nittany Lions are slated to join the fold this fall. So far only two have signed their National Letter of Intent so it remains to be seen how many will potentially defer their enrollment like now-freshman Denis Smirnov did following his commitment a few years ago.

Committed but not signed:

  • Alex Limoges C, Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL and former home of now New York Islander system goalie Eamon McAdam)
  • Sam Sternschein LW, Lincoln Stars (USHL former home of Penn State goalie Peyton Jones)
  • Bo Didur G, Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
  • Matthew Jakubowski C, Buffalo Jr Sabres (OJHL)

Signed:

  • Alex Stevens D, Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
  • Evan Barratt C, USA U18


Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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