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Penn State Hockey: Confidence Gained in First Season of Division I Play

by on March 01, 2013 6:00 AM

When Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky hit the recruiting trail early in the season, players would ask him if the program would be competitive before they graduated from college.

“There were some questions at the start from recruits about how competitive we would be,” Gadowsky said. “We try and convince them otherwise, you can talk all you want but when you see the program have the success that it has against Big Ten schools and on some of the biggest stages, it speaks for itself.”

Gadowsky doesn't get asked that question anymore.

For Penn State hockey’s first season the goal has never been wins. Anyone who has spent time around Gadowsky knows that he’s looking at the big picture, habits, practices—on and off the ice—as well as work ethic will help mold the program more than a specific win in the program’s infancy.

Even so, with wins against every Big Ten foe the Nittany Lions faced (Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin) along with strong showings and victories against other programs, even a forward thinking coach like Gadowsky can’t help but enjoy the early success. More importantly for the future, Penn State went 7-3-0 in front of crowds of 5,000 or more.

“We’re very satisfied,” Gadowsky said. “They performed well on the biggest stage and I give the guys a lot of credit. Not only did they perform well but they did it sometimes coming back in games. On the one hand we can show that we can perform well on the biggest stage, but on the other hand we have to be able to perform well in games that we’re expected to win.”

“No one knew if we’d even get a Division I win. That wasn’t a given. The first one was a lot of fun. To beat a Big Ten opponent was something that nobody gave us a shot at, and then to go on the road in a Big Ten environment and win, to come away with not one win but two, those were certain benchmarks that I didn't expect.”

Moving forward, Gadowksy will get until the end of the NCAA hockey tournament to practice with the team. With only three coaches and all of North America to recruit Gadowsky will rely on players to run some of the practices, but the time will still be well spent.

“I’m looking forward to working with them some more,” Gadowsky said. “We've got a lot of things we’d like to work on, some foundational things I’d like to see us do better.”

As Penn State transitions to play in the Pegula Ice Arena it will mark the start of tougher competition as the Big Ten hockey conference kicks off. The ups and downs of Penn State’s first season have included wins in front of 19,000 and losses in front of 400. For Penn State the key will be learning how to compete on the highest level night in and night out. It’s something Gadowsky hopes the program is ready for.

“I think we’re getting there,” Gadowsky said. “I think the results that we had this year would speak more to that than I expected. As things laid out we were supposed to have another year before the Big Ten conference formed, but it all got bumped up and we were nervous that we were getting in to this too quickly. But you see the wins that we’ve had and the games that we’ve played and you get a lot of confidence from that. We’re more prepared now than we were at the start.”

With a long break before hockey drops the puck again in Happy Valley, the Nittany Lions will be able to savor the 4-3 overtime victory against the No. 17 ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the final game of the season. It remains to be seen if it springboards the program quickly to bigger and better things, but it’s something no one in the program will forget any time soon.

“One of the things I like about the Wisconsin situation is that they were No 17 in the PairWise rankings,” Gadowsky said. “Top 16 go to the NCAA tournament, so it wasn’t just another game for them. These were important points for them and we had to play extremely well. So for that you do gain some confidence.”

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