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Penn State Hockey: Home Ice Advantage Only Grows As Program Does The Same

by on January 20, 2016 2:00 PM

A bar in downtown State College had the same college hockey game on three different TVs not long ago as winter finally took over the town.

And the team wasn't Penn State.

It was North Dakota. The nation's top ranked squad and one of the more exciting teams to watch at any level that the game is played.

Any length of time spent in State College and it's clear that hockey holds its own as well as any other sport. The playoffs pack bars, Pegula Ice Arena is sprinkled with jerseys from all across the east coast. Rangers, Penguins, Islanders, Flyers, Bruins, and the occasional Redwings or Blue Jackets uniforms can be spotted. Even a Casey Bailey jersey in Toronto Maple Leafs' blue and white made an appearance earlier this season.

But if you're new to town, State College's not so silent love for hockey may come as a surprise. For players on the Nittany Lion roster they come from places where hockey is as big as Penn State football. it's a culture and a way of life. The pond is always frozen and the skates are always sharp. 

So sure, the Penguins and the Flyers clamp down on State College from the east and west, but it's not Minnesota, it's not Alaska.

Or at least that's what they thought.

"I didn't give the hockey IQ here enough credit," Coach Guy Gadowsky said this week. Penn State coming off a series sweep of Wisconsin with an electric crowd at both games.

“I could have never imagined the atmosphere and the advantage that the Roar Zone and our entire supporters, whether they’re student-body, or alumni, or community have gotten us. It’s phenomenal...they’re a huge part of that [home record over the past two seasons].”

It's that home record that is what makes things really sink in. Penn State over the past two seasons is 24-5-4, a mark only bettered by North Dakota, a team with 26 wins over that same span.

Over all the teams currently in the USCHO Top 20, Penn State is one of four with more than 20 wins at home and a 72% winning margin inside Pegula Ice Arena is fourth best in the nation the past two years of Top 20 teams.

And that's a real advantage, and a big part of how the Nittany Lions have gone from a team enjoying the novelty of Division I play for postseason contenders in such a short time. Fans boo close calls, cheer for good offensive shifts. It's just hockey to them, but for Penn State hockey, it has been a bit of a surprise.

“They’re not just waiting for big hits or guys’ heads to go ringing off the glass,” Gadowsky added. “This is a much more educated hockey audience than I anticipated.”

Ask around the roster and the response is the same. Forward David Goodwin remembers being appreciative of fans noticing the little things. Captain David Glen a little surprised everyone sees the little things during the game.

But then again, he knows his audience.

"I've been the wrestling duals," Glen said. "And I have no idea what is going on but obviously everyone else does. So I'm not surprised that we have an educated fanbase."

Whatever the case, Penn State will have to take that home energy on the road this weekend as the Nittany Lions face Ohio State. Any form of success in Columbus will set up nicely for a Thursday showdown with Michigan. A program with its own beast of a barn, a 74% winning margin at home the past two years.

Winning at home is only half the battle, but Penn State is getting the job done and it has been a group effort getting there.



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