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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Prepare for Series Against United States Under-18 Team

by on January 11, 2013 11:21 AM

Penn State hockey will have a chance to prove itself against some of the nation's top talent this weekend as the Nittany Lions take on the United States Under-18 team at 7:30 Friday and Saturday night at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

"It's great for our relationship with junior hockey," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. "It's a two-way street. They help us prepare for games down the road, and send players to colleges, and we help them prepare for international competition."

While a review of a handful of hockey recruiting services shows that the majority of the Under-18 team have already committed to various schools, there is an added benefit when it comes to playing a team with some of the nation's best young players.

"Obviously it's always great to get young talent on campus," Gadowsky said. "Especially when they can see the beautiful Pegula Ice Arena. College hockey has a great relationship with USA Hockey. It's a very important relationship."

Penn State isn't likely to try and woo players away from their commitments this weekend, but these types of exhibitions could pay dividends in the future. Chris Peters, the editor of and contributor to CBS Sports' Eye on Hockey blog, said there is a difference between recruiting players from the national development program and that of other sports.

"Where it's different than recruiting from other entities is that most of these kids have been scouted heavily and offers have been made before they even get there." Peters said. "The competition is already on and there isn't going to be much nudging from the program internally. The staff gives those players the space to make their own decisions, but they definitely lobby hard for them to play college as opposed to going to the (Central Hockey League).

"Recruiting out of the national development program is tough in general, but if you can schedule the U18 team and there's a few uncommitted kids that you can get onto your campus without them taking an official visit, that may not hurt," Peters said. "Getting those top players onto your campus to experience a game from ice level is one of the more unique recruiting situations in college athletics. I think it definitely helps to have a good relationship when it comes to scheduling those exhibitions."

On the ice, Penn State ought to have its hands full. The Under-20 team recently won the gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championships, 3-1 against Sweden, which has been the banner accomplishment for the program. While the Nittany Lions won't be facing that same team, the Under-18 team has had a history-making year itself, knocking off Michigan, 5-3 for the first time in program history.

Even with success against some of the nation's top collegiate programs, Don Granato, the head coach of the Under-18 team is excited to be a part of Penn State's inaugural season. 

"We are definitely looking forward to our trip to State College and the opportunity to play Penn State," Granato said. "As a former Wisconsin Badger player, I am personally looking forward to Big Ten hockey and have been excited for Joe Battista and all of Penn State upon their joining the Division I hockey ranks.

"With how drastic the landscape of college hockey recruiting has changed, and college hockey as a whole, I believe Penn State can seize such opportunity and start a winning tradition immediately."

Yanis to Return from Ankle Injury

In terms of the on-ice action, unfortunately for Gadowsky, Penn State is down to only five defensemen, losing Luke Juha to an undisclosed injury. Gadowsky said he would discuss the injury at a later date. However, the Nittany Lions will be with the services of defenseman Mark Yanis, who has missed several months after breaking his ankle in a game against Buffalo State on Nov. 3.

"It's good to be back," Yanis said. "I've been working out with the trainers, and I didn't feel bad. With only four other guys, I got a lot of reps in practice and I felt good."

"We plan on playing Mark at least one game," Gadowsky said, his right arm in a sling following shoulder surgery. "He'll play Friday and we'll evaluate him and decide if he'll play again on Saturday."

As for Gadowsky, he'll be off the ice for six weeks while he heals. 

"They say I can't skate," Gadowsky said, smiling. "Some people say I never could."

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