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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Set To Open Season Friday

by on October 09, 2014 12:30 PM

It's hard to measure success when you're playing against the best teams in college hockey nearly every game.

Do you measure success with wins and losses? Do you measure success in moral victories? 

That's not an easy question to answer, but Penn State hockey coach Guy Gadowsky knows what he wants to see out of his team this year. And if that leads to more wins then that's all for the better.

“We feel like we’re going to demand more of what we can control,” Gadowsky said. “We have had experiences in the past that have made us very proud of what we do and contributed to our identity, so we know we can do it.”

Realistically that's all Penn State fans can hope for. The Nittany Lions will almost certainly be a better team this year, and that should produce more victories. But Penn State will face title contenders more often than not, and the Michigans and Minnesotas of the world didn't become iconic programs in college hockey because they are easily beaten.

“This is the first year we have that continuity," Gadowsky said. "We know where we are. We know who we're starting with. Although there are three unknowns (in freshman), the basic core of the team is the same. As a team maturity, we’re way ahead.

“We are still very much focused on the process. We have a lot of improvement to do and it’s not just in isolated areas. We have to improve all over.”

In college hockey the rules only allow teams to start practice a week before the season begins, unlike football or basketball or many other sports which are granted weeks to prep. There is only a very limited time for hockey players to get on the same page. While every team faces those same challenges, Gadowsky is hopeful that there will be change in the future.

"It's nice," Gadowsky said of being back on the ice. "But at the same time I really wish ... I imagine all hockey teams feel right now, feel very far behind for having to play on Friday. We certainly haven't addressed really as much as we'd like. So I think as a coaching staff we feel a little trepidation because we don't feel like we're ready but I imagine most schools probably feel that same way."

"I think there is," Gadowsky said, when asked if there is a way to change the rule. "I think now there is, the WCHA was a hockey conference, the CCHA was a hockey conference and so on but they didn't have a seat at the big table in terms of the NCAA because they're not a Division I conference but the Big Ten is. So i think that is one of ancillary benefit of having the Big Ten conference is that we're going to be able to address issues like this in the future. So I'm hopeful they can get out in front of that."

But those changes are far the future, or at the very least not on this week's agenda. The Nittany Lions will open the season this Friday at 7 p.m. inside what should be another packed Pegula Ice Arena crowd.

The opponent  is UConn -- the newest member of the Hockey East conference. The weekend series will pit two growing programs in a head-to-head collision to open the season. The games will be the first of six Penn State home games in the opening month of the season with a trip to Alaska squeezed in the middle.

Gadowsky laughed when asked to speak on the strengths and weaknesses of the Huskies, rattling off some general facts and figures.

Because like every other college hockey coach right now, he's just focused on his team.

And that focus will likely stay the same until the season ends in March.

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