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Penn State Hockey: Friday's Opener Marks The Start of a Journey

by on October 12, 2012 6:31 AM

Feb. 17, 1943, Penn State defeated Drexel Tech in Philadelphia, 4-1.

The win marked the final victory in the short lived era of Penn State varsity hockey. The Nittany Lions amassed a 13-15-1 record from 1940-47, even though they did not field a varsity team for two years in that span (1944-45, 1945-46), Penn State records show. They would then fold into a club team, one that became one of the most successful in the nation.

In a practical sense, the varsity program’s 65-year hibernation has made these numbers not much more than a few back pages of a freshly printed media guide. The game has changed and expanded, the players are faster, more diverse, no longer required to be born of the fog found hovering over an early morning Canadian pond.

But in many ways, the foundation set in that long forgotten era is finally destined to be reawakened. As fans filled the bleachers of the Greenberg Ice Pavilion for a midnight practice, there was a tangible feeling of anticipation; an understanding that this was a moment years in the making.

The Nittany Lions will take the ice Friday night against American International hoping to jump on an accelerated path toward national relevance. Games against some of the nation’s top programs will bring with it a bruised record, but ultimately, a more valuable experience to build on. As they say, “To be the best, you have to play the best.”

The new era of men’s Division I hockey will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday night, a moment which will mark not only the realization of many dreams, but a critical moment in the future of Penn State athletics.

Men's coach Guy Gadowsky will lead Penn State on the journey but fully understands the challenges that lie ahead.

“I have never been a part of this and it is new for all of us. It is very exciting; both ends of that are very exciting,” Gadowsky said.

“With the high-end Division I teams, we are playing Union, which made it to the Frozen Four last year. We are going to Michigan State. We are going to Wisconsin. Those are the top of the food chain. For us to do that in our very first year is very daunting.

“We understand fully how good those programs are and how difficult they are to play, but it is a great opportunity for us to find out where we are at right now. I think it is a great schedule and I am very happy with what was put together. I think it is perfect for where we are right now.”

With State College in the crossroads of two crazed hockey towns, the financial support of Terry Pegula, and the excitement throughout the hockey world for Penn State’s rise to the Division I ranks, Gadowsky also knows it’s only a matter of time.

“I think the Pegula Ice Arena is going to be the most important factor that happens to youth hockey in this area,” Gadowsky said.

“If you can envision a decade down the road, I foresee a time when we have passionate Pennsylvania kids who are great players on a national level, who grew up playing in Pegula Ice Arena, whether it be kids from the area or from all over Pennsylvania, playing in tournaments at Pegula. It will be the best college conference in the nation and to be a part of it is an honor. We understand how tough it is, but that is why you come to Penn State, to compete against the best.”



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