Penn State Hockey: 'Hunger' Is The Word Around Pegula Ice Arena As The Season Approaches
As nice as the Pegula Ice Arena is, it won’t be playing the games for Penn State hockey.
It’ll just be hosting them.
So for head coach Guy Gadowsky, Monday’s media day was about more than just the bells and whistles on the brand new $90-million dollar facility. It was about buckling up for a season packed full of some of the best teams college hockey has to offer. The creation of a Big Ten hockey conference brings together some of the most storied and successful programs in the country. So there are no more “easy” games for the Nittany Lions.
“This is just a very exciting time for Penn State, Penn State hockey. Think we're all here because we're very excited to compete against the best,” Gadowksy says. “And such great programs and storied programs in college hockey are in this conference, so it's an incredible honor to be a part of it.”
Luckily for Gadowsky, Penn State returns plenty of talent and experience on both ends of the ice. This includes forwards David Glen who ended the season just outside the Top 25 in goals scored nationally and Casey Bailey, who led the team with 27 points and was second on the team in goals, assists and shots.
Penn State will retain nearly 94-percent of all scoring from last season as well as six of the team’s eight defensemen. While those players will be important all season long, Penn State will also welcome nine newcomers to the program, seven of whom are freshman.
Ultimately, for Penn State to succeed it will take the combined efforts of both new and old players to win in the Big Ten.
“We talk a lot about this as a staff,” Gadowsky says. “We really feel that our biggest factor in that is going to be the players we had last year in terms of the experience they got last year and the work they put in this summer. I know we have excellent guys coming in and we’re certainly going to be a lot different in terms of depth at every position, but we feel we’re going to make huge strides with the experience some of our guys have.
"Some of our young guys were put into key roles last year that you might not get at other programs. So offensively if you look at Casey Bailey and David Glen that got a lot of time for us so young I think their growth is going to be a major factor.
“But obviously to be successful against the teams we’re going to play, you need everybody, everybody, everybody, from our equipment manager down to have a great day. We need everybody to be successful.”
With 20 games on the schedule for the inaugural season of Big Ten play, the Nittany Lions will continue to challenge themselves as a growing program. Penn State will be playing at least 19 games against teams that have reached the NCAA Frozen Four since 2009 including preseason No.1 UMass-Lowell in a two-game series during mid-November in University Park.
In total, the Nittany Lions will face a 34 game season that will truly test the fledgling program’s progress in just the third year under Gadowksy.
But even with the challenges of a difficult schedule it is far from gloom and doom inside of Pegula Ice Arena. This is what the program was created for; to compete against the best teams in the nation every night and to become one of those teams. How long that process takes is anyone's guess, but there is little doubt it's only a matter of time.
“I know that the major reason that everyone is here is because of Big Ten hockey,” Gadowsky says. “It’s something very special across North America and it’s something we’re very hungry for. You try and stay focused on the season at hand but it’s very difficult as coaches, you come to our meetings and you talk about the future and what it’s going to mean when we’re in the Big Ten. So a lot of decisions were made in the first two years with this in mind. We’re excited for it, we’re hungry for it, and it can’t come soon enough.”
The Nittany Lions beat three different Big Ten teams last season including an overtime win over No. 16 ranked Wisconsin on the road in the final game of the 2012-13 campaign. While the skating is only going to get tougher from here on out, there is little doubt that it’s only a matter of time before Penn State is giving some of the nation’s best a run for their money.
"I think we all have very high expectations of where we're going," Gadowksy says. "I don't think anyone has a date as to when we're going to arrive as a power, but you come to Penn State as a staff and as a player, you come to Penn State to be one of the top programs in the nation and to try and win national championships. If you don't have that on your mind then you're not coming to Penn State. We have that as a goal and we all see that vision in our heads. We won't put an exact date on it but we see it in the future."
“I think it’s going to be tough not to develop a rivalry with these teams,” Gadowsky says of the new Big Ten foes. “I can tell you that I have some extremely high expectations for the atmosphere here at Pegula but I know there are some great places to play out of here too. So I don’t think it’s going to be hard to develop a rivalry at all.”
The first chance to build a rivalry: According to season tickets, the Monday, Jan 13 game against Minnesota at the Pegula Ice Arena –The first Big Ten home game—is a white out, and will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network.
Penn State and Army drop the puck on Oct. 11 at 8 pm to start the 2013 season in newly crowned “Hockey Valley”.