A Dream Come True: Penn State Men’s Hockey To Christen Pegula vs. Army Tonight

This day has been in the making since Terry Pegula — oil tycoon, Buffalo Sabres owner, and Penn State alumnus — donated $88 million to the university in 2010 to fund the arena that was later given his name. The 6,000-seat arena was to be the home for the Penn State men’s and women’s hockey program when the teams moved up to Division I. Pegula’s dream becomes a reality tonight when the Nittany Lions take the ice at Pegula for the first time.

But before we get into tonight’s matchup against Army, let’s take a look at this year’s team:

The Coach:

Guy Gadowsky is in his second year coaching the Penn State Nittany Lions as a Division I team. His overall record coaching collegiate hockey over 13 seasons is 186-212-37. Under his guidance, Penn State finished last year with a 13-14 record.

Gadowsky came to Happy Valley in April of 2011 when he was hired to take over the men’s hockey program. Although the team was inconsistent over the course of the 2012 season, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to some great victories. Penn State topped three future Big Ten opponents in Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Gadowsky’s biggest victory, though, came against Vermont at the Wells Fargo Center in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a college hockey game in an NHL arena.

He spent seven seasons leading Princeton before making his way to Penn State, coaching the Tigers to a program-record 22 wins in 2008 and leading the team to its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.

Gadowsky is an excellent coach with a superb understanding of the game. He knows when to call a timeout to try and light a fire under the team and he knows when to stay cool and composed. This is an exciting year for Penn State hockey and Gadowsky is a great man to have at the helm. As you could imagine, he is enthralled to be moving into Pegula this season.

“It’s beautiful. It’s beautiful from a fan perspective,” he said. “It’s very comfortable. There is not a bad seat in the house, as you can imagine. It’s beautiful. Describing it is beautiful. From the student body perspective, it’s not only beautiful, it’s fun. The student section is awesome. It’s literally as steep as code will allow. There is a place for the band right in the middle of them, and they’re going to rock that place and have a lot of fun.”

The Captains:

Tommy Olczyk #14 — This junior forward might not have put up big numbers in 2012, totaling just four points on three goals and one assist, but there’s no doubt that Olczyk (pronounced ole-check) is the emotional leader of the Nittany Lions men’s hockey team. In Penn State’s last year as a club team, Olczyk scored 24 goals and added 28 assists in just 31 games. His father, Eddie, played in the NHL for 16 years and helped the New York Rangers win a Stanley Cup in 1994.

David Glen #11 — Glen, a forward, was just a freshman last year. He certainly didn’t look it. In 27 games of Division I hockey Glen scored 16 goals to lead the team while adding nine assists. He also led Penn State in plus/minus (plus-9), shots (117), and faceoff percentage (.584). Glen scored two game-winners in 2012 and had a hat trick against the Alabama Huntsville Chargers.

Nate Jensen #24 — Jensen, a redshirt junior defenseman, played in 22 games last season and totaled nine points on two goals and seven assists. He had the most shots of any defenseman with 47. Jensen is Penn State’s best defender and is someone to keep an eye on this season.

Michael McDonagh #8 — The oldest of the captains, McDonagh is a senior forward who scored one goal and added six assist last season.

The Other Guys:

Casey Bailey, a sophomore forward from Anchorage, Alaska, led the Nittany Lions in points with 27 last year. He scored 14 goals and had 13 assists. Bailey was without a doubt the Nittany Lions’ most prolific offensive player. He had at least one point in 16 of Penn State’s 27 games and had a seven-game point streak that lasted from October 29 to January 6.

Max Gardiner, a redshirt junior forward, is one of Penn State’s strongest offensive players. He scored three goals and added a whopping 19 assists last season, including four assists on game-winning goals. Gardiner was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the third round of the 2010 NHL Draft.

Taylor Holstrom, also a redshirt junior forward, scored nine goals and assisted on eight more last season. Holstrom had three game-winners on the season to lead the team.

We could go through the whole roster, but other names to keep an eye out for are Kenny Brooks (sophomore forward), Luke Juha (sophomore defenseman), Peter Sweetland (junior defenseman), Curtis Loik (sophomore forward), Joseph Lordo (sophomore defenseman), Jonathan Milley (sophomore forward), Connor Varley (sophomore defenseman), and Mark Yanis (sophomore defenseman).

The Goalies:

Matthew Skoff #31 — As a freshman last year, Skoff posted an impressive 2.48 goals-against average with a 9-8-0 record. He had two shutouts in 17 starts. In his last eight starts, Skoff went 6-2-0.

P.J. Musico #1 — Musico, a junior this season, compiled a 4-6-0 record in 2012 with a 3.22 goals-against average. He recorded the first shutout in Penn State’s NCAA history with a 34-save performance against Army.

Eamon McAdam #34 — This freshman goaltender from Perkasie, Penn. was drafted in the third round of the NHL Draft by the New York Islanders this year. I’d expect to see Skoff and Musico split starts at goalie again this season, but you never know with McAdam in the mix now. Their play will dictate how often they start and if the rotation remains.

The Opener:

Penn State will face off against Army tonight in the team’s christening of the Pegula Ice Arena’s main rink. The Nittany Lions topped Army 5-0 last season on the road in the team’s sixth game of the season. Brooks scored the first goal of the game. Milley, Sweetland, and Bailey added second-period goals and Glen scored one in the third for good measure.

Penn State outshot Army 45-to-34. Musico was in net for the shutout and registered 34 saves on 34 shots, but I would expect to see Skoff in goal for tonight’s game. The Nittany Lions were able to dominate Army goalie Rob Tadazak who is the likely net-minder for Army this evening.

If all goes according to plan, and there’s no reason to think that it wouldn’t, Penn State will open up Pegula with a victory in the first game of the season. There’s a reason that Army, a team that struggled to a 7-22-5 record last season, was scheduled as the first team to face the Nittany Lions at Pegula.

Penn State gets a break after the Army game before taking on Air Force on the road next weekend in a two-game series on Friday and Saturday. The government shutdown shouldn’t affect that series as all sports for military schools have been cleared through the end of October.

Tonight’s matchup against Army is by far and away the biggest game in the history of the Penn State men’s hockey program. The opening of the Pegula Ice Arena marks the start of a new era in Penn State athletics. The Nittany Lions aren’t expected to be competitive in the first season of Big Ten hockey, but if last season’s relative success is continued, this year will be a big step in the right direction for the Nittany Lions.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a StateCollege.com reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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