Excitement Surrounds Men’s Hockey at Media Day
No one can deny that there’s an excitement surrounding the Penn State men’s hockey team that there’s never been before. The team went through some growing pains last year — it earned a 8-26-2 record in its first season in Pegula Ice Arena — but after losing only one player to graduation, the Nittany Lions should field a more experienced and talented team than last year’s squad.
After a long summer full of training and lifting weights, the team is just looking forward to getting back onto the ice as a unit, and head coach Guy Gadowsky shared his team’s excitement. Gadowsky said that, as a whole, he thinks the team has improved dramatically since the end of last season. He also spoke to the student body’s excitement for the upcoming season, saying, “The student section selling out in three minutes is a huge statement on how our program and Big Ten hockey is received in our school.”
Here are some notes from yesterday’s press conference, the first of the year:
- Arguably the biggest news from the offseason was the changing of the team’s captaincy. While Nate Jensen and David Glen retained their alternate titles, the captaincy was given from Tommy Olczyk to Patrick Koudys. When asked about Olczyk, Gadowsky spoke highly when he said, “You don’t have to wear a letter to be a great leader.” However, the team held a vote and elected Koudys almost unanimously. He represents the team’s identity: gritty, tough to play against, and as Gadowsky said, “He’s a man.”
- Scott Conway, James Robinson, and Erik Autio are the new players on the team. All three freshmen have impressed at junior levels and have been welcomed to the already tightly-knit Penn State squad. When asked about the roles they’ll be playing, Gadowsky said he doesn’t have specific spots in the lineup picked out, but they should all be solid contributors.
- After a season filled with “firsts,” the team is looking forward to finally having some continuity. With a solid recruiting class and an experienced team, the Nittany Lions look to pick up where they left off last year, where the team beat Michigan in the Big Ten tournament before falling to eventual champion Wisconsin in the semifinals.
- As far as expectations for this season, Gadowsky said, “We have a long way to go, and we’re really really focused on the process. It’s not fair to judge our improvement solely on wins and losses.” In its second season in the Big Ten, Penn State hockey is still focused on its future. The “European pipeline” — gaining recruits from overseas — has begun earlier than planned with the signing of Autio (Finland).
- It was announced at the press conference that Zach Saar is expected to be out until after Christmas, rehabbing recent surgery. Otherwise, Gadowsky said that everyone else on the team is 100% healthy.
- Matt Skoff was named the starting goalie for this season, receiving high praise from his coaching staff. They picked the starter based on results, not style, and Skoff’s goals against average and save percentage are significantly better than those of the other goalies on the team. Gadowsky also noted that Skoff’s work ethic is one of the most impressive on the team, as he stayed at Penn State most of the summer to work out and also attended the San Jose Sharks’ development camp.
With just about the entire team returning, look for Penn State to be firing on all cylinders in its first contest on Friday, Oct. 10 at home against UConn. You can check out its full schedule here.