Meet Scott Conway, Penn State Hockey’s Next Big Name
As Scott Conway’s freshman campaign is winding down, certain phrases are popping up more and more to describe his journey to Penn State, his style of play, and his future in the sport. “Unconventional,” “fun to watch,” and “flashes of brilliance” are some that come to mind.
When thinking of traditional hockey hotbeds, Basingstoke, England — Conway’s hometown — is one of the last places someone will think of. Only 22 hockey players from England have ever made it to the NHL, but the last to play in the world’s best league was in 2008. Hockey wasn’t an afterthought in his surroundings, though, as Conway comes from one of England’s royal families of hockey, and has made the most of the opportunities he’s had.
“My dad played professional hockey and he just started me off when I was two years old. I was pretty much able to skate before I could walk, so he pretty much put a stick in my hand ever since I was born,” Conway reflected.
Scott’s father, Kevin Conway, is in the British Hockey Hall of Fame, which speaks volumes to the guidance he has had. In fact, Scott took No. 10 as his jersey number this season because David Goodwin already claimed his favorite No. 9, so he decided to pay tribute to his father, who wore No. 10 his whole life. Kevin Conway is the Basingstoke Bison’s all-time leading scorer, and had a 21-year professional career before taking a hiatus from the game from 2004 to 2006, then returned to play two seasons in Scotland for the Solway Sharks.
“[Having a professional hockey player as a father] was hard. My grandpa was pretty much my dad when my dad was on the road, and he was on the road a lot. Especially when he was playing in Scotland, he’d spend weekends over there, so I only saw him four or five days out of the week,” Conway said. “It was hard, but I went up a couple of times to see him play. It’s pretty exciting to watch your dad play, it’s not very often you can watch that happen.”
His family’s impact stretches beyond his father. Conway’s cousin, Brendan Perlini, was drafted into the NHL with the 12th overall pick by the Arizona Coyotes.
With his father retired and his cousin tearing up Major Junior as a top NHL prospect, the younger Conway was ready to begin his own career. His family flew over the pond six years ago and Conway started playing American hockey for the Belle Tire Bantam team in Michigan. He then played for the Victory Honda U16 and U18 teams before taking the biggest step of his hockey career at that point into the United States Hockey League.
Conway’s sole season playing for the USHL’s Indiana Ice was, by every measure, awesome. He led his team in goals, assists, and points (33/35/68) in the regular season, then capped it all off by winning the Clark Cup. Fifth on that league-winning team in scoring was Conway’s friend and Penn State commit Denis Smirnov. Conway and Smirnov already have chemistry in place, and their reunion next season will be something to look out for.
“I can’t wait. That kid is an unbelievable player, drafted in the KHL, knows what he’s doing, great vision, easy to play with, and I kinda feel like we click together still. I can’t wait to get back on the ice with him,” Conway said fondly.
The Indiana Ice, now defunct, went out on a high note with the championship run and by moving a player on to the NCAA. Conway described his time there as one of the best experiences of his life and was visibly proud of what he and his teammates had accomplished.
He wasn’t the only person who was excited about the year. As Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said before the season, “To be on the top team in the USHL is tremendous for us. We hope that being around that kind of environment is addictive. To get guys who are addicted to winning is a very good thing.”
Having proved his offensive abilities in the USHL, there was an understandable hype surrounding Conway. With all of his options laid out for him, he decided to play for the newest Division I college hockey team, where he could blend a great education with plenty of ice time.
“[Penn State] is a new program, first off, and I wanted to play as much as I can, and the facilities are absolutely amazing,” Conway said. “I never got to watch a game, but I’ve seen them on TV a couple times before I committed here, and I thought it was absolutely unbelievable.”
Conway’s goals coming into the season were modest, but as the season wore on and he began to realize what he was capable of at the next level, they grew as his game did.
“I was hoping to just break the lineup at first. Coach said I’d be playing a bit here and there, and you never take that lightly,” he said. “First I was breaking the lineup, and eventually it built up and I wanted to play more and more after seeing what I could do out there.”
Once hockey season had reared its head, Conway showed flashes of his ability early and often. He was held without a point in Penn State’s first two games, then picked up his first point (an assist on a Curtis Loik goal) in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush against the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.
Three games later, Conway exploded. The 2-1-2 Nittany Lions were set for a rematch with Holy Cross after having won 3-1 the night before. Looking to bury the Crusaders and earn the first series sweep of the year, Conway took matters into his own hands. He scored two goals and added two assists en route to a 7-1 win, helping Penn State tie the team record for most goals in a game in its short Division I history.
The middle of the season saw Conway battle in and out of scoring slumps thanks to focusing on his play in the defensive zone. Recently, Gadowsky has given him a home on the powerplay and on the team’s second line, alongside Eric Scheid and Dylan Richard.
“Coach has always been hampering on my defensive zone and stuff like that, and I feel like I’ve taken away from my offense a little bit, just a little bit, to work on my defense,” he said. “I’m back on now, so that’s good.”
With Taylor Holstrom, Goodwin, and Bailey already instilling fear into opponents’ hearts as the team’s top trio, Conway and Co. give Penn State two lethal scoring lines, something it lacked for most of the season.
The second line’s play all culminated in what might have been the best goal ever scored at Pegula Ice Arena. Scott Conway has some real skill, as evidenced by the video below:
“I was actually thinking about going wide, I don’t why I cut to the middle, but Rock (Dylan Richard) hit me with a pass,” he said recounting the goal. “I think the D was just trying to get in my way but I had a lot of speed at the time so once I got by him, my favorite move is forehand-backhand-upstairs.”
As soon as the goal was scored, Twitter blew up, and later that night Conway received some more recognition on the small screen. Likely with the help of John Buccigross, who called the game for ESPNU, the play was No. 3 that night on Sportscenter’s Top Ten Plays – although Conway was the last to find out.
“Friedo (Jacob Friedman) went to eat with some of the guys after the game at Primanti’s and told me I was on there, and I said, ‘I don’t believe you,’” he said. “Then, next thing I know, I had a lot of tweets sent to me and a couple family members texting me saying congratulations. I still haven’t seen it yet.”
Conway explained that he wants to win a Big Ten Championship and make a run in the NCAA Tournaent by the time he’s done at Penn State. Now, with six games left in Conway’s first regular season, his goals are already attainable. Judging by how the voters have viewed Penn State all year, it looks like its best chance of making the NCAA Tournament is by winning the Big Ten Tournament rather than via an at-large bid. Winning the Big Ten is already a realistic scenario, and how quickly the Nittany Lions have made a name for themselves even came as a surprise to Conway himself.
“I knew we brought in two good freshmen other than me, and the experience we had from last year obviously helps us this year, so I knew we’d be a lot better. I didn’t know we’d be this good, but it’s great to see,” he said.
Fellow freshmen Erik Autio and James Robinson have had excellent campaigns themselves, but Conway’s future looks incomparably bright. His 68-point season in the USHL was the best of any Penn Staters who had played in the league, and already ranking fifth in points on the offensively-dynamic team is no joke – but the humble 19-year-old doesn’t let that get to him.
“Hopefully I can just contribute as much as I can. Hopefully I can stay a powerplay guy, second or first-liner, and just contribute as much as I can,” he said.
He has the upbringing, he has the talent, and he has the guidance of an experienced Penn State team to take his game to another level. The cards are in Conway’s hand that will allow him to become one of the best Penn State hockey players ever, and it’s up to him to play them correctly. When all is said and done, the Hall of Famer’s son turned touted prospect turned electric freshman has the opportunity. And now it’s up to Conway to capitalize.