Penn State Hockey’s Guy Gadowsky Not Ready To Turn Page On 2019-20 Season Yet

Like thousands of coaches across the country, Penn State hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky needed to come to terms with the end of his team’s season pretty abruptly last month.

When the week of March 8 began, the Nittany Lions were getting primed to host Minnesota in the semifinal round of the Big Ten tournament. The team was dialed in on winning the conference’s postseason competition after being crowned regular season champions with a 20-10-4 record.

By the end of that week, Penn State’s entire postseason — including an all-but-confirmed NCAA tournament bid — had been canceled in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“It wasn’t a matter of ‘hey guys, this is it.’ They knew what was going on,” Gadowsky said on a Zoom press conference last Thursday. “We just told the guys how well they did and why they should be really proud. These guys worked so hard. There are a lot bigger things going on in the world than Penn State hockey, but I really do feel for this team.

“They were really hungry to prove we could go far in the NCAA tournament. This was such a great year with such great guys, and I don’t think I’ve turned the page yet.”

How could Gadowsky be ready to move on just a few weeks after the year was canceled? As tired of a cliché as this is, everything truly was coming together for Penn State hockey. The Nittany Lions only lost one of their final six games of the year. Pegula Ice Arena was set to host a Big Ten semifinal for the first time ever. Gadowsky’s side was given a 100% chance of returning the NCAA tournament at No. 7 in the PairWise rankings.

Instead of a possible second Big Ten tournament title run and third NCAA tournament bid in four years, Penn State’s season just…ended. The senior class that had helped transform the program from a budding hopeful to a legitimate contender wouldn’t get one last chance at competing on the same ice surface again.

Gadowsky himself has spent the last few weeks at home in State College with his three kids, three dogs, and three cats (in his own words, “staying sane is probably my biggest challenge”). His players are back home, too, but getting there wasn’t the most straightforward process for some.

Denis Smirnov and Nikita Pavlychev, who are from Russia, didn’t return to their home country and are still in the United States with some relatives, according to Gadowsky. Aarne Talvitie and Oskar Autio are both safely back in their native Finland, but the duo needed to be quarantined in the same apartment for two weeks as a precaution.

“They hadn’t killed each other yet,” Gadowsky joked. “I thought that was pretty good news.”

Despite the abrupt end to its 2019-20 season, Penn State hockey has still been in the news a bit. Three of the team’s seniors — Brandon Biro, Nate Sucese, and Liam Folkes — signed professional contracts with the Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, and Bakersfield Condors, respectively. Standout junior Evan Barratt put pen to paper on his entry-level with the Chicago Blackhawks just a few hours after Gadowsky’s Zoom presser wrapped up on Thursday.

“Very well-deserved for all three [seniors]. They all came in as free agents and had great careers,” Gadowsky said. “They opened the eyes of many NHL teams — not just the ones they signed with. In all three situations, all three of the teams are very excited about them and believe they have a future in each organization.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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