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Solid Coaching A Silver Lining In Penn State Men’s Hockey’s 2021-22 Season

This past season, Guy Gadowsky embarked on his 10th year as head coach of the Penn State men’s hockey program. The Nittany Lions finished with an underwhelming 17-20-1 record this season, but a deep run in the Big Ten tournament gave Penn State fans hope for the future, especially with a young roster and a proven head coach behind the bench.

Penn State’s season ended a bit later than anticipated and much of it had to do with the Nittany Lions’ bench boss Guy Gadowsky. There were a lot of uncertainties from every positional group heading into this season, but in the end, Penn State was just a mere two goals away from the Big Ten Tournament title game.

Goaltending was a big question mark throughout the middle of the season as starter Oskar Autio began to struggle. Gadowsky opted to give sophomore Liam Soulierre a shot in the net, and he never looked back. Souliere finished the season with a goals-against average of 2.88 along with a save percentage of just over .900. The Ontario native became Penn State’s No. 1 option down the stretch largely due to confidence instilled by Gadowsky.

Gadowsky handed the keys to the net to Souliere, and the sophomore turned in the best performance of his young collegiate career in game three of the Big Ten quarterfinals to send the Nittany Lions to the semifinals. Penn State’s quarterfinal series win in Columbus was the first time a road team won a three-game series in conference history.

With the series win in Columbus, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to the Big Ten semifinals for the seventh consecutive season and the eighth time overall. After a win in the quarterfinals a year ago, Gadowsky became the winningest coach in the history of the Big Ten Tournament.

This year’s tournament was hardly the first time a Guy Gadowsky-led Nittany Lions team found itself as the underdog entering the tournament. In the 2017 Big Ten Tournament, the fourth-seeded Nittany Lions cruised past Michigan before knocking off top-seeded Minnesota in double overtime in the semifinals. Penn State would go on to win the Big Ten title in another double-overtime game over the Wisconsin Badgers.

Two years later, Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions returned to the Big Ten Tournament championship after beating Wisconsin and top-seeded Ohio State in the quarterfinals and the semifinals, respectively. Although the Nittany Lions fell to Notre Dame 3-2 in the Big Ten championship, another deep tournament run in 2019 proved that the Nittany Lions under Gadowsky always play up to the competition no matter how they enter the tournament.

Penn State rarely, if ever, joins the tournament as one of the top seeds in the conference. However, the Nittany Lions’ recent postseason success exemplifies the effects of Gadowsky’s steadfast leadership.

A young roster presented a lot of challenges for the veteran head coach, and while parts of the regular season may have been a struggle, Gadowsky usually got the best out of his players when it mattered most. Freshman Ryan Kirwan had a phenomenal season after starting out a bit slow and finished with 13 goals and 13 assists. Dylan Lugris also had a huge tournament performance when he scored three goals in consecutive games after joining the team in December.

Although this season may be one to forget in the grand scheme of things, Gadowsky is poised to lead Penn State in the right direction moving forward. With more experienced players and a stable goaltending situation on tap, expect more consistent contention from the Nittany Lions soon.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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