Ashton Calder’s Experience Leading Penn State Men’s Hockey Into NCAA Regionals
For the first time since 2018, Penn State men’s hockey is back in the NCAA Regionals. The Nittany Lions begin their tournament run at 5 p.m. on Friday, March 24, at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, against Michigan Tech.
Of all players that are currently on Penn State’s roster, surprisingly, only one of them has played in the NCAA Tournament before. That player is Ashton Calder, a graduate forward who transferred to Penn State from North Dakota prior to the 2022-23 season. This year marks Calder’s third time playing in the NCAA Tournament.
Calder’s presence is extremely helpful for the team, and he is an unlikely leader for a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in five years. Head coach Guy Gadowsky, who will be coaching in his third NCAA Tournament appearance, finds Calder’s veteran status very useful in helping prepare the team for the upcoming game, including talking to players and coaches alike about what to expect.
“He’s been really valuable to just give a heads up to the guys on what to expect, and it’s unique because he got to deal with two different programs and possibly a little different, different emphasis on what was important to them,” Gadowsky said. “He’s an invaluable resource.”
Meanwhile, Calder himself is excited about the chance to play in the NCAA Tournament once again. He last played in the Big Dance last season, when North Dakota lost 2-1 against Notre Dame in overtime of the first round. His only other appearance was during his time at Lake Superior State in 2021 when the Lakers lost 5-1 against Massachusetts in the first round.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Calder said. “It’s going to be intense. It’s going to be a cool experience, but it makes it that much more rewarding, and [it’s a good] feeling every time you get a win and keep moving on. Now, it’s just bring your A-game because every team is good.”
Although this Penn State team has a good mix of young players and older veterans, Calder’s presence is a huge deal given his NCAA Tournament experience. The games are more intense, particularly physically, which is something that can be challenging to adapt to at times. If the nerves begin to run higher than usual prior to or during this game, Calder can be helpful in calming them.
Every team is good, and like the Big Ten, anyone can win on any given day. This serves the Nittany Lions well, as they’ve been playing in games like that the whole season.
While Calder’s presence in the locker room is more useful than ever right now, his presence on the ice has been productive, too. He has nine goals, seven assists, and 16 points, which is the ninth-most on the team. Calder had a hot start to the season, too, with three goals in his first four games as a Nittany Lion. If he can recapture that against the Huskies, Penn State has a much better chance at winning.
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