‘They Deserve Credit For This One’: Electrifying Home Crowd Propelling Penn State Men’s Hockey Success
As the final seconds ticked away on the clock, Pegula Ice Arena’s crowd dripped in white apparel hit a crescendo. The final horn sounded and the goal horn blared, signaling Penn State men’s hockey’s 4-3 victory over Ohio State, and the Penn State faithful erupted into a frenzy once more.
This was the scene Saturday night as a record-breaking 6,578 fans packed Pegula for the annual “Wear White” game. A total of 6,533 people were in attendance the night prior for the Nittany Lions’ opening-game win, which was the fourth-largest crowd in program history in the arena fit for 6,014.
The atmosphere undoubtedly helped propel the Nittany Lions to a series sweep. They were on a four-game losing streak heading into the weekend and hadn’t won a Big Ten game since December 2.
“It’s extremely important,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said of the atmosphere and attendance. “I think they gave us our second win. If they weren’t here, I don’t think we would have got our second win, so they absolutely deserve credit for this one.”
Play was going as well as Penn State could’ve hoped throughout the first 30 minutes of the game. It grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first period, followed up by another pair of goals in the second frame.
Then, however, Ohio State rallied to score three unanswered goals. The Buckeyes got on the board just two minutes after the Nittany Lions went up 3-0, and then they grabbed another a minute later. They scored the tying goal nearly seven minutes into the third period, and anxiety sunk over the crowd.
Nonetheless, the fans persisted. Several members of the Roar Zone and two Ohio State fans adjacent to it continued to exchange jabs while chants and cheering broke out, and with five minutes left in regulation, Tyler Paquette scored to put the Nittany Lions up 4-3.
Back on— Onward State (@OnwardState) January 28, 2024
From then on, the atmosphere was as deafening as ever.
Atmospheres such as this are a regular occurrence at Pegula Ice Arena, but this one was simply a little more special than the others.
“The thing about Pegula is every night it’s awesome,” Gadowsky said. “I mean, this is just a little more awesomer, but it’s still awesome, and it always is here at Pegula.”
Players and coaches alike rave about Pegula’s consistently raucous crowds. It’s regarded as one of the best atmospheres in all of college hockey, which is impressive on multiple levels.
For starters, the program has only been categorized as Division I since 2012. Although it has already won the Big Ten, been on the doorstep of the Frozen Four, and has generally been successful since then, it lacks program history and distinction because of its youth. For instance, it doesn’t have a storied reputation like Minnesota’s, nor is it located in a recruiting hotbed such as Boston College.
This season, the team is 12-11-3 and fell out of the USCHO rankings for the first time in over a calendar year. Despite that, the fans continue to show up and create electric atmospheres every game, which is a testament to how well the program has grown and how high the ceiling is. Many players cite the passionate fanbase and Pegula’s atmosphere as playing big factors in recruitment, and Friday and Saturday night were examples of that magnitude.
“That stuff is the coolest game I’ve ever played in. I mean you look around, there’s not an empty seat,” forward Matt DiMarsico said. “Everyone’s cheering for us and it was a really cool environment.”
It also helps — and hurts — goaltenders. The passionate environment helps Liam Souliere settle into his own and play well. As for opponents, though, taunts from the Roar Zone relentlessly rain down.
“That helps so much,” Souliere said. “You feel at home, you feel safe, honestly, with the crowd behind you and making those saves.”
Regardless of what happens for the remainder of the regular season, Penn State can bank on its fans showing up to produce an electrifying atmosphere for the remaining four home games. The aid was evident this weekend, and it’s a factor unique and special to Hockey Valley.
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