College Hockey:
Pieces falling into place for Gadowsky, Penn State

The program's transition from club to Division I is generating enthusiasm in Happy Valley.

The dress rehearsal at Penn State is over. The real curtain in Happy Valley goes up this fall.

Coach Guy Gadowsky, who just guided Penn State to a third-place national finish in its final campaign at the club level, is getting his first Nittany Lions varsity team ready. He said he saw no real difference between coaching club hockey this year and coaching at the NCAA Division I level as he did with Princeton and Alaska the previous dozen seasons.

“At its core, it’s still hockey,” Gadowsky said in April. “We had great expectations, and the guys were tremendous. With the dynamic of old and new, I give the seniors a ton of credit for maintaining a great team chemistry.”

“There’s a huge alumni base, and they tell you how excited they are to be going Division I.”

– Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky

The Penn State Icers, as they were long known, finished 29-4-1 overall in their final season in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. Penn State was originally slated to join the nascent Big Ten Conference in the fall of 2014, but instead will do so in 2013 after playing this upcoming season as an NCAA Division I independent.

“Everything was moved up a year,” said Gadowsky, who played at Colorado College in the late 1980s. “It was important for our staff to do, and implement the foundation for the future.”

He said assistant coaches Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay, who accompanied Gadowsky from Princeton to Penn State, were tremendous assets in assembling next year’s squad while still helping to coach the Icers club team when they could.

“They were huge,” Gadowsky said of his long-time assistants. “I think there was maybe one weekend when we were all in the same place.”

He added that it had been a lot of work so far, but that there has also been a lot of support from the community.

“So far it’s been a great experience,” he said.

He has strong backing in the athletic department, too.

“Coach Gadowsky is the perfect person to lead our team and build a strong foundation for the program,” acting athletic director Dr. Dave Joyner said in an email. “He’s been a winner everywhere he’s been, and we’re excited to have him guide Penn State into NCAA Division I play and the Big Ten.”

Gadowsky also credited longtime Penn State club hockey coach and associate athletic director Joe Battista, along with new director of hockey operations Bill Downey, for all their work and support. He also discovered rather quickly that he was already moving into a hockey situation on campus, even if there hadn’t been a true varsity squad there for several decades.

“One thing I noticed right away was the number of jerseys,” Gadowsky said. “Flyers, Penguins, Sabres, Canadiens, Capitals — you see them all over. There’s a lot of passion among the students for hockey, and a lot of people are hockey nuts.”

He added that people around Penn State have shown great enthusiasm anytime there has been something to do with the varsity program or the new Pegula Ice Arena that is under construction on campus.

“There’s a huge alumni base, and they tell you how excited they are to be going Division I,” Gadowsky said.

“Penn State needed to be a hockey place,” Joyner added. “Pennsylvania is a great hockey area, and it’s been a logical extension of our athletic department.”

The “new” Nittany Lions will play their first varsity season at the venerable Greenberg/Penn State Ice Pavilion, home to the Penn State Icers the past 30 years, before moving into the ultra-modern, 6,000-seat facility that will bear the name of benefactor Terry Pegula, who also owns the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

It was Pegula’s original $88 million gift to the university last year that made Penn State’s upgrade to Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey feasible. Pegula and his wife, Kim, also recently committed an additional $14 million that will help endow men’s hockey scholarships.

“Philanthropy has its greatest impact when it grows out of a true passion, and the Pegulas’ passion for hockey and Penn State is unparalleled,” Rodney P. Kirsch, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, said in a news release.

Another plus for Gadowsky, besides recruiting new players for the Division I ranks, is that skaters who were on the club roster when he came in will get a legitimate shot at moving up to the next level.

“We’re only bringing in 12 players, and there’s 15 from last year,” Gadowsky said of the make-up of the 2012-13 Penn State squad. “That guys who came here to play club could end up playing Division I hockey is tremendous. What a great story.”

He said the club players took the situation seriously this season, and worked hard both on the ice and in the classroom to take full advantage of a chance at playing at the D-I level.

“You see those guys get the opportunity, and you feel so good,” Gadowsky said. “It’s fun to watch them come to the rink, and it’s just fantastic.”

Players who came to Penn State with aspirations to play club hockey against the likes of Westchester, Oakland (Mich.) and Michigan-Dearborn are excited at the prospect of now being able to take on schools like Michigan State, Union and Wisconsin.

“I was pretty much just going to get my education,” said forward George Saad of Wexford, Pa., who will be a senior in the fall. “Penn State was trying to go D-I for many years, and I didn’t know if it was going to happen. I came to play [club] hockey, and it worked out in the end.”

Playing for a Division I coach in Gadowsky this season was a positive experience for Saad, who skated for Mahoning Valley of the NAHL in the junior ranks.

“He’s an awesome coach,” said Saad, a civil engineering major who posted 34 goals and 66 points in 77 club outings with the Icers. “When he came in, everything went up to the next level. The expectations became higher, and we played a lot better.”

Now, after playing three seasons at the highest level of collegiate club hockey, Saad is grateful for the chance to play one last year at the biggest level of all.

“Yeah, it’s definitely a dream come true,” he said. “We’ll be skating at a higher level and the competition will be greater, but I’m looking forward to playing some NCAA teams.”

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  • GoldyTheGreat

    Welcome to NCAA Division 1 Hockey. Prepare to be trounced… 

    • Guest

      6-1 trounced, right? But then again, you’d know how that feels.

      • Lakes18

        Must be a North Dakota fan….How was the 5-2 trouncing at the Xcel?  Funny how the guest comments hide behind that name…..

        It also means Goldy’s team was their nd your team wasn’t!

        • Shany94a

           Go Eagles

          • Lakes18

            Congrats to the Eagles.  They deserved to win the NCAA Title, they were hands down the best team!!

          • nogofer

            The Eagles did pound the snot out of the mn rodents…  6 – 1 on National TV…  That will be the last memory of college hockey for many gofers…  3 years of nothing and one year of not showing up for the biggest game of their year…  Pathetic…

          • gophersnot golfers

            Yes the Eagles pounded the gophers. But If leading your league from wire to wire and making the final 4 was pathetic what does that say about your team?

          • nogofer

            WCHA Tournament Hardware to add to our TROPHY BUILDING…

          • WCHA Fan

            Another nice USCHO article about the addition of a new DI hockey program.  Another set of comments that eventually turns into a stupid argument between pathetic Sue and Goofer fans….   Anyhow, you are both right.  Both teams have stunk it up in the NCAA’s for years.

          • ReturntoGoldCountry

            MacNaughton Cup > Broadmoor Trophy.  It’s not even close.

          • nogofer

            The Broadmoor Trophy usually involves beating the best of the best to go on in the post-season.  I would assert the Broadmoor carries as much prestige as the MacNaughton.  Regardless, it would be sweet if the BiG TeN and National teams won next year’s trophies and took them to their respective homes for eternity

          • B.D.

            Yooper/Homeboy would LOVE that…..

          • Yooperhockey

            Awesome a real trophy the M-Cup is the best cup of all time. I can’t wait till North Dokata plays for the Blais Cup against WMU in two seasons. What a thrill it will be UNO coach presents his legend cup to the legend coach of WMU Andy Murray after beating the Sioux.

            The NCHC will start to make history and poor WMU will fit in so much. Maybe they can develop a few more websites so we can figure what league they play in.

          • B.D.

            Dude, your jealousy of Nebraska Omaha is unseemly.  If your school was as comitted to premiere hockey as those selected for the NCHC then they would be admitted.

          • Fan Man

            Personally, I would rather win the Broadmore trophy every year over the M-cup! If you think about it though, either one of those trophies guarantee a spot in the NCAA’s… I just like winning tournaments as it is more exciting ;)
            Please no dumb Sioux haven’t won it all in 12 years garbage. I obviously know that th@nks

          • ReturntoGoldCountry

            100 year old trophy that is made of 40 lbs. of silver, or a trophy that was remade 3 years ago and looks like a hotel.  Again, not even close.

          • Fan Man

             Not talking about how cool the trophy looks, but I’ll give you that one..  That trophy does look cool as heck and I will miss watching my team raise it high all the time.  Still, nothing beats winning the Final Five except for winning the Frozen Four      AWESOME TOURNAMENT

          • Yooperhockey

            I hope they throw the Broadmore trophy over the portage Lake lift bridge.
            That Colorado trophy is a disgrace to college hockey it belongs in the lake. Hopefully the ND AD and Denver’s coach could come to Houghton and throw it into the water as a symbol of what they contributed to college hockey thanks N$H$.

            As for the McNaughton Cup is for the real winners as the MTU Huskies have won it seven times. Legends play in the WCHA and quitters pay in the NCHC.

          • B.D.

            Once again, Yooper sounding Jilted “YOU’RE GONNNNA MISSS  MEEEEEE!”

          • Yooperhockey

            So true that hotel cup is as fake as the new league that has a division three acryonym NCHC=NCHA. I see the league copied the division three league. Smart.

          • B.D.

            Please explain.

        • nogofer

          Boston College pounds Minnesota in Frozen Four semifinals

          By Andy Gardiner, USA TODAY 

  • http://twitter.com/Icersman Steve Penstone

    Great article Roman.  Two small corrections, if I may — George Saad (older brother of Blackhawks’ Brandon Saad) will be a senior in the fall.  And the Greenberg hasn’t hit 30 yet — it just looks like it’s 40!

    @GoldyTheGreat:disqus – the boys will take their lumps some nights, but they will also surprise a lot of people. 

    • Roman Uschak

      My mistake on the age of the Pavilion, I thought it was older – I also should have listed Saad as a rising senior

  • Yooperhockey

    Penn State thanks for joining college hockey.

    You made it easier for my teams to make to the NCAAs just ask Air Force?

    Cupcakes make it easier. Thanks.

    • BulldogFan

      Yooper, I see your branching out.  You have shown tNational fans how little you understand about the current landscape of college hockey and now your letting Big Ten Fans see your lack of intelligence.  Why stop there you really should post on the article about UCONN’s possible move to Hockey East.  Hockey East fans deserve a laugh also. Congrats. 

      • Yooperhockey

        You never proved me wrong.

        • B.D.

          It is illogical to assume that the addition of another program in any form makes it easier to get to the Final Four.  Mathematically wrong.

          • Yooperhockey

            You didn’t figure in your math the programs that folding because ND,Denver and CC didnt like playing with the programs they voted to add to the WCHA to make twelve and then you bailed and called the teams cupcakes.

            You added University of Alaska Ankorage in 1993-1994.
            You added MSU-Mankato in 1999-2000.
            You added Bemdji.
            Also added were St Cloud and UNO.

            You made the WCHA a twelve team league and all sudden you bailed on the new teams and formed your own league the NCHC.

            Is this backstabbing? Yes

            Thanks Denver, CC, ND, and UMD for turning your backs on the rest of the members of the WCHA.

            You made twelve members and made it four. How that for math, B.D.?

          • B.D.

            The equation you speak of is meaningless since those teams still exist.

            The larger the number in the population, the less the odds of making the top of the form.

            Your position was that the addition of a new team would ensure an easier time in the playoffs which is a false argument.

  • Bruce Cech

    Gadowsky and Penn State are already winners…Bruce Cech/Alaska Nanooks play-by-play announcer 

  • MPLS Sioux

    I say the more Division 1 College Hockey progrms, the better…

    • MPLS Sioux


    • Yooperhockey

      I like to see more division two programs playing division one.

      It even better when the smaller schools beat those schools.

  • Bones

    Laugh now folks, but given Gadowsky’s track record, PSU will be in NCAA’s within 5 years. His Westen Canada recruiting base is already in place (plus Penn hockey is on the rise), and the fan base is energized, just waiting for something good to happen at PSU. Knowing of him from ECACH, he’s a class act… just what PSU needed.

    • Yooperhockey

      How many straight last place finishes in the big 10 can Guy look forward too. I bet MSU and OSU can’t wait to play Penn State.

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