Today’s the day. Soon, the puck will be dropped in the amazingly gorgeous and new $88 million dollar Pegula Ice Arena for the first time for Division I hockey as Penn State opens their season with the Army Black Knights tonight at 8 p.m. First off; however, let’s take a look at the team and what the schedule holds for them this season!
Last Year’s Record
Plus Exhibition Games: 19-16-0
This year, Penn State sees the return of last year’s successful freshmen, David Glen and Casey Bailey, to the forward core. Glen – now an assistant captain with the team – totaled a team high 16 goals last year and Bailey was a point-per-game player with 27 points in 27 non-exhibition games. Assist leader from last year (19 through 27 games) , now a red shirt junior and a 2010 St. Louis Blues draft pick, Max Gardiner also returns to the lineup for the Nittany Lions. Second year junior captain Tommy Olczyk, along with last year’s game winning goal leader (with 3), Taylor Holstrom, are back on the ice as well. Rounding out the returns from last year include: sophomores Kenny Brooks, Curtis Loik, Jonathan Milley – who is currently injured and not yet 100% according to Gadowsky - junior Jacob Friedman, and senior Michael McDonagh.
Offensive newcomers for the team this year include freshmen Dylan Richard (Sherwood Park, Alta.), David Goodwin (Des Peres, Mo.), Ricky DeRosa (Aston, Pa.), Zach Saar (Richland, Mich.), and red shirt sophomore Eric Scheid (Blaine, Minn.). Look for these five to fill in the roster quite easily in place of the four senior forwards that graduated last year – Eric Steinour, George Saad, Dominic Morrone, and Michael Longo.
Six members of last year’s defense for Penn State will return to the blueline. Sophomore Connor Varley, the only defenseman last year to stay healthy through 27 non-exhibition games, will be joined by fellow classmates Joseph Lordo, Mark Yanis, Luke Juha, along with the red shirt junior assistant captain Nate Jensen and junior Peter Sweetland. The defense last year sustained more than a few injuries but all the returning members thankfully look healthy to start the 2013-14 season.
The team picked up a few more players on the blueline in the offseason. Junior Patrick Koudys (Smithville, Ont.) – a 2011 Washington Capitals draft pick – will be joined by recent Vancouver Canucks draft pick Mike Williamson (Leduc, Alta.), a freshman. Besides the two NHL draft picks, freshman David Thompson (Glen Mills, Pa.) will also join the team and look to have significant ice time with the team.
This is where things get a little interesting for the Nittany Lions. In goal, Penn State will alternate three different goaltenders during the year. The two incumbents in net are junior PJ Musico and sophomore Matthew Skoff. Skoff started 17 games to Musico’s 10, and posted a 2.48 GAA and a .921 save percentage with a 9-8-0 record. Meanwhile, Musico had a 3.22 GAA with a .899 save percentage and a 4-6-0 record in his 10 games in goal for the Nittany Lions.
Freshman Eamon McAdam (Perkasie, Pa.) will also fit into the goalie rotation this year. McAdam is a 2013 third round draft pick with the New York Islanders and played for the UCHL Waterloo Black Hawks for the past few seasons. In his time with the Black Hawks, McAdam played 51 games with a combined 3.47 GAA. All three goaltenders should see time this season but Skoff and McAdam look to be contenders for the ‘starting’ role in tonight’s game.
Penn State will move into the new and highly anticipated Big Ten hockey conference this year, along with Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Big Ten play for the Nittany Lions doesn’t start until December and won’t pick up speed until January, so in the meantime Penn State will play a few teams they faced last season. A few notable new teams Penn State will face include: UMass Lowell – ranked 1st in the USCHO Men’s Hockey poll – fourth ranked Boston College – who as of last night dropped their first game to 11th place Michigan – and Bowling Green State University.
The Nittany Lions will face off against Vermont in Philadelphia again this year as part of the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff on October 26. Also, they’ll be participating in their second Three Rivers Classic tournament in Pittsburgh on December 27 and 28. This season’s Big Ten Tournament will be held in Saint Paul, Minnesota from March 20 to March 22.
What To Look For
Penn State did better than expected last season, especially against now current Big Ten conference teams such as Ohio State and Wisconsin. The upsets last year certainly surprised a lot of people, myself included, but this year don’t expect the Big Ten to take Penn State lightly anymore. It will be interesting to see how they handle the almost three-month span of time where they play in conference week after week starting in January. Last season the team had an up and down schedule in terms of difficulty but this years looks to be more difficult down the stretch than before. The team showed that they had what it took to beat pretty tough teams last year, and this year they’ll have to prove that they can be consistent enough to do so in a strong hockey conference.
Puck drop for tonight’s game is at 8 p.m. and will be airing on the Big Ten Network. I will be in the press box for the game – my first ever game as a credentialed member of the media! I plan on getting to the arena early so tweet at me if you have any questions before the game! Plan on a loud, high intensity game as Penn State Division I hockey finally, finally, makes its way into Pegula Ice Arena.