Penn State Men’s Hockey: Media Day Recap


Hockey season is almost here in Happy Valley, as the Penn State men’s hockey team had their media day Tuesday afternoon. Coach Guy Gadowsky and a handful of players spoke to reporters, photographers, and writers less than two weeks before the start of their 2014-15 season at home on October 10 against UConn. Here are some highlights from the press conferences:

Guy Gadowsky

  • Three freshmen: Penn State’s adding three freshmen to the mix this season after retaining 95% of their scoring from last year. Forwards Scott Conway and James Robinson and defenseman Erik Autio are joining the Nittany Lions on the heels of a deep sophomore class that did a lot of the heavy lifting for the team last season. Gadowsky cited Conway’s “scoring touch”, Robinson’s “grit and identity” and Autio’s international experience playing in his home country of Finland as to what they can bring to the team; however, the way they’ll be used and how much ice time they’ll get this season is still something the coaches have yet to determine.
  • Captaincy changes: In the offseason, Penn State changed captains from two-year senior captain Tommy Olczyk to fellow senior defenseman Patrick Koudys. The move wasn’t surprising, given Koudys’ contributions to the team on and off the ice and Gadowsky’s high praise of him, but it left a lot of people wondering what happened with Olczyk. “Tommy’s still a great leader on this team,” Gadowsky said. “You don’t have to wear a letter to be a great leader.” Penn State’s last few years as a team have been transition years, moving into Division I and then into the Big Ten Conference over a two year period. Now with the team in a period of consistency, Gadowsky said the players and coaches made the unanimous decision to give Koudys the “C” due to the growth of the program.
  • Injury update: A  few players had surgery in the offseason, but most notably sophomore forward Zach Saar, who had hip surgery late in the summer and will be out until at least Christmas, if not later. It’s a big loss, as Gadowsky felt Saar “really improved at the end of the season” to become a stand out player on the roster for the Nittany Lions. Also of note, forward Dylan Richard had surgery on his shoulder and goaltender Eamon McAdam had an undisclosed surgery as well.
  • Starting Skoff: Matthew Skoff is the uncontested starter in goal for Penn State this season, a change from last year’s three goalie rotation.  “He has absolutely earned the right to start,” Gadowsky said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to stay that way, he has to perform this year.” The junior goaltender was the netminder for every win the Nittany Lions had last season and posted a team leading 2.96 GAA and a .906 save percentage.
  • Big Ten: It’s the second year of the Big Ten Conference and while Minnesota seems to remain uncontested at the top of the rankings, Gadowsky believes the standings between the remaining teams will be “closer”. “Their goal is to get better, just like ours,” Gadowsky said. “So with Penn State getting better, I really hope to see a lot more parity, but at the same time when you play in the Big Ten with these hockey programs, you’re going to be playing someone great every night.”
  • Expectations: There’s an absence of fanfare at the start of this season compared to the last few years, but Gadowsky said he’s glad to be behind it because he wasn’t sure the team handled it that well. With a lot of the team’s “firsts” out of the way, Gadowsky said the team is better prepared this time around than they were last year. “We expect that we’re going to be a lot further ahead come October 10 than we were October 11 last year on our opening night, basically due to the fact that everybody is together,” he said. “As a team maturity, we’re way ahead.”

Other points of interest in the press conference came from a few of the players, including new captain Koudys on his reaction to the captaincy selection: “We’ve got a great group of guys, a lot of great leaders so to be chosen it’s obviously a huge honor. We’ve got a lot of great leaders on the team so it’s pretty easy.”

Penn State also plans to travel to Alaska to play two teams in Fairbanks during the second week of the season. “I was hoping hockey was going to take me to Alaska eventually, so it’s kind of another state to check off,” sophomore forward David Goodwin said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”

Goaltender Skoff said he didn’t feel any pressure being named the starting goalie before the season began. “I prepare the same way every season, no matter what anyone has to say or what coach has predicted,” Skoff said. “I just treat every game and every practice like it’s an important one and take each day one at a time.” The goaltender said he spent his summer training in State College and then was invited to NHL Development Camp with the San Jose Sharks to practice with their goaltending staff.

With less than two weeks to go until the start of a new hockey season, make sure to check back for previews of both the men’s and the women’s teams as our coverage begins to pick up again!