FEATURE: Meet Max Gardiner

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By Pat White, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There is much to look forward to with the inaugural season of Penn State NCAA Division I hockey quickly approaching, and one player in particular is sophomore forward Max Gardiner.

8100154.jpegGardiner (Deephaven, Minn.) comes from a hockey family in Minnesota. His brother, Jake, played college hockey at the University of Wisconsin and now plays in the NHL for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His dad and uncle also played hockey, with his uncle playing at Bemidji State. Gardiner attributes much of his success to playing with his brother when they were younger.

"My brother and I played together outdoors everyday," Gardiner said. "We both helped push each other, and it's been a lot of fun along the way. My uncle and my dad both played hockey, so I've been around [the game] and I've had a love for the game since I was a little kid."

Gardiner brings with him an impressive résumé to go along with his hockey pedigree. Gardiner played at Minnetonka High School in Minnesota and recorded 17 goals and 26 assists in only 17 games his senior year. After graduation, Gardiner went on to play for the University of Minnesota. He collected one goal and two assists in 17 games with the Gophers.

He forwent his sophomore season at Minnesota to play for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League (USHL). He played in 50 games, tallying 12 goals and 14 assists, good for ninth on the team in points.

One of the most exciting moments for Gardiner came in 2010 when he heard his name called by the St. Louis Blues in the third round of the NHL Entry Draft. It was an exciting night for Gardiner, but he knows that his journey to the NHL is just beginning.

"It was pretty surreal," said Gardiner. "It was an honor to be drafted by them, and pretty awesome to have that much respect from an NHL program. It was a great night, but it doesn't mean anything. I've got to work hard to make it to that level."

Gardiner is listed at 6-foot-3 , providing the Nittany Lions with another big body at the forward position. The exciting part about Gardiner is that his big body comes with a tremendous amount of skill and playmaking abilities. He uses his size to shield the puck well in the offensive zone and drives the net hard.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky said that new strength and conditioning coach Robert McLean will assist Gardiner with his development toward becoming a better player, and possibly an NHL player.

"He has some sweet hands," Gadowsky said. "He's a goal scorer, he thinks the game extremely well and he's a big guy. I think that Rob McLean will be the most important person in his career development, because he is a young guy and can get more explosive. We wanted his skill and creativity mostly and it just so happens that comes with a 6-foot-3 frame."

Gadowsky likes what Gardiner brings on the ice, but he said it was Gardiner's personality off the ice that really impressed him as well as other team members.

"I think he has something unique to offer this team because of who he is, not where he came from," Gadowsky said. "I think he's obviously talented being a third-round draft choice of the St. Louis Blues, but he's a tremendous guy. I think he really impressed the guys on his recruiting trip. We asked the players what they thought of the recruits, and they had an overwhelming response to him as a person. That's the most exciting thing to me."

Gardiner said that the transition to Penn State has been easy and he is excited to be a part of the Penn State community. He also said that getting to know his teammates and coaches have been an easy and fun experience.

"It's awesome out here and I love it so far," Gardiner said. "Everything is top of the line from the athletic facilities to all the coaches. I love my teammates, classes have been great, great professors. Everything has been pretty smooth. Penn State is my focus right now and I'm trying to get better."

Gardiner and the Nittany Lions kick off their season on Oct. 12 at home against American International.

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