By Greg Campbell
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - You could feel the excitement in the room when Nittany Lions head coach Guy Gadowsky addressed the media at the programs inaugural media day. With just four days remaining before the Blue and White open their first NCAA Division I men's hockey season, Gadowsky and members of the 2012-13 roster addressed the media inside the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Coach Gadowsky, along with captain Tommy Olczyk and assistant captain Nate Jensen, each addressed the media before the remainder of the roster was made available to the media for one-on-one interviews prior to practice. The mood was one of delight and anticipation for the season opener and everyone involved was ready for what "Hockey Valley" fans have been clamoring about for years.
The Nittany Lions will begin their first NCAA Division I slate against American International on Oct. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Formidable But Prepared
There was talk about the season opener, but head coach Guy Gadowsky also addressed the schedule and the fact that the Blue and White will move into the newly formed Big Ten Conference after their first full season on the ice. The 2012-13 calendar will feature four games versus Big Ten foes - two to be played on the Big Ten Network - include games against the U.S. National 18U Team and a litany of strong opponents line the 35 game slate.
"With the high-end Division I teams, we are playing Union, which made it to the Frozen Four last year. We are going to Michigan State. We are going to Wisconsin. Those are the top of the food chain. For us to do that in our very first year is very daunting. We understand fully how good those programs are and how difficult they are to play, but it is a great opportunity for us to find out where we are at right now. I think it is a great schedule and I am very happy with what was put together. I think it is perfect for where we are right now."
Making the Jump
No one said that it would be easy and after 40 years of hosting a club program this group of Nittany Lions will get their first taste of NCAA Division I action on Friday. There are a handful of student-athletes that have transferred from other Division I hockey programs and players that have played on various levels in careers, but when the puck drops on Friday they will be competing as a unit for the first time on the biggest college stage in hockey.
"It's just a matter of getting in there," said sophomore Tommy Olczyk, "getting reps, making the most out of every shift, working hard and then getting into a rhythm and realizing that (the NCAA Division I level) is a lot different than past years. The hockey is going to be more physical. It's going to be faster so it's just a matter of getting better every week in practice and obviously getting better in the games every week.
Support From Hockey Valley
On Oct. 5, the Nittany Lions hosted the Midnight Ice Breaker, the first official practice of the 2012-13 season, which was open to fans and students to watch as they began preparation for the year. A healthy contingent of fans poured into the Greenberg Ice Pavilion to watch the team practice and then stuck around for a free public skate that took place after the clock had struck midnight. The community and the student body have both shown their support and the players have taken notice.
"It was a lot of fun to see how many people came out and supported us (at the Midnight Ice Breaker)," said junior Nate Jensen. "I feel like this college could become a hockey-school college, where you get a lot of people to come check out games especially once we get the new rink. It was also really nice to interact with our fans, see how they are excited for our new season and our new D-I program, so we're looking forward to this Friday and getting out there and showing all we got for our fans."