By Pat White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --Coach Guy Gadowsky has said all season that his team's success is not measured by the amount of wins and losses, but rather the way they play in building the foundation of Penn State hockey. The same thing can be said about the success that freshman forward Kenny Brooks (Las Vegas, Nev.) has had so far this season.
Gadowsky lauded Brooks' poise and consistency as a blue-collar player that shows up to play every game. Casual fans may not notice Brooks' skill set, but his teammates do.
"Players love him," Gadowsky said. "He's the kind of guy when he goes over the boards, the players are comfortable. He gives you that every single time. He does it game in and game out."
Fans often equate goals and assists to being a top player on a hockey team, but that is not always true. Brooks stats aren't eye popping - one goal and four assists- but he is highly regarded as one of the best two-way forwards on the Penn State hockey team. Gadowsky preaches back-checking and doing the little things right to his team, both areas that Brooks excels in.
"He's so valuable to your team in areas that don't necessarily show up in the box scores," Gadowsky said. "In terms of playing a 200-foot hockey game and winning battles in the defensive or offensive zone, he is phenomenal."
Brooks has played alongside fellow freshmen, David Glen (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.) and Curtis Loik (North Vancouver, B.C.) to form one of the most exciting lines on the team. Loik said that their like-mentalities are what make it fun to play as a unit.
"It's such a joy to play with those guys," Loik said. "Glen's a great shooter, skates well, back-checks hard, and does all the little things. Brooks plays the same way. He has great vision and can see the ice and makes great plays. We work well together out there."
Glen leads the team in scoring with 10 points, in large part to the space created by his line mates. Brooks is the catalyst that has led to the offensive production of his line with his grinding style.
"He's causing goals, or hitting guys to cause a turnover that gets the play going the other way," Gadowsky said. "He's a part of so many goals, and he's also a guy that saves goals. He plays to win in every area of the ice, and that's what's special about him. A lot of players think they're like that, but he really is."
Their line - that Loik said is called the "Green Machine"- has accounted for 20 points, and nine of the team's 22 goals. While the line has provided a spark on offense, its Brooks play in his own zone that he is most satisfied with.
"I've always taken pride in my defensive game" Brooks said. "[If] you play tough defense, eventually the offensive game will come. I feel like Loik and Glen play that way, too."
Brook's dedication to winning the individual battles and playing tough defense is what makes his teammates better players. Gadowsky said the team benefits from his hard-nose game in the corners.
"You talk about players who make other players better, he's (one of those)," Gadowsky said. "There are perimeter players that have to benefit from other players work, and then there are players who make everybody around them better. Kenny Brooks makes his teammates better."
Growing up in Las Vegas, Brooks said that he had a far commute to play other teams when he was younger. His love for hockey began at a young age at a birthday party.
"When I was little I went to a birthday party at a hockey rink and was just skating around," Brooks said. "There were people playing hockey on the other rink and I told my parents that's what I want to do and I've been going at it since then."
Brooks grew up a Colorado Avalanche fan, and his favorite player was Avalanche forward Peter Forsberg.
"I loved to watch him growing up, Brooks said. "I was so little I couldn't pick up exactly how he played, but I always wanted to be like him when I was younger."
Before coming to Penn State, Brooks played junior hockey for the Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL). In 165 games he tallied 31 goals and dished out 55 assists for 86 points. During the 2011-12 season, he appeared in 59 regular-season games ranking second on the team in points (42) and assists (27), while also scoring 15 goals.
"Tri-City was a lot of fun," he said. "I had somewhat of an attachment to Tri-City. I always wanted to win and win for the program. It was a blast playing there the three years I was there."
Hockey is different from other college sports when it comes to incoming freshmen. Players usually play two or three years of junior hockey before making the leap to college. Brooks said he had to get back into the swing of being a full-time student again.
"At first it's a really big change because in juniors you don't go to school," said Brooks. "I've been out of school for two years. I'm getting used to it now so it's not bad. There are so many people on campus that help you, so it's easier."
Brooks and the rest of the Nittany Lions travel to Schenectady, N.Y to play Union College (6-2-1) on Saturday Nov. 24. Union advanced to the Frozen Four last season, and is currently ranked No. 8 in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.