By Pat White GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.--In an emotional game for players, coaches, fans and alumni, Penn State (12-13) bid farewell to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion with a 3-0 victory against Oklahoma on Saturday (Feb. 16).
From the moment the players took the ice there was a bittersweet vibe throughout the arena. The fans brought their usual Penn State pride and the players were ready to take care of business after not having their best effort in Friday night's 4-1 victory.
"There have been a lot of standards set and a foundation built," Gadowsky said. "Even the first time I came out and saw the student section and saw the support we had, it was fantastic."
The Penn State faithful did not disappoint this season, standing and chanting every game to give the team a motivational boost. Gadowsky reflected back on one of his favorite memories of the student section.
"[The fans] made it a really fun place to play," Gadowsky said. "I'll never forget when the PA system went off and the student section started singing the anthem. Those are the things I'll always remember."
The home rink didn't want to go out without a bang of its own. At the 4:08 mark in the first period, a pane of glass broke in front of the penalty box. Both teams went to the dressing room while rink attendants fixed the glass. The ice was cut and both teams played out the remaining time in what was essentially a 24 minute second period.
For the second straight night, establishing a flow to the game was difficult. Aside from the glass breaking, the low boards of the rink cause a lot of pucks to fly out of play and disrupt the flow. Gadowsky is looking forward to having higher boards at the Pegula Ice Arena next season.
Despite some of the rink's deficiencies in that respect, Gadowsky will still miss the character of the rink and its service to the State College community.
Greenberg Ice Pavilion was not the only goodbye being said over the weekend, as the seniors were honored before Saturday's game with their families. Brian Dolan (Havertown, Pa.) unfortunately did not dress due to injury, something Gadowsky was upset about, but he was proud of the seniors for their role in the inaugural season of Division I hockey.
"I'm happy for them and what they've done this year," Gadowsky said. "They will have a lot of pride in this forever. It was nice how it ended up with a tie game going in the third with all of them out there."
Gadowsky rehashed that last season was a yearlong tryout for the seniors and they worked their hardest to earn a spot on the team. Their leadership and willingness to accept identity roles is what makes them important pieces to the team.
The first two periods were a battle of the goaltenders. Matt Skoff (McKees Rocks, Pa.) was strong for Penn State and Colin Fernandes made some key saves to keep the Sooners in the game.
After taking a 1-0 lead off the stick of Curtis Loik (North Vancouver, B.C.), the power play took over with two goals to seal the game. Kenny Brooks (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Michael Longo (Allison Park, Pa.) found the back of the net on consecutive nights.
It was fitting that Longo finished his career on home ice by scoring against a club team where his career began. Longo said there was still a rivalry between the two teams stemming from knocking them out of nationals last season.
"It's always fun scoring, but it's even more special now that it's coming down to the last two games," Longo said. "For us club guys, when we come back and play these [ACHA] games we get more fired up because we've played them before."
Freshman Joseph Lordo (St. Louis, Mo.) made his return to the lineup on Saturday after sitting out with an injury. After dressing only four defensemen the past three games, Lordo provided a big boost to the defensive unit. Having another defenseman alleviated the other defenders who had to play every other shift in the three previous games.
Defenseman Rich O'Brien (Furlong, Pa.) was glad to have Lordo back in the lineup. After a rough start to Saturday's game, O'Brien was happy with the result of his last game at home.
"Starting the game with all the seniors out there and we got to finish it up with that, too," O'Brien said. "The fans were great and a lot of alumni were in town and a lot of people I know. Overall it was a great time."
The weekend sweep was the proper goodbye to the place and the people that helped set the brickwork for the future of Penn State hockey. It was an emotional conclusion to a successful inaugural season of NCAA hockey in Happy Valley, but the job isn't over yet. The Nittany Lions now turn their focus to a visit to future Big Ten opponent Wisconsin next weekend.