By Andy Kuros, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It's not often a player is unanimously voted to be a team captain after hardly seeing the ice the season before.
This was the case for Penn State forward James Robinson, who saw his sophomore season cut short after he suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener.
"I'm not going to lie, it was tough," Robinson said.
After a productive freshman campaign where he appeared in 32 games registering eight points with a plus-three rating, the setback represented a huge blow to not only Robinson, but the team.
Although he faced obstacles and hardships throughout his recovery, Robinson was determined to bounce back, crediting numerous others for helping him overcome his injury and allowing him to make a comeback.
"I had great support from the school and all my teammates, which made it a lot easier," Robinson said.
Despite the loss of his sophomore season, Robinson was still voted by teammates to serve as a Nittany Lion alternate captain as a junior. The selection of course, was a testament to his incredible work ethic and resiliency.
Fellow teammate and forward Andrew Sturtz, who was a freshman at the time, praised Robinson for the way he dealt with his injury.
"When he got sidelined, we saw how good of a leader he was," Sturtz said. "He handled himself very well and his attitude never changed. That says a lot about him as a player and a person."
For Sturtz, it was the way Robinson rebounded from injury that proved to his teammates the type of leadership qualities he has.
Following a solid season his junior year, Robinson once again got picked by his teammates to lead the team, this time as a Penn State hockey captain.
"It's an incredible honor and I'm extremely humbled," Robinson stated.
Now a senior with his injury in the rear-view mirror, Robinson is stronger than ever. He has already matched a career high in assists and is on his way to setting a new personal best in goals scored.
Robinson notched three goals in a 7-5 win over Mercyhurst earlier this year, marking just the fifth hat trick in school history.
Despite having his best season yet, his contributions to the team on game day go far beyond the stat sheet.
Head Coach Guy Gadowsky talked about a few of the intangibles Robinson brings to the ice.
"He's our identity," Gadowsky said. "The way he plays is how we want the rest of our team to play. His attributes suit our team perfectly."
Gadowsky pointed to Robinson's hard-nosed and physical play as the epitome of Penn State hockey.
"He crashes the net and forechecks extremely hard," Gadowsky said. "He wants to set an example for the rest of the team."
"I just want to demonstrate what Penn State hockey is all about." Robinson said.
Sturtz, who has played with Robinson for three years and has been his line mate for the majority of this season, raved about skating alongside him.
"He's a great guy to play with," Sturtz said. "He loves to go to the front of the net and play with a hard-nosed style."
When asked about how he best contributes throughout games, Robinson mentioned his tough-minded play.
"I like to think my work ethic gives guys confidence and energy," Robinson said.
Even with his great performance of late, Robinson may be an even better leader and role model.
The fourth-year Nittany Lion takes pride in his role as captain, making it a point to do whatever he can to help the team.
"I want to be a good teammate," Robinson said. "I try to build relationships with everyone. I'm not overly vocal, but instead I like to lead by example."
Robinson, better known as "Jimmy Pucks," by his teammates and coaches is honored to lead the team.
"Being captain is very important to me, especially for such a great program like Penn State," Robinson said.
For Gadowsky, he has nothing but respect for Robinson's leadership style.
"I really respect how Jimmy leads," Gadowsky said. "When he talks, people listen to what he has to say. He's a very good team representative."
For Sturtz, his leadership extends in other areas outside the ice.
"He does a great job leading in the classroom, weight room and of course on the ice," Sturtz said.
Robinson's leadership was on display in Penn State's 5-2 win over Robert Morris, in Penn State's final series before a nearly month-long break.
Following a questionable call that didn't go Penn State's way, Robinson calmly took initiative in trying to get an explanation from the referees.
"I was looking to get clarification on the call. I wanted to relay the call to the team," Robinson explained. "An open line of communication with the referees is important."
For Gadowsky, Robinson's methods for handling himself with officials is key.
"He does a really good job in communicating with referees," Gadowsky said. "I have received multiple compliments from referees about his great conduct and leadership. Robinson is very well respected by coaches and referees."
Robinson's leadership is of course paramount, providing a veteran presence for what is a bit of a younger team. With less than five seniors on the roster, Penn State must rely on its underclassman, making Robinson's reliability and guidance toward younger Nittany Lions crucial.
"His leadership is really important for us because we only have four seniors," Gadowsky said. "He knows the in's and out's of the team and shows the younger guys how to play the game the right way."
With a strong-willed nature and a trustworthy voice of guidance, Robinson's resilient character doesn't even tell the whole story.
Every good team needs an even better leader. A leader who is reliable and hardworking, inspires confidence in his teammates and is well respected both in the locker room and on the ice.
For Penn State, it has all it needs in its senior captain and the Nittany Lions are without a doubt they are lucky to have him.