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2015 Coaches Caravan Day III - Altoona & Pittsburgh

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Photo Gallery - Altoona | Photo Gallery - Pittsburgh

Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster | Day II Recap - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore

MARS, Pa. - The first week of the 2015 Coaches Caravan wrapped up in the western half of Pennsylvania on Thursday with a lunch stop in Altoona and an evening reception in northern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

The Penn State Fullington Trailways bus drove nearly three hours to the northwest from Baltimore on Thursday morning in preparation for lunch at Lakemont Park Casino. Take a look through highlights from the final two stops of a six-event leg of the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 5 - Altoona (Lakemont Park Casino)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour, James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the closest stop to the University Park campus on Thursday morning. The ballroom at Lakemont Casino Park hosted the fifth event on the Coaches Caravan before some of the fan base's deepest roots.

Just 45 minutes down the road from State College, Altoona is in the core of Nittany Nation. Fan after fan in the room on Thursday told the coaches and Barbour about either events they had recently attended or games they had circled on their calendars in the fall and winter.

"The heartbeat of Penn State is in Altoona," said Franklin.

One of the big pieces to the fan base in the center portion of the state is the following of the men's hockey program. Gadowsky has mentioned on a number of occasions during his three-day stint on the Caravan about what the growth of youth hockey in Pennsylvania can do for the overall growth of Penn State Hockey.

"Ideally, you want the recruiting footprint to shrink," Gadowsky said. "The more individuals who are involved with youth hockey in the state of Pennsylvania, the better off the entire state will be."

The growth of Nittany Lion hockey, along with the increased interest in youth hockey, tends to go hand in hand. It's a process Gadowsky knows will take time, but it's something he's very excited about. Locations like Altoona are big piece to the puzzle with a growing interest in youth hockey. The region's hockey footprint will grow even further with the announcement that Johnstown (just 50 miles from Altoona) will play host to the NHL's "Hockeyville" game in September.

"I've been so impressed with the interest and reception from the community on the hockey program," said Barbour. "Pegula Ice Arena is a huge piece to that, and the sky is the limit (for the program)."

The Altoona stop marked the final one for St. Pierre. The leader of the women's golf program spent the week educating the fans on the process of being a collegiate golf coach during an extended fall and spring season. She enjoyed the opportunity to interact with the fans and loved to share insight about the program.

"It's been a great ride to hang out with these fantastic people has been a great treat," said St. Pierre. "A lot of people have thanked me for being part of the Caravan, but really it has been my benefit."

VIDEO: Altoona Press Conference

Stop No. 6 - Pittsburgh (DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars, Pa.)
The Caravan visited a spot near and dear to Coach Franklin en route to the evening reception in Cranberry Township on Thursday. The bus weaved through the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar section of Pittsburgh (northeast of downtown along the Allegheny River) where Franklin spent a lot of time as a kid. The group met up with childhood friend Keith Gardner (known as "Mighty" from his pickup sports days) near Franklin's Aunt Janet's home on Lemington Ave. The group toured a park where Franklin and "Mighty" played a lot of pickup football and basketball growing up.

"It was really cool. I hadn't been there in probably 30 years," said Franklin. "I come back to Pittsburgh all the time and even did for family functions before Penn State, but to actually go to some of those places today that I haven't been in a long time was really cool."

caravan_pittsburgh_3.jpg The more than 260 attendees inside the Grand Ballroom of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Mars were thrilled to welcome Franklin, Gadowsky and Deputy Director of Athletics & Chief Operating Officer Phil Esten, along with football assistants and Pittsburgh natives Bob Shoop (Oakmont) and Terry M. Smith (Monroeville).

The talk of the room from the fans focused on a number of topics, but there is a general excitement surrounding the hockey program's regular visits to Pittsburgh and the football team's four-year series with Pittsburgh, which begins at Heinz Field on Sept. 10 in 2016. The supporters in Pittsburgh are fired up about Penn State teams playing in their backyard.

"I think people are excited about it, especially in this region," said Franklin. "We are playing in '16, '17, '18 and '19...There is a lot of history and tradition with it. Generally, I'm in support of keeping the dollars in the state and supporting high school football and programs in the state. And in a lot of ways, there are some really good arguments you could make why it makes sense."

The Nittany Lions and Panthers last met inside Three Rivers Stadium in 2000. The series is slated for four-straight seasons, but Franklin indicated in the press conference prior to the event that both sides are open to discussions about the potential for more games in the future.

As for the hockey program, since Penn State has been a Division I program, the Lions have played in Pittsburgh each season. Every game has been well attended by Nittany Nation. Home to 56,000 alums in the greater metro area, the Steel City is home to some of Penn State's most loyal followers.

With the conclusion of a superb event in the Pittsburgh area, the first leg of the Coaches Caravan is wrapped up. The circuit will pick back up on May 19 in Philadelphia. A big thank you goes out to the fans who attended all six stops during week one.

"That's what these caravans are all about and that's what makes this so special," Franklin said. "We don't get to do this often, and we just want you to know how truly important you are to what we do...The thing that will always make Penn State special is the people."

VIDEO: Pittsburgh Press Conference Video

Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles

Day II - 142 miles
Day III - 444 miles

Caravan Total - 715 miles


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2015 Coaches Caravan Day II - Washington, D.C. & Baltimore

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Photo Gallery - Washington, D.C. | Photo Gallery - Baltimore

Day I Recap - Harrisburg & Lancaster

BALTIMORE - The Coaches Caravan traveled southeast on Wednesday on day two of the first leg, making a pair of stops in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

The Penn State wrapped Fullington Trailways bus rolled into the nation's capital on Wednesday morning for a lunch stop to kick off the day. Take a look through highlights from the second two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 3 - Washington, D.C. (JW Marriott)
Raised in Annapolis, Maryland, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour kicked off the panel of speakers with a story about how she was introduced to the prideful fan base of the Nittany Lions. The D.C. area is home to approximately 26,000 Penn State alums. Barbour cited that many of the folks sitting in the room played a big role in establishing her feelings about the University.

"You all taught me about Penn State," said Barbour. "Growing up in the area, I learned a lot of my initial feelings and in a lot of ways had my introduction to Penn State from people like you."

Each year on the Caravan, the trips to the DMV are always filled with enthusiastic fans of the Blue and White. And it's a critical area for recruiting.

"This is going to be a very, very important area for us moving forward in recruiting," head coach James Franklin said. "It's always been a big part of Penn State Football, and it will continue to be very important."

Additionally, with the expanded footprint of the Big Ten Conference, the Penn State fans in the DC area will have more opportunities to see the Lions play closer to home.

In addition to games at Maryland across all of the Big Ten's sanctioned sports, the 2017 Big Ten Basketball Tournament will be contested in Washington, D.C., from March 8-12 in the Verizon Center.

Among the attendees in D.C. on Wednesday was captain in the U.S. Navy. Looking at the diehard Penn State fan, hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky singled the man out during his speech about the Nittany Lion supporters. Gadowsky said the Navy captain came up to him prior to the lunch to inform him of a new tradition started during the Michigan hockey series. The captain brought tailgating to the parking lot during the coldest weekend of the year, and Gadowsky loved it.

"How are you not fired up to play in Pegula Ice Arena when you have someone like a Navy captain tailgating outside in the snow before our game?" Gadowsky said.

What gives the Caravan a unique touch are stories and meetings like the one Gadowsky had with the Naval captain. Penn State's fan base is one big family. Each coach on the Caravan uses the experience to learn about the fans and engage with them. It helps the fans understand how important the support is for each program on campus.

"Our philosophy is built on relationships and how we interact with people," head coach James Franklin said.

VIDEO: Washington, D.C. Press Conference

Stop No. 4 - Baltimore (Hilton Baltimore BWI Airport)
After a quick look at the White House before leaving Washington, the Caravan traveled north to Baltimore for stop No. 4 during the week at the Hilton near BWI Airport. The greater Baltimore area is home to nearly 10,500 Penn State alums, and like Washington, the Caravan crowd is always energetic at stops in the DMV. Wednesday evening's event was no different.

Barbour, and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre received a rousing ovation from the moment they stepped on the stage inside Thurgood Marshall Ballroom.

It's going to be a big year ahead for Penn State and the Baltimore area. The Nittany Lions are slated to meet Maryland on October 24 in M&T Bank Stadium. The game will mark Penn State's first game in Baltimore since Nov. 9, 1991 when the Lions topped Maryland, 47-7, in Memorial Stadium.

The DMV is home to 19 players on the 2015 football roster. That list includes seven returning players who hail from the state of Maryland. For decades, the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area has been pivotal recruiting ground for the football program. That is not going to change in the eyes of Coach Franklin.

caravan15_baltimore_1.jpg Assistant coaches Charles Huff and Sean Spencer were in attendance on Wednesday evening after spending the day recruiting in the area. Additionally, junior offensive lineman Brian Gaia (Pasadena, Maryland) was in attendance. Gaia stood and recited the program's four core values when called upon during Franklin's speech.

Maryland is an area Franklin and Gadowsky are quite familiar with. They both have family members in the state. And Franklin spent several years of his professional career in the local area.

"Being able to come around to different areas around the region is great, and we love to come out and say thank you," Franklin said. "The fans have been so supportive since we got here last year, and places like this are big reason we have felt so welcome."

An Annapolis native, Barbour spoke on Wednesday evening about having the opportunity to come home when she took the job as Director of Athletics for Penn State in August. Her passion for the Blue and White is evident every time she speaks. Barbour loves every ounce of her job and takes great pride in leading a department that sets the standard for academic and athletic excellence.

"All of the reasons why I came to Penn State have all come true and more," Barbour said.

The first week of the Caravan will conclude on Thursday with stops in Altoona (lunch) and north of Pittsburgh (evening reception).

VIDEO: Baltimore Press Conference

Coaches Caravan Miles Traveled:
Day I - 129 miles
Day II - 142 miles

Caravan Total - 271 miles


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

2015 Coaches Caravan Day I - Harrisburg and Lancaster

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Photo Gallery: Stop #1 - Harrisburg | Photo Gallery: Stop #2 - Lancaster

LANCASTER, Pa. - The 2015 Penn State Coaches Caravan hit the road on Tuesday with a pair of events in the heart of Nittany Lion country at Harrisburg and Lancaster.

The Penn State themed Fullington Trailways bus pulled out of the Bryce Jordan Center parking lot at 7:04 a.m. en route to Harrisburg. Take a look through highlights from the first two stops of a six-event week on the Coaches Caravan.

Stop No. 1 - Harrisburg (Best Western Premier)
Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour and head coaches James Franklin, Guy Gadowsky and Denise St. Pierre headlined the first day of the road tour on Tuesday. The trip began with a visit to the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. Members of the travel party toured the ornate structure, which was built in 1906 at a cost of $15 million.

Just after 10 a.m., Barbour, the head coaches and Penn State Alumni Association Executive Director Roger Williams participated in the opening of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives session for May 5. Representative Frank Farry introduced Franklin before the head coach of the Nittany Lions addressed the room of state representatives. Farry, who hails from Bucks County, and Franklin both graduated from Neshaminy High School.

"I can't tell you how honored we are to be here and address the House of Representatives," said Franklin.

blog_harrisburg15_2.jpg VIDEO - Courtesy of Representative Farry

 From the Capitol Building, the bus traveled to the Best Western Premier for the opening stop of the two-week tour through the region. Barbour spoke to the crowd first, highlighting the department's "why" and her vision for Penn State Intercollegiate Athletics. Everything within the department begins with the "why", and the student-athletes are at the forefront.

"We want to create a world class environment for our student-athletes to help them prepare for life after earning their degrees," Barbour said.

While it is mentioned regularly, the support Penn State fans provide for the athletic department and its 800 student-athletes is something that should never be taken for granted. And Barbour, along with the coaches, would like to use the Coaches Caravan as an opportunity to simply say thank you for the fans' unrivaled commitment.

"The fact that so many people are here with us (today) is tremendous," said St. Pierre. "The fact that all of you stuck with us makes us feel so fortunate."

"One of the best things about this for me is getting to learn from these other coaches," Gadowsky said. "The second thing that I love about this is getting to be around people who share the same amount of passion as you."

Gadowsky's remarks were a transition into a comical story about a fan's commitment to the hockey program. One of the approximately 250 fans in attendance on Tuesday for lunch had been struck while attempting to catch a puck during a Penn State men's hockey game this winter. He met Gadowsky before the program began and showed him some of his battle scars. As the crowd roared with approval, the man pulled the puck from his pocket and waved to the fans while Gadowsky applauded him for sticking with the game and not leaving despite black eyes and a bloody face.

"This is the type of guy I want at our hockey games. He didn't leave!" Gadowsky said.

Franklin promptly asked the fan if he had any eligibility left because he wants that type of commitment within the football program. The second-year leader of the Nittany Lions then highlighted the program's stellar academic success in 2014-'15. Fifty-seven players achieved a 3.0 GPA or higher during the fall semester. Additionally, 21 true freshman earned a 3.0 GPA or better in the fall. Graduation and success in the classroom will always be at the top of Franklin's list of accomplishments for the growth of the football program.

Emphasizing the program's four core values is a staple for Franklin moving forward. He told the crowd that the players and staff members did a good job of memorizing the values - positive attitude, unrivaled work ethic, compete in everything you do and sacrifice - but now he wants to see the program live them.

With five more days on the caravan ahead, the theme of each discussion will focus on what makes Penn State so special - the people.

"I love to take this time to say thank you," Franklin said. Having the opportunity to come out and thank you personally means a lot to me."

VIDEO: Harrisburg Press Conference

Stop No. 2 - Lancaster (Marriott at Penn Square)

More than 360 boisterous Penn State fans greeted the Coaches Caravan in Lancaster on Tuesday night. The crowd was enthusiastic from the moment Roger Williams, Executive Director of the Penn State Alumni Association, welcomed the group with a rousing "We Are" chant in the Commonwealth Ballroom of the Marriott at Penn Square.

Barbour, Franklin, Gadowsky and St. Pierre were joined during the pre-event reception by assistant football coaches John Donovan and Brent Pry, who were in the area recruiting on Tuesday. Donovan and Pry, along with the rest of the assistant coaches have been on the recruiting trail since spring practice wrapped up with the Blue-White Game.

Like the first stop in Harrisburg, Barbour opened the evening with a speech updating the fans and alums in the room about the current state of Penn State Athletics. With 500 of the 800 student-athletes receiving a 3.0 GPA or higher, the department's academic excellence speaks for itself.

Additionally, on the field, it has been a stellar campaign for Penn State teams, as well. Currently sitting in second spot in the Learfield Directors' Cup following the winter season, Penn State had 15 of its 17 teams (through the winter seasons) NCAA postseason competition. That list includes four teams that won conference titles, a record seventh NCAA title for women's volleyball and three individual NCAA championships.

It's no surprise to see the academic and athletic accolades when you hear the coaches speak to the public. Franklin, Gadowsky and St. Pierre are just three examples of what is a tremendous lineup of coaches on the University Park campus right now.

"I continue to listen to the gratitude and passion from our coaches towards their student-athletes, and it's just so impressive," Barbour said.

The success of Penn State's teams on the field and in the classroom would not be possible without superb mentors, and it would not be possible without the support of individuals like those in the room on Tuesday night in Lancaster.

"No one in the nation does passion like we do, and it's not even close," Gadowsky said. "Not only is it fun to be a part of a family reunion (home game), it's very motivating for us."

The sense of pride in Penn State Blue and White is truly unique.

"There is no place like us," Franklin said.

The Caravan will extend outside of Pennsylvania on Wednesday when it rolls south to Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

VIDEO: Lancaster Press Conference

Miles Traveled:
Day 1 - 129 miles


Follow GoPSUsports.com's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Coach Kids During Garth Brooks ProClinic

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Saturday afternoon, members of the Penn State men's and women's ice hockey teams spent time inside Pegula Ice Arena. They were not practicing, not skating, not working on their own skills. Instead, they were serving as coaches, teaching 50 kids from the Centre County Youth Services Bureau and YMCA of Centre County about the sport of hockey with the Garth Brooks Teammates for Kids Foundation.

When most people think of Garth Brooks, they automatically register his successful singing career; however in 1999, Brooks and one other created Teammates for Kids, a foundation aiming to give all kids an even start. They wanted to use statistics in sports, transforming them into dollars that could directly impact children across the world. That is exactly what the foundation has done.

"We started with baseball, Major League Baseball," Brooks said. "I think we had about 60 players the first year, and what it was is a player donates money for homeruns or here goals, saves, assists, stuff like that. Then our job is to triple that money as a foundation. One hundred percent of the money goes to kids. That's it. Every penny goes to kids. We walk into a locker room now with 4,000 professional athletes, and the first thing you say is 100 percent of the money goes to kids. They just start signing left and right. So, it's pretty cool."

With Brooks' current tour making a stop in State College, he knew he wanted to host a camp at Penn State. It was immediately clear that hockey was the way to go. With the ice removed from the main rink at Pegula, it was the perfect setting for a floor hockey clinic. Both the men's team and the women's team were excited to get involved.

The kids in attendance were split into groups by age, and each athlete was given one specific group to coach. The experience was something special for not only the kids but also the Nittany Lions.

"I have the older kids, and they've been just this happy group," said women's hockey junior Jordin Pardoski. "They're so happy to be here. They're having a blast out there, so it's really fun."

Nevertheless, this clinic is not only helping the children involved. It is also assisting the game of hockey as many new faces are being exposed to the sport through the clinic.

"I think the biggest thing for me is I just want to try and share the game," said men's hockey forward Eric Scheid. "Hockey is growing, but it's still not there yet, especially college hockey. So, out of all the kids here today if one or two of them grows a love for the game, then I think today was a success. I just want to spread the game and my love for it. I hope someone get to enjoy the game like I do."

As the 50 kids ran around with sticks in their hands, the enjoyment was written all over their faces. They smiled wide and were constantly talking with their coaches. It didn't matter that many didn't know who Garth Brooks was because that they were having fun and enjoying every minute of the experience.

Clinics like these and sports in general have so much to offer children, allowing them to grow. They promote health, promote friendship, promote positivity, and when working with the kids of Centre County, those aspect are exactly what the coaches emphasized.

"Another thing sport does is it creates bonds and friendships that last a lifetime," Scheid said. "I've been on a lot of different teams in the last five or six years, played with a lot of different players. Every year you play on a team and meet 20 new teammates, and you make friends for life."

Overall, Brooks wants to encourage these kids to be happy, to be healthy and to enjoy life. Hosting these camps is truly making a huge impact on many lives, which is why the country singer continues to have them.

Sports offer children so much in the grand scheme of life. It is of the utmost importance to continue that trend and to allow kids to grow into positive people.

"Hopefully what we teach them is to believe in themselves, to love one another," said Brooks. "And, if it's through the sport of hockey or through the sport of life, if today changes one of those kids to look in the mirror and feel better about themselves then this whole camp, this whole tour, everything is worth it."

Nittany Lions Look Back on First Winning Season

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - With the 2014-15 Penn State men's hockey season now in the books, the team has a number of accomplishments it can be proud of. In a year the team thought may be free of program firsts, the Nittany Lions certainly had their fair share of new, historical experiences.

The team secured its first winning season, its first national ranking, its first season sweep over a team. The Blue and White downed all of its conference opponents at least once this year, defeated a top-five team and even had two Hobey Baker Award Nominees in Taylor Holstrom and Casey Bailey.

With such monumental achievements throughout the season, it is clear that the future of Penn State hockey is extremely bright. This program will only continue to grow.

"I like the direction we're going," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I think we improved a whole lot last year. I think we improved this year, and I'm optimistic it will continue."

With only eight total wins and three conference victories in 2013-14, the Nittany Lions entered this season expected to finish last in the Big Ten. However, they were ready to prove everyone wrong.

They ended this season 18-15-4, which is more than double the win total Penn State had last year. Furthermore, the team went 10-9-1 in the conference, finishing out the regular season in fourth place and staying in contention for the regular season title until its final weekend series.

Maybe the most talked about aspect of this year's squad was its ability to shoot the puck. The team averaged 39.2 shots per game; however, there were numerous games when it racked up over 50 attempts.

While shooting may have become a major part of Penn State's identity, the Nittany Lions are still in the process of building the program.

"You're never quite done," said Gadowsky. "When will we have the identity that they know what we're all about? I think we're getting there. I don't think we're there yet, but we're getting there."

Unlike last season, Penn State will not return almost its entire roster. Seven seniors, including captain Patrick Koudys, assistant captain Nate Jensen, Jacob Friedman, Max Gardiner, PJ Musico and Peter Sweetland, will all graduate. Additionally, the team will lose its leading scorer in Bailey, who decided to move on to the next stage in his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

These leaders will not be easy for the Nittany Lions to replace, but Penn State still has a number of players key to its identity. People such as David Goodwin and Eric Scheid will be heavily relied upon up front, as will the emerging Scott Conway, while defensemen Luke Juha and Connor Varley will need to secure the blueline.

Even with eight players leaving, the Nittany Lions will still find success come October 2015.

"This is our third year," said Gadowsky. "Everybody that signed up to come on knows that they're going to be relied upon. That's maybe part of the attractiveness to come in. So, if they're going to take full advantage of the opportunity that's been given to them, they know that they're going to have to come in in very good shape because they are going to get the opportunity to contribute at a very high level right off the hop."

This season was certainly a major stepping-stone for a young, emerging program. Success is in the cards for Penn State hockey.

"Hopefully what's next is that we'll continue to cultivate and elevate our culture in terms of work ethic and commitment, what we control," Gadowsky said. "We're not necessarily put our minds set to one specific thing. We have a lot of ideas in our head, fantasies in our head with what is going to happen with this program, and we look forward to all of them. But, we're not picking what's going to happen next. We're just going to continue to build our culture and continue to add on to our foundation, and good things are going to happen."

Casey Bailey: The First Nittany Lion to Sign an NHL Contract

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the Penn State men's ice hockey team suited up for its first Division I game in 2012, Casey Bailey was preparing for his first collegiate game. Nevertheless, a lack of experience wouldn't stop the forward from succeeding, and in the second period, the then-freshman scored the first goal in the program's NCAA history.

That day, Bailey etched his name into the Nittany Lions' history book. The forward, however, wasn't finished making history, as he became the program's first player to sign a National Hockey League contract this weekend.

Casey Bailey is now a Toronto Maple Leaf.

"It's an honor," Bailey said of joining the NHL. "I kind of had that in the back of my head coming to this school that that might be a possibility. It's always been a dream of mine to make the NHL, and now that it's all coming to life, it's pretty surreal. It hasn't really hit me yet. I'm excited to get out there."

Bailey is coming off his most successful season with the Nittany Lions. He notched a team-leading 22 goals and 40 points, went plus-11, was a Hobey Baker Award Candidate and was named to the All-Big Ten First team.

His skill had not gone unnoticed by numerous NHL teams and scouts throughout the year. But, when it came time to make a final decision on which team he would sign with, the forward knew Toronto would provide him with the best opportunities.

Now, Bailey is ready to take his play to the next level with one of hockey's oldest organizations.

"I saw an opportunity there to start my NHL career," he said regarding Toronto. "I had a nice chat with Brendan Shanahan, and I liked what he was saying about what they have coming in the future and what he saw in me as a player and it's similarities to how I see myself as a player. So, going from there, it's an Original Six. It's Toronto. It's awesome. I'm so honored and excited for the opportunity."

Even with Bailey's success at Penn State, he knows he will need to step up and put in a new level of dedication and effort to his training. He's hungry for this experience.

"Wherever they put me, wherever they can need me, I'm there to learn," Bailey said. "I'm there to learn. It's going to be a great group of guys. It's going to be a huge learning experience for me to see what I need to do this summer to prepare. So, wherever they need me, they put me, I'll be grateful."

Choosing to sign with the Maple Leafs means the forward will forgo his senior year at Penn State. The decision was bitter sweet as it means he will not have one final year to play as a Nittany Lion.

Bailey will miss the weekend games in Pegula, the students and the support. However, most of all, he will miss the team, the guys who were willing to join a program that was slated to consistently lose.

Together, he and his teammates defied the odds and have already created a solid foundation for Penn State hockey. They've built a program.

"I have a great bond with, you know I had a class of ten plus guys with me, and just those guys and the seniors leaving this year and even the sophomores that have come in," said Bailey. "Just the guys and Pegula and the fan base and just the student body. I bleed Blue and White, and I plan to come back and finish my degree at some point. I'll definitely probably miss the guys the most."

Bailey leaves the program as the all-time leader in goals with 45, as well as in points with 80. He has left his mark on this program, loving every minute of the time he represented Penn State on the ice.

"It's incredible," he said of the university. "I mean the support the school and everybody has behind the hockey program, it's just going to keep rising. I hope I can stay a part of it in some way, and I hope that I left a good impression on everybody."

Gardiner Scores Lions' Lone Goal in B1G Tournament Loss

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
DETROIT, Mich. - As the horn signifying the end of the game sounded, the Penn State men's hockey team found itself in an undesirable position. After putting up a valiant effort, the fourth-seeded Nittany Lions were defeated by fifth-seeded Ohio State, 3-1, in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

In what seemed to be the snap of a finger, the team's season suddenly ended. Nevertheless, this squad has much to be proud of after what was accomplished during the season. The Lions exceeded expectations and put together a historic season filled with wins over every conference opponent, a season sweep and even national rankings.

Although the sting of the loss to the Buckeyes (14-18-3, 8-11-1 B1G) may take some time to heal, Penn State (18-15-4, 10-9-1 B1G) clearly gave its heart and soul this season. No one can ask for anything more than that.   

"It's been an honor to play for Penn State and build a foundation here," said an emotional Max Gardiner. "Something I'm going to miss, for sure, but the program's in great hands from the coaching staff down. There are some great leaders going into next year in that locker room. There are a lot of good things to look forward to for the program."

The senior forward scored Penn State's only goal in the quarterfinal appearance during the second. He fired off a shot that went in over the right shoulder of the Buckeye goalie. It bounced in and out of the net so quickly that there was some initial confusion before the goal horn echoed through Joe Louis Arena.

At the time, the tally cut the Buckeye's lead in half, bringing the score to 2-1. However, a breakaway goal with exactly one minute remaining in the period helped Ohio State regain a two-goal lead.

The Nittany Lions were unable to recover.

"Actually, Tommy Olczyk made a real nice play there," Gardiner said of his goal. "He picked off a pass and made a nice pass to me. And Zach [Saar] kind of drew the "D" over, drove hard doing that, and kind of gave me an opening to let one go. Luckily enough it went in."

Penn State was held to only 32 shots in the game, a total less than its 39.4 shots per game season average. Much of the lack of offense can be attributed to the multiple team injuries, as Taylor Holstrom and a few other Lions skated through pain to make one final appearance in Blue and White.

During the game, the team battled injuries to its defensemen as well. Senior Nate Jensen left the game for a few minutes after being kneed but came back to play out the remainder of his final game as a Nittany Lion. Sophomore Mike Williamson, however, left the game with an injury. He did not return.

"We have a pretty significant part of our offense that was really struggling to play, a couple of our players, and I don't think we had the speed that we normally have to jump on pucks and try to get second and third chances," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "I think they did a really good job of keeping us away from second and third chances. Credit their "D". It's a total team effort by them, but they did a very good job at that. We weren't able to really generate much."

A first-round tournament elimination is not the way any team wants to finish out its season. Nevertheless, the Nittany Lions have a bright future ahead of them.

This is not an end. It's only the beginning for this young program.

"It's going to continue to rise, I believe," Gardiner said. "Like I said, it's in great hands, great leadership. They're going to continue to build it next year and for many years to come. I think there's going to be a lot of success in Penn State hockey."

"I think we have to look back at the season as a whole," added Gadowsky. "I think we made a lot of great strides in a lot of areas of the program. Like I said, I think the whole team, especially the seniors, should be very proud of that."

Men's Hockey B1G Tournament Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State

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DETROIT, Mich. - Welcome to GoPSUsports.com's live coverage of Penn State men's hockey. Today, the Nittany Lions will face Ohio State in the first round of this year's Big Ten Tournament. The game is set to begin at 4:30 p.m.

Live Blog Men's Hockey B1G Tournament Blog - Penn State vs. Ohio State

Nittany Lions Prepare for B1G Tournament

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For the Penn State men's hockey team, it's time for a fresh start, a clean slate. What the Nittany Lions accomplished earlier this season is no longer of importance. It's time for the Big Ten Tournament, and every team has an even chance. Anything can happen in the playoffs.

The fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (18-14-4, 10-9-1 B1G) will face fifth-seeded Ohio State (13-8-3, 8-11-1 B1G) Thursday. The team's spot in the bracket was finalized following its two losses against Minnesota last weekend; however, those loses are in the past. The Blue and White are only focused on the future.

"Literally two seconds after the game Saturday it was playoff time," head coach Guy Gadowsky. "What happened Friday didn't matter. What happened Saturday didn't matter. In fact, what happened this year didn't matter. I think down the road, a lot of the guys are going to look back at this with incredibly pride on what they accomplished. But as of right now, all they're thinking is it's playoff time."

After such a successful regular season, the team is headed into the tournament with confidence. The Lions know what they are capable of, and it's only a matter of playing their best brand of hockey.

Penn State is not ready for the season to end, and these athletes are going to battle for victories one game at a time and come out strong for this final push.

"You want to leave it all out there," said junior forward Casey Bailey. "You've got seniors that this is their last chance. They came here to play for a program that everybody said was going to lose. To be able to go out there and win and to have that possibility of picking up the Big Ten playoff championship your second season and your third season as a Division I team is a huge accomplishment. It's something we'd love to do."

Gadowsky Named B1G Coach of the Year

In addition to preparing for the tournament, the team had a major accomplishment to take pride in this week as the conference named Gadowsky the Big Ten Coach of the Year.

In just its third season as a Division I program, Gadowsky led the Nittany Lions to a winning record. The team more than doubled its win total from last season, showing how quickly the program has grown.

"It's great for this program," said Gadowsky of the honor. "I mean that award is really for when players exceed expectations. But, I think in this case it goes even further. It's not just about that. I think it's a lot about the atmosphere we have in the building, how well the ticket sales went, just a number of things. This is a program award."

While many questioned the legitimacy of Penn State hockey last season, there were signs that this team would accomplish large feats. The team's first round victory over Michigan in the 2013-14 Big Ten Tournament is merely one of those examples.

With a presence like Gadowsky on the bench, the team is more than capable of continuing its success for years to come.

McAdam Gets the Nod

Sophomore Eamon McAdam will mind the crease for Nittany Lions in the Thursday's first-round matchup. McAdam posted a .911 save percentage during his 11 games played and earned a 5-3-1 record during the regular season.

Furthermore, the sophomore is the Lions' lone goaltender to defeat Ohio State this season. McAdam was in net for the team's 5-1 victory over the Buckeyes, a game in which he made 35 stops.

"We've had a very nice home-ice advantage here at Pegula Ice Arena," said Gadowsky. "This game is not going to be at Pegula, and between the three, [McAdam] has by far the highest winning percentage away from Pegula Ice Arena. That's another reason. He also actually if you look at it both in conference and overall play does have the highest winning percentage, along with highest save percentage.

"I feel that he's actually probably faced the toughest opponents when you look at goals per game. I mean he played Michigan three times. He's played Minnesota. So, when you look at the opponents he's played, that he is our only goaltender that's played more games away than home, he's probably more prepared for this experience."

Scouting the Buckeyes

This season, Penn State fell in three of the four games it played Ohio State. The team was swept when it traveled to Columbus and split the series played in Hockey Valley.

Nevertheless, the Blue and White are not focused on what happened this season, instead preparing mentally and physically for what will happen Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

"It's not like we come in very, very confident and this is how's it's going to go and this is what we have to do," said Gadowksy. "I don't think either coaching staff feels that. But, I certainly give them a ton of credit and Coach Rohlik in terms of the discipline his team here has shown in this stretch. I think they've gone the last ten they've only lost three, last eight they've only lost two. I think their discipline has been a big part of that, and we certainly respect that. But, looking back at the season series between us, you really can't say this is what to expect. This is what we have to do. So, I think it makes it fun."

If the Nittany Lions want to succeed, they will have to find a way to end the Buckeyes' recent success. The team will need to shut down Ohio State's leading scorer Tanner Fritz, who had 26 points in the regular season, and find ways to get the puck by goalie Christian Frey. Frey has played in seven games against Penn State, posting a .936 save percentage and a 2.55 goals allowed average against the Blue and White.

Additionally, the Buckeyes have experience on their side. Although the Nittany Lions advanced to the semifinals in last year's tournament, Ohio State made it to the championship game. The Buckeyes eventually fell to Wisconsin in overtime, but they know what it takes to get to the finals.

"We're going to have to win three games to win the Big Ten, and I think it doesn't really matter who we're playing," Bailey said. "If we play our style of hockey, Penn State hockey, we can beat anybody. As long as we stick to our game, we're not really worried about who we're playing against."

PreviewGraphic_OhioState_B1G.jpg No. 1 Minnesota (12-5-3 B1G)

Points Leader: Mike Reilly, 42 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Kyle Rau, 19 goals
Assists Leader: Mike Reilly, 36 assists

Heading into the tournament, Minnesota is fresh off its sweep of the Nittany Lions and its second-straight Big Ten Conference Title. The Gophers also nabbed all three conference weekly honors, as Hudson Fashing was named First Star, Kyle Rau grabbed the Second Star and Adam Wilcox secured the Third Star. In addition to these honors, Minnesota's Mike Reilly was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the year and a All-Big Ten First Team selection. The No. 1-seeded Gophers will play their first game of the tournament Friday afternoon, taking on the winner of the Penn State/Ohio State matchup.

No. 2 Michigan State (11-7-2 B1G)

Points Leader: Matt Berry, 28 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Michael Ferrantino, 12 goals
Assists Leader: Matt Berry, 17 assists

Like Minnesota, the second-seed Spartans earned a bye in the first round of the tournament. They secured their spot in the bracket with a split last weekend against Michigan. Michigan State has won four of its last five games, all of which were backstopped by goaltender Jake Hildebrand. This week, Hildebrand was named the Big Ten Player of the Year, Big Ten Goaltender of the Year and an All-Big Ten First Team selection. He has played in all 34 games for the Spartans and leads the league with a .930 save percentage and a 2.12 goals allowed average.

No. 3 Michigan (12-8-0 B1G)

Points Leader: Zach Hyman, 49 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Zach Hyman, 19 goals
Assists Leader: Zach Hyman, 30 assists

Splitting its final series of the season, Michigan earned the No. 3 seed in the tournament for the second consecutive year. The Wolverines had a bit of a messy end to the season, falling in three of their final four. However, with numerous offense weapons, such as Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Dylan Larkin, and the Big Ten Scoring Champion, Zach Hyman, this team is sure to bounce back. Michigan will take on Wisconsin Friday night at 8 p.m.

No. 4 Penn State (10-9-1 B1G)

Points Leader: Casey Bailey, 40 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Casey Bailey, 22 goals
Assists Leader: Taylor Holstrom, 26 assists

The Nittany Lions had a disappointing end to the regular season, falling to Minnesota last Friday and Saturday. Nevertheless, the Lions are moving ahead, getting ready to face Ohio State. The team will look to its points and goals leader, Bailey, on Thursday. The junior has four goals and an assist against the Buckeyes this year. This week, Bailey was named an All-Big Ten First Team selection, and freshman Scott Conway was named an All-Big Ten Freshman selection. Bailey, Conway and the rest of the Lions will take the ice Thursday at 4:30 p.m.

No. 5 Ohio State (8-11-1 B1G)

Points Leader: Tanner Fritz, 26 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Anthony Greco, 15 goals
Assists Leader: Tanner Fritz, 15 assists

The Buckeyes ended their season in Madison, taking five of the six possible Big Ten points against Wisconsin. Now, they will face Penn State, a team they swept at the end of February. Furthermore, Ohio State has only lost three of its last ten games, which gives them confidence moving into the postseason. Following the end of the regular season, Matthew Weis was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman team. The Buckeyes are set to play the Nittany Lions Thursday afternoon at 4:30 p.m.

No. 6 Wisconsin (2-15-3 B1G)

Points Leader: Grant Besse, 22 points
Leading Goal Scorer: Grant Besse, 11 goals
Assists Leader: Joseph LaBate, 12 assists

The Badgers are coming off of a tough season. Having only won four total games, two of which were conference matchups, the team is certainly entering the Big Ten Tournament as the underdog. However, Wisconsin has huge potential and it has shown glimpses of that throughout the year. The team took down then-No. 5 Michigan Tech in January and tied then-No. 2 Boston University the following week. They can play and keep up with the best in the country when it is least expected. The Badgers will take the ice Thursday at 8.pm. to face Michigan.

2014-15 B1G Hockey Tournament Bracket.jpg

Nittany Lions Head to Minnesota with Much on the Line

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By Julie Bacanskas, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Four teams. Three points. One Big Ten Regular Season Champion.

With one final weekend series separating the Penn State men's hockey team and the Big Ten Tournament, it's safe to say the Nittany Lions have yet to play two games this season as important as those upcoming against Minnesota.

Currently, the team sits in fourth place among the conference standings; however, it is only three points behind Michigan State, the first place team. Sandwiched between Penn State and the Spartans are Minnesota and Michigan. Both second-place teams currently have 33 points.

To make matters even more interesting, these top four programs will all face each other this weekend as the Lions take on the Gophers and Michigan State goes head to head with Michigan.

Anything is possible this weekend. Big Ten hockey is unpredictable.

"We have an opportunity to for sure put ourselves in a bye situation, but we could also even win the league this year," said forward Casey Bailey. "To be able to accomplish that in our second year in the league would be something we'd love to do. We're just going to take it one game at a time."

In order to attain either of those feats, this series with Minnesota is crucial for the Blue and White. With two wins, the Lions have a chance to either steal the No. 1 seed in the tournament or claim the No. 2 spot. The top two teams in the conference secure a bye on the opening day of the tournament.

The Nittany Lions are playing for a top spot and that bye.

"It kind of has a playoff mentality toward the games," Bailey said. "You're not necessarily playing for your life, but you're playing for where you're going to sit in the tournament. You could either be getting some rest that first night or you could be playing. A lot is on the line, and I think we're looking forward to the opportunity. It's pretty exciting that two wins this weekend could possibly give us the win and for sure give us the bye."

For Penn State (18-12-4, 10-7-1 B1G) to grab that top spot, it needs to sweep No. 15 Minnesota (19-12-3, 10-5-3 B1G). Two victories would give the Lions 37 points, but they would still need luck on their side. Even if the Blue and White earn six additional points, winning the league and earning the No. 1 seed would come down to the series between the Spartans and Wolverines.

Michigan State must lose and win a shootout against Michigan for the Lions to have any chance at grabbing the top seed. If that scenario occurred, the Spartans would finish with 35 points, and Michigan would finish with 37. Penn State would win the tiebreaker with the Wolverines, thanks to a winning record over its biggest conference rival.

"We're just trying to approach this like any other weekend," said captain Patrick Koudys. "We've had a good week of practice, and we just need to mentally stay focused. It was kind of nice this week we had spring break so we could focus a little more on hockey. It's a big weekend for us, and we're ready to go."

No matter what the results are in East Lansing and Ann Arbor, if the Nittany Lions come away with two wins or a win and shootout victory, the No. 2 spot will be theirs for the taking.

It will all come down to the team's performance in Minneapolis.

"We know we're going into a big ice surface in Minnesota," Bailey said. "It's tough to win in anybody else's arena, but I think after how we played this past weekend again Michigan, we're going in with a lot of confidence. Everything is on the table, so we're really looking forward to seeing what we can do."

In the last meeting between Penn State and Minnesota, the two teams split. The Blue and White fell, 2-1, on Friday night but rebounded and downed the Gophers, 4-3, in overtime the following evening.

The victory marked the first time in program history that the Nittany Lions defeated Minnesota. They know they can compete with the Gophers, and they're ready to play their best version of Penn State hockey at Mariucci Arena come Friday night.

"I feel like they're not too difficult to play against, but it's hard to beat them," Koudys said of Minnesota. "That kind of contradicts itself a little bit, but they're definitely a good team. They have been for years, and they're known for being a great team. I think when we did beat them, we were doing what makes us great. When we did those things the right way, we were able to beat them."

Knowing what's at stake, Penn State is prepared to battle for sixty minutes.

These games have a bigger, more significant meaning. No one on the team is taking that lightly.

"It's not just another two games," Koudys said. "This is it. If we win these two games, we get something more than just two wins. We're excited about that. I know I'm really excited, and we just want to get down there and do well."