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Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Penn State men's hockey is back in action in 2017, fresh off of a weekend Big Ten split on the road at Ohio State. The Nittany Lions moved to No. 4 this week in both releases of the USCHO.com and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls. 

Penn State returns home this weekend, set to welcome Michigan State for a pair of matchups Friday, Jan. 13 and Saturday, Jan. 14 at home in Pegula Ice Arena. 

Catch up with Nittany Lions head coach Guy Gadowsky and freshman Brandon Biro as the two recap last weekend's Buckeye split, while also looking ahead to this weekend's action at home.

Guy Gadowsky

Brandon Biro

Establishing Penn State Hockey Traditions

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Any fan who has ever experienced game day at Pegula Ice Arena is familiar with the opening hype video, the blue lights that shine on the ice when the Nittany Lions are introduced and the goal horn when Penn State scores.

When the game day festivities are in full swing, there are a few obvious, and even a few not so obvious traditions that have become relatively new staples for the men's hockey program.

The Roar Zone
It's no secret that head coach Guy Gadowsky loves The Roar Zone. He proudly states that the best student section in the country cheers for the Nittany Lions. How did the more than 1,000-seat student section come to be?

It all started with a few friends a few years back when the Pegula Ice Arena facility was just breaking ground, at a time when the Nittany Lions still played in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

Kyle Hoke, The Roar Zone's first president, was a freshman during the 2012-13 season, and was able to witness the first games the Nittany Lions played as a Division I program. He purchased the student season ticket package that season, but come sophomore year, he wanted to become more involved in the program.

"At the involvement fair I found the Hockey Management Association table and talked to the members who were there," Hoke said. "I went to the initial meeting and didn't know anyone, but knew that with my love of hockey this was the club I needed to be in. A few meetings in to the semester I volunteered with Nick Panos and Jesse Carnegie to run and organize the new student section called The Roar Zone." 

For the next two years, The Roar Zone was managed under the umbrella of the Hockey Management Association, or HMA, another student organization that helps with game day operations and promotions at Pegula Ice Arena.

 

Hoke said that throughout those two seasons there was a core group of about 10 fans who were consistently seating in the front, right on the glass during every game. He said most people brought their own signs, and most added to the creativity by coming up with game chants.

 

"After the [2014-15] season wrapped up, a few of us got together and decided now that we were established, becoming our own student organization would be beneficial to our growth and involvement," Hoke said. 

Hoke put together all the necessary paperwork, including drafting a club constitution and waited through most of the summer before he got the confirmation that The Roar Zone would be its own club the following year.

Although Hoke may have been the organization's leader, he is quick to affirm that the success of the student section is based on the collective contributions of many students, all because they've bonded over their love of hockey and the Nittany Lions.

"I had Nick and Jesse to work with originally, then Sam Watson and Chris Godissart after them," Hoke said. "These guys loved hockey and loved Penn State, so as a leader they were perfect to work with. I also got to see how Eric Bress handled himself as the president of HMA, which was a huge benefit."

One of Hoke's favorite college experiences revolves around the creation of one of The Roar Zone's most famous signs. Prior to Penn State's matchup against Wisconsin Feb. 6, 2015, the student section unraveled a banner that read, "Tonight We Feast on Badger." It instantly became a huge success.

 

Hoke gave Sam Watson, the current vice president of The Roar Zone, the credit for initiating and seeing that project through. Since then, The Roar Zone also created a banner to welcome Notre Dame last season, which too was a success. 

In addition, The Roar Zone has become notorious for their chants and being loud at almost every point during a game.

For the many that stand in the bleachers for games, The Roar Zone has created memories and friendship, defining their college experience.

"It's not just a student section," Hoke said. "It's 1,000 friends and hockey lovers that for those few hours put aside their NHL loyalties and bond together to support our school."

Hoke finished by explaining his college experience would not be the same if it weren't for The Roar Zone and the people he met along the way. 

"I was so incredibly lucky to accomplish what I did [as President], and couldn't have done it without the people who surrounded me," Hoke said. "The Roar Zone has the most passionate student fans in the country and just like the team, there has nowhere to go but up."

"Timber"
Without a doubt the one song that gets The Roar Zone bouncing up and down and ready for puck drop is "Timber," an upbeat pop song that frequently plays throughout the arena. At some point during the 2013-14 season the song started playing in Pegula and has continued to be played throughout the season. 

Mike Williamson, then a freshman defenseman, decided that since the song was played so much, he would keep track of the number of plays on his Twitter account. It quickly turned into what is now known as the "#TimberCount," as it appears on various social media platforms.

"I started keeping track because the song was played so much," Williamson said. "I just thought it would be fun."

For the past three seasons, Williamson and fans alike have been keeping track of the tune via Twitter. It has grown in popularity, with fans and student-athletes alike even using the hash tag at other arenas if they happen to play the song. It's a song fans have embraced and instantly reminds supporters of their Nittany Lions. 

Last season alone, the song was played more than 70 times. Now a student coach for the hockey program, Williamson is still actively keeping track of how many times the popular tune plays at Pegula Ice Arena. 

"The Timber count has come a long way," Williamson said. "I hope it continues even after I'm gone." 

Thor's Hammer
If you were in Pegula Ice Arena for a game between the fall of 2013 and the spring of 2016, chances are you saw someone dressed as the superhero "Thor" in the student section. The student, Gary Engelthaler, proudly wore the costume nearly every game during his time at Penn State. He said he picked that specific superhero because he wanted a character known for being loud, and he felt Thor would be fun for other people, and the team, to see. 

Engelthaler, who was born with Spina Bifidia, had to miss a year of school to have three surgeries. During that time, head coach Guy Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions reached out to Engelthaler, sending him well wishes, a care package and a card signed by the team.

"I didn't even tell them that I was having surgeries so it caught me completely off guard," Engelthaler said. "During that year I visited as many games as I could and was always welcomed back with open arms." 

While recovering from his surgeries Engelthaler, a native of Long Island, was living at home. During that time, Gadowsky reached out to Engelthaler to see if he wanted to visit the team after their game at Madison Square Garden, Jan. 30, 2016.

"We went to surprise the team and I gave coach [Thor's] hammer as a gift," Engelthaler said. "He decided from then on it would go to the player who fought the hardest every night."

Since then, it has become a tradition the team honors after every game.

"Coach Gadowsky is one of the greatest people I know and has always been great to all the students," Engelthaler said. "For something I did to make any positive impact on the program is an honor."

The Nuts and Bolts of Penn State Hockey

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State's Adam Sheehan does it all. As the head equipment manager, Sheehan is in charge of numerous daily tasks that keep the Nittany Lions on top of their game.

While the 2016-17 season is Sheehan's fifth with the Nittany Lions, he spent 13 years working for various teams in the National Hockey League, including the Detroit Red Wings, Phoenix Coyotes and Carolina Hurricanes prior to Penn State.

"I had been working in the NHL for 13 or 14 years and working in Detroit I worked a lot with college teams coming into town for tournaments," Sheehan said. "I saw how those programs ran and I knew it was something I wanted to shoot for, to work for a high-profile school and spend the rest of my career there."

Sheehan spent the 2004-05 season as the head equipment manager for the Sacred Heart University men's and women's hockey programs, so he was already familiar with managing collegiate teams before joining the Nittany Lions. When he heard of Penn State's planned expansion to the Division I level about two years prior to the change, Sheehan knew it was an opportunity he wanted.

"It's the kind of job where you can't wait for an opportunity," Sheehan said. "In sports if you're waiting for someone to call you, no one is going to come looking, you have to be on top of it yourself." 

After proactively reaching out to Penn State and the hockey program, Sheehan landed the job in the summer of 2012. 

Daily Duties
At Penn State, Sheehan oversees four student managers who help him run the daily routine of both the men's and women's hockey teams. Sheehan said that for every road series the men's team plays, one student manager travels as well to help out. The student managers pick their own schedules of practice days, laundry and games, but Sheehan makes sure that each manager gets the opportunity to see the Big Ten arenas during their time.

"We try to get managers who are freshmen or sophomores because we would like to have them working as long as we can," Sheehan said. "We've been tending to kind of pick 'rink rats,' people who love the sport and love being around the rink."

On a typical gameday, Sheehan arrives at Pegula Ice Arena around 8 a.m. and starts pregame preparations, which include setting up the locker room and sharpening skates. From there it's all about solving particular equipment issues, if there are any, and making sure everything is ready for puck drop.

More specifically, Sheehan makes sure all players have equipment that is up to game standards.  For example, the player's gloves. Often times when gloves get worn out, it used to be common for them to get re-palmed, where the worn out palm is ripped from the glove and new palm material is sewn in. But Sheehan explained that the once common practice has changed. 

"We have had a couple guys in the past who really didn't like using new gloves," Sheehan said. "So if they get holes in them I have a way I can sew and patch them, but a complete re-palming just doesn't happen anymore." 

Sheehan said the average player rotates a few pairs of gloves at a time to slow the process of fully wearing a set out. 

Sheehan also helps new team members figure out the proper hollow for their skates. A hollow of a skate determines the "sharpness" of the skate blade and is created by cutting a concave semi-circle into the metal that comes in contact with the ice.

"When players come in, some of them don't even know their hollow," Sheehan said. "Some of them have never had their skates profiled in their life, so you have to guide them in the right direction." 

Sheehan said that one of the biggest differences between working in the NHL and working for a college team is that players in the NHL usually already know what equipment works for them, but for college players they're usually more open to exploring possible adjustments.

"Denis Smirnov and Erik Autio a few years ago, the systems they're used to are different than here," Sheehan said.

He said that both players came in with one idea of their skate hollow in mind, but were open to modifications.   

"If I change someone's profile I'll tell them to give me three honest skates," Sheehan said. "By the third day they're usually fine with changes." 

Building Trust
Sheehan emphasized the importance of earning a student-athlete's trust. He said that since the equipment manager is in charge of so many things that affect the player, trust is of the utmost importance for him to do his job and for the players to be successful.

In addition to trust, another element that impacts how Sheehan does his job is adjusting to the superstitious beliefs that some hockey players are known for.

"Every once in a while you'll get a guy who will ask me to cut down a new stick for them," Sheehan said. "Next thing you know he scores a goal that night and then you're cutting down his sticks for the next couple years." 

Sheehan said that this has happened to him before at both the NHL and collegiate levels, and most recently, at Penn State with sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz. 

"He usually switches sticks halfway through the game and he'll have me pick one of the two that are on the bench as his spares," Sheehan said. "A lot of times he's gone out and scored relatively quickly after I've switched his sticks."

Designing the Third Jersey
Sheehan was also involved in the creation of Penn State's third jersey, the distinctly gray sweaters worn only three or four times throughout the season. Sheehan thought up the idea for a Penn State gray jersey and presented the proposal to head coach Guy Gadowsky.

From there, Sheehan and Gadowsky worked together, along with Nike and the Penn State Athletics office, to ensure that the design met all University requirements and fit with the ethos of Penn State hockey. 

The design is simple, but uniquely Penn State. The gray sweater features a navy blue horizontal stripe across the middle, which continues over the arm sleeves. Another blue horizontal line is on the front, but lower on the stomach, and circles the whole jersey. Both blue lines are outlined in white. A circular Penn State logo is the staple of the center of the jersey. On the back, the player's names are written in white, mounted on a patch of dark blue. The numbers are blue, outlined in white.

"Coach Gadowsky and I both really liked some of the Original Six jerseys," Sheehan said. "That stripe across the middle is like Montreal's jerseys. The circle logo I've seen a lot in the NHL and a handful in college and I liked the way that looked. We're very traditional here and didn't want to do anything crazy with it." 

Initially, Sheehan and Gadowsky hid the design from the team. The first time the team saw the sweaters was when they walked into the locker room before their January 17, 2015 matchup against Michigan State. That night, the Nittany Lions defeated the Spartans, 5-2. 

Sheehan said that prior to every season, he and Gadowsky decide which games the team will wear the gray sweaters. He also said that for the last two years on senior day, the seniors have opted to wear the gray jerseys, since the graduating class is given the choice between wearing the home whites or the third jerseys.

Sheehan is anticipating this year's senior class will also pick to wear the gray design.

"[The gray jerseys] are something I'm extremely proud of," Sheehan said. "I've never had that opportunity to design a jersey in the past or anything like that, so I was pretty excited the first time I saw them on the ice."

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey wrapped up its 2016-17 fall semester portion of the season last week, taking down Michigan in a pair of back-to-back wins before heading to the break. 

Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and freshman forward Liam Folkes recapped the Big Ten conference sweep while also looking toward some time off. 

Catch up with the Nittany Lions in their video sessions below. 

Gadowsky

Folkes

Nittany Lions Win THON Game

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Teddy bears flew through the air during the second intermission of No. 7 Penn State's (13-1-1, 2-0-0-0 Big Ten) Friday night victory against No. 20 Michigan (6-7-1, 0-2-0-0 Big Ten). 

It was Penn State's THON game and hundreds of plush animals of all kinds were thrown on the ice, as part of the teddy bear toss tradition. Bears, turtles, rabbits, and stuffed elephants landed on the smooth surface after the fans in attendance were encouraged to throw them over the boards.

That same intermission, the Nittany Lions headed into the locker room up 3-1. Goals from junior forward James Robinson, junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton, and freshman forward Denis Smirnov in the first period, gave Penn State the edge. 

"The Denis Smirnov goal, a great block by Dylan Richard, and then an unbelievable pass by Derian Hamilton to send to [Smirnov] on the breakaway," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "That was a big, big goal and a big difference heading into the locker room up two instead of one."

The Nittany Lions defeated the Wolverines, 5-1. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz and freshman forward Brandon Biro rounded out the goals for the Nittany Lions.

"We've got to go and get even hungrier," sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr said. "We have a couple weeks off here so we'll practice hard and get prepared for the second half of the season."

The Nittany Lions don't play again until the New Year, when they travel to Ohio State January 6 and 7, 2017.

After the game, to continue with the THON game festivities, senior defenseman David Thompson cut his long hair to donate it to help make a wig for a child with cancer. The event, which many fans stuck around after the victory to witness, took only seconds, but the impact of such a donation will last a lifetime.

Thompson's hair was tied into a ponytail with zip ties and cut with scissors, before Thompson got the rest of his hair buzzed off in the locker room.

The Nittany Lions' THON child, Colton Buckley, was also in attendance for Friday night's festivities. Prior to Thompson's haircut, the Buckley's announced they donated $2,000 to THON, in the name of the Penn State Student Athlete Advisory Board.

Thompson said before he lost his locks, that it was an honor to donate his hair in the name of THON, and felt truly humbled by the experience.

Men's Hockey Live Blog - Penn State vs. Michigan (12/2/2016)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7/6 Penn State men's hockey and No. 20 Michigan are set to meet once again, as the Nittany Lions close out the first semester of the 2016-17 season with a 7 p.m. matchup against the Wolverines. Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates all in one location and exclusive content. 


Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Michigan (12/2/2016)
 

Balanced Offense Shuts Down Michigan

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions were buzzing Thursday night, as a strong and balanced offensive performance propelled No. 7 Penn State men's hockey (12-1-1) past No. 20 Michigan (6-6-1) in Pegula Ice Arena, 6-1.

As is seemingly tradition between the two teams, Penn State came out of another high-scoring outing with the win, helped out by goals from five different scorers, with a total of 11 Nittany Lions notching at least a point.

A goal from sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz halfway through the first period got Penn State rolling. A back-and-forth remainder of the first period saw both teams have quality chances on net, with freshman Peyton Jones in net stopping eight shots in the first 20 minutes of play.  

There was pandemonium in the rink during the second period, when freshman forward Liam Folkes found the back of the net for the second time this season, signaling the song "Timber," that began blaring through the Pegula sound system in celebration. 

Junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton followed up with a power-play goal toward the end of the second period, assisted by senior forward David Goodwin and sophomore forward Chase Berger. It was Hamilton's second goal of the season.

Hamilton's physicality on the ice was also a noticeable contribution, as he made several clean hits throughout the game and didn't shy away from blocking shots. The team's ability to play physically will continue to be important, as Big Ten opponents often are more aggressive on the ice than the competition faced in nonconference play.

Senior forward Ricky DeRosa scored late in the second period, bringing Penn State's lead to 4-0. Senior forward Zach Saar got the assist.

"If you look at the first four goals I think they came from all four different lines. I think Trevor's was just at the end of the power play but that was with Goodwin and Berger, so really you could say all four lines contributed on all four goals," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "When we can do that I think we're pretty tough to play against."

The third period saw another goal from Sturtz, followed later by a goal from junior defenseman Erik Autio.

There seemed to be a little more energy in the air throughout the night, likely due to to the fact that it was Penn State's first Big Ten Conference game of the season. The Roar Zone, which made the night a white out, was a full house from the drop of the puck.

The Roar Zone president, Chris Godissart, explained that the decision to make Thursday night's game a white out was an easy choice.

"We chose to make tonight a student whiteout because it felt like the perfect game to do so," Godissart said. "It's the last series of the semester, against Michigan who beat us five times last year. We wanted to do everything we could to pump up the team and be as loud as we could be at puck drop."

Gadowsky and the team noticed the heightened support from the Roar Zone throughout the night, with DeRosa noting how important it is to have the backing of a great student section, especially when facing down a conference foe.

"They're amazing, they're the best student section in college hockey," DeRosa said. "You skate out on the ice and you see a sea of white with the band going, that's why you play, that's why so many guys choose Penn State." 

Both teams are back at it again Friday night at 7 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena.

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 7/6 Penn State men's hockey is set to welcome No. 20 Michigan a two-game series to open Big Ten play Thursday and Friday at Pegula Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions host the Wolverines Thursday at 6:30 p.m. with live TV coverage on ESPNU. 

Friday, the two teams will meet once again as Penn State closes out the first semester of the 2016-17 season with a 7 p.m. puck drop against Michigan. The matchup will stream online via BTN Plus.  
Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Michigan (12/1/16)
 

Nittany Lions Ready for Wolverines

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The last time Penn State men's hockey (11-1-1) and Michigan (6-5-1) faced off was in the second round of last years' Big Ten Tournament. While the Wolverines came out victorious, the Nittany Lions were just getting started.

This season, Penn State hockey has started strong during non-conference play, racking up 11 wins out of 13 games so far. The Wolverines, who have faced teams like Union and Boston University during their non-conference schedule, have amassed six wins. 

This weekend, the Nittany Lions are set to host Michigan at Pegula Ice Arena, and it will be U-M's first visit to Hockey Valley since last January.

"They are Michigan, but they're different," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Last year their offense was just unbelievably explosive and they're still Michigan so they still can be." 

Gadowsky emphasized that so far this season Michigan has had the top penalty kill unit in the nation, which makes the Wolverines a daunting opponent. He also pointed out that even though their offense might not have the same strength as it did last season, Michigan's defense has stepped it's game up, which will provide a challenge for his team.

The Wolverine offensive prowess took a hit as the famed "CCM" line of Kyle Connor, JT Compher, and Tyler Motte all signed pro contracts at the end of last season.

"I'm not sure I saw a line like that in college, they were phenomenal," Gadowsky said. "They're all having success at the NHL level."

But with their top line gone, Gadowsky said Michigan is the type of team that will simply reload, and he expects the Wolverines to be a challenging opponent this weekend.

The Michigan series follows a bye week, which coincided with Thanksgiving Break. Some Nittany Lions traveled home for the holiday, while others visited teammate's homes to spend the holiday with familiar faces. However, practice picked up once again Sunday afternoon. Now the Nittany Lions are eager to make a statement after being knocked out of last years' Big Ten tournament.

"I don't think anyone on our team will or should have any difficulty preparing for Thursday," senior forward and captain David Goodwin said. "We'll be ready to go at the drop of the puck." 

While the Nittany Lions were 0-5 against the Wolverines last year, the team believes new faces like Denis Smirnov and Trevor Hamilton can help turn the tide.

Smirnov has scored nine goals, good for second on the team, as well as 13 assists. Hamilton has played in all 13 games this season, and in addition to his lone goal so far, has contributed 12 assists. Hamilton has also shown his physicality on the ice, not shying away from clean hits.

A strong point for the Nittany Lions so far this season has been goaltending. Both freshman Peyton Jones and sophomore Chris Funkey have had success between the pipes. Peyton has earned a .912 save percentage and nine wins so far this season, while Funkey has a .966 save percentage and two wins under his belt.

"That was such a big question mark for us," Gadowsky said. "We didn't have one guy who has started an NCAA game [prior to this season]. Both have been tremendous."

In regards to goaltending, Gadowsky explained that if it's not broken, they're not going to fix it. He added that Jones will start in net for the Nittany Lions on Thursday. 

Thompson's THON contribution
Following Friday's THON game, senior defenseman David Thompson will be cutting his hair at the Gate A entrance to Pegula Ice Arena. His hair is to be donated, in a similar way to the students who cut their hair on the stage during THON weekend. 

Thompson, who knew of the tradition where students cut their hair at the 100 Days Until THON event, was inspired to contribute in some fashion. After speaking with THON coordinators and Penn State Athletics' compliance office, Thompson was given the green light to make his own donation.

Thompson said that since the announcement on the Penn State men's hockey Twitter (@PennStateMHKY) that he would be cutting his hair, he has received an overwhelming amount of support from the Hockey Valley community. The defenseman said that other people who have donated their hair have approached him and told him how much this kind of donation means to children with cancer.

"I saw a way to get involved," Thompson said. "Any time that we get involved in THON or help out in any way shape or form, it's always an awesome experience for us." 

The men's hockey team has been involved in THON for years, and the Nittany Lions have their own THON child, Colton Buckley. The Nittany Lions have also made numerous appearances at the Bryce Jordan Center during THON weekend, even winning the "Athlete Hour" pep rally dance competition in 2015.

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky took time to recap the bye week while also providing a quick preview of the upcoming Big Ten opening weekend at home in Pegula Ice Arena. Nittany Lion Chase Berger also took time to preview the weekend of conference opening action, featuring a special addition to Friday's THON game.

Check out updates from both video sessions below.

 

Guy Gadowsky Chase Berger

@GOPSUSPORTS

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