By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey's senior class has seen it all. From the first game in Pegula Ice Arena to the first time the program received a No. 1 poll ranking there been some pretty big moments across the years, but they're not done yet.
With two final home games left in the regular season, the class of 2017 believes there is still more greatness to come.
Before puck drop Saturday, five graduating Nittany Lions will be honored. Forwards David Goodwin, Dylan Richard, Zach Saar and Ricky DeRosa, along with defenseman David Thompson make up the quintet that will be recognized for their commitment to a program that was just beginning and the progress they've made since arriving on campus.
When deciding to commit to Penn State, the group took a chance on a program that was just getting starting. The senior classes' freshman year was the first year in Pegula Ice Arena, and no one knew what to expect of the next four years.
"Obviously you're taking a risk when you do that," Thompson said. "At the same time we knew what this place, the institution and university had to offer us not just athletically, but academically."
As a senior, Thompson wants to best represent the senior classes that came before him, honoring the personalities of the student-athletes who helped kick start the program. Former Nittany Lions like captains Patrick Koudys and David Glen, along with the charismatic locker room presence of goalie PJ Musico are just a few of the legacies that Thompson has tried to embody his senior year.
"I look at the professionalism that those guys exuded every day on and off the ice," Thompson said. "The character that they had, the big personalities, and just being around these guys every single day is just an absolute pleasure. They put a smile on your face and they make the days when it's not going your way a little easier."
Head coach Guy Gadowsky has praised these seniors for their commitment to the foundation of Penn State hockey both on and off the ice. Especially proud of their involvement in the local community and on the international scale, when it comes to giving back Gadowsky is pleased with how the Nittany Lions have bridged the gap between the team and its fans over the years.
DeRosa started a reading rewards program for elementary school students, which the rest of the team volunteers with, from seniors on down. Goodwin has volunteered his time each summer since freshman year, serving communities abroad in countries like Cuba and Mexico.
"It's become a part of the culture of this program which we're very proud of," Gadowsky said of his team's desire to give back. "That is something the coaching staff set out to do."
As for this weekend, the Nittany Lions and coaches are working one game at a time and just thinking and about Friday's matchup against Wisconsin, rather than the emotions that come with playing their final home games.
"As I'm preparing for Saturday's game I'm sure there will be a big part of me that will realize, man this is my last time I play here at Pegula," Goodwin said. "But I'm sure I speak for [Thompson] as well, it'll be very tough to leave this place but it will be a lot easier to leave this place if we're going to the NCAA Tournament, so that really is our focus."
Looking forward to the challenging series against the Badgers, Goodwin is optimistic about the Nittany Lions' abilities to earn two wins in the series."Our biggest concern here is Friday night, not Saturday night and the accolades we'll be receiving," Thompson said. "It's all about the team right now and we know what position we're in and have the opportunity to do something special. We're keeping that in mind and all our focus is on Friday night."