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Seniors Motivated for Final Home Series

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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."

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State hockey is back at home following a series sweep on the road at Michigan State. Looking ahead, the Nittany Lions return home to Pegula Ice Arena for a senior night weekend, welcoming Wisconsin to close out the regular season home slate.

 

Catch up with Nittany Lion head coach Guy Gadowsky and join Nate Sucese and David Thompson for updates on what's happening this week in Penn State hockey. 


Guy Gadowsky


Nate Sucese & David Thompson

MHKY Seniors Behind the Scenes

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Senior day for the Penn State men's hockey program is next week, but before beginning to take a look back at their contributions, there are a few Nittany Lions who also play a part in making the program run smoothly. 

From Player to Coach and Beyond
Mike Williamson gave up playing hockey at Penn State in January of 2016 due to injuries, but he didn't leave the program all together. Williamson has spent the final year of his undergraduate career as a student assistant coach for the Nittany Lions, helping design goalie practices and giving special attention to skill development for younger members of the team.

"Pretty much any extra time or optional skate the guys would want to do, they could just ask," Williamson. "I'm able to help them."

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During games, Williamson tracks statistics to make sure the team is performing to its full abilities on the ice.

After graduating in May, Williamson is looking to attend dental school, but fully intends to continue his involvement with hockey if he can. He is excited for the next step in his career and credits Penn State hockey with helping him build the foundation to be successful at the next level.

"It has meant everything to me," Williamson said of being a part of the Penn State hockey program. "I'm really thankful to have been a part of starting from the ground up." 

What he'll miss most though, is the relationships he has formed every year with each of the four teams he has been a part of, especially the Nittany Lions who are members of the current senior class with whom he started his college career with.

"Every year I've been here the teammates have been exceptional," Williamson said. "I've got strong relationships with everyone who has been here. That'd definitely something I'll remember the most."

Video Manager Gains Support System
Since his freshman year, video manager Will Bensur has been a vital behind

the scenes member for the Nittany Lions. Bensur, who was recruited to play for the club hockey team, was offered an opportunity to interview for the position his freshman year by former director of operations Bill Downey. Despite having to give up playing hockey, Bensur has never regretted his decision to make the transition. 

Bensur started out by simply making sure all the video equipment was ready for practices and games, but since then has taken on added responsibility. Now, he prescouts opponents, breaks down game film, and acts as another set of eyes for head coach Guy Gadowsky and director of operations Alex Dawes. 

"You can see how we've all really matured as a hockey program and as students," Bensur said. "You can tell that the guys who are here, you can feel something special about the teams so far that helped build this program."

Bensur has become close with the coaches, players, and staff over the years and has developed friendships outside of Pegula Ice Arena because of his connection with the program. Last weekend Bensur also danced in THON, and had his hockey peers there to cheer him on.

"It was awesome," Bensur said. "Gadowsky came Saturday afternoon, which was a huge confidence booster. Seeing some familiar faces was nice. Sometime after the second game I remember seeing some of them again."

Bensur said freshman Nikita Pavlychev, senior Ricky DeRosa and junior Erik Autio made it onto the floor after their game Saturday to surprise him.

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"I was so delusional at that point that when I saw Ricky I had to do a double take," Bensur said. "I didn't quite recognize him at first but to sum it all up, any time you see someone who is that close to you, it really keeps you going. The support that I got from the program was really tremendous all weekend long."

Bensur said after graduation, what he'll miss most is simply the energy surrounding the program. 

"We're something new and it's something different than everything else I've done at Penn State," Bensur said. "I've watched this place become a hockey school over the last few years and you can tell the culture around this team is continuing to grow."

Equipment Managers Create Memories
Roommates Kevin Seifert and Collin Kearns both interviewed to be equipment managers for the hockey program at the end of their freshman year, but knew only one spot was available. Since both were interested in the position, they bargained with head equipment manager Adam Sheehan, convincing him to hire both of them.

As equipment managers, Seifert and Kearns arrive on gameday for morning skate. Usually one of them takes the morning shift to assist with any away team needs and help with any last minute projects. For games, the two help set up the locker room, make equipment adjustments, provide in-game assistance and close down shop at the end of the night.

It's a lot of work, but Seifert and Kearns agree that it has been worth it to have an up close and personal view of the Penn State hockey program.

Both Seifert and Kearns have jobs lined up after graduation, but neither career path is related to their experience as equipment managers. Kearns said that if the opportunity arises to get back into the hockey business, he'd be open to the opportunity. 

"I think being a part of something new and watching it grow and being around so many different personalities are experiences I can with me to a different job," Seifert added.

Some of their favorite memories with the program have come on the road. The opportunity to travel alongside the team is something both will miss about their time at Penn State.

"You get to know the team better, you get to know the staff better," Seifert said. "A lot of my favorite memories were made on the road." 

Seifert said his favorite road game was when the team has played at the Wells Fargo Center. Over the years, having grown up a Philadelphia Flyers fan, being in their arena and locker room has made a lasting impression.

"I got to go to Madison Square Garden last year which was really awesome," Kearns said. "It's such a famous arena. It all adds to having those experiences you can talk about and share with people years down the road."

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Coming off a challenging weekend at home in Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State men's hockey is looking to get back on track before hitting the road for a weekend series in East Lansing, Michigan against the Spartans.

Looking to recharge and reset from a 6-3 loss on Friday, Penn State nearly cut off a late Minnesota rally to upset the fifth-ranked Golden Gophers to earn the upset in overtime Saturday. Falling 4-3 in overtime, the Nittany Lions will now get back to work, focusing on closing out the regular season strong despite the result of the weekend series.

"When you get negative results, that's when things take," Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "That's really when you get to learn. If you have positive results and you talk about, well this is what we can change, it doesn't really take as much." 

For Gadowsky and Nittany Lion senior Ricky DeRosa, takeaways from the weekend will all provide an opportunity for continued focus and growth following the learning opportunity.

Check in with Gadowsky and DeRosa as they recap the weekend at home while looking ahead to the upcoming Michigan State series.

Gadowsky

DeRosa

Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Minnesota (2/18/17)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey returns to action, in another top 10 matchup at home in Pegula Ice Arena. The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions are set to close out the weekend series against  the fifth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers Saturday, Feb. 18 at 8 p.m. Follow along for in-game updates and exclusive content. 
Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - vs. Minnesota (2/18/17)
 

Nittany Lions Eager to Recharge

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey head coach Guy Gadowsky is hopeful after Friday night's 6-3 loss to No. 5 Minnesota (19-8-2, 10-3-0 Big Ten). The No. 9 Nittany Lions (18-7-2, 7-5-1 Big Ten) were unable to skate away with a win, but are eager to get back in the action tomorrow night in game two of the series. 

"After the game we just told them to get ready for tomorrow," Gadowsky said. "We'll digest some of it by watching the tape, but for them the outcome of this game doesn't change the opportunity for tomorrow."

Despite keeping up with the Gophers' relentless offensive effort through the first two periods, Minnesota pulled away, and scored three goals in the final 20 minutes of play.

Freshman forward Nate Sucese, who last week was named the Big Ten's Second Star of the Week, netted the second goal of the night for the Nittany Lions. Last week's Big Ten First Star of the Week, freshman forward Denis Smirnov, had the assist, along with freshman forward Liam Folkes.

Sucese credited Smirnov's quick thinking with helping to set up the play. Smirnov maneuvered the puck behind him to Sucese, who was yelling for the pass.

"That's the kind of player he is," Sucese said. "He heard my voice and he can tell where you are on the ice at all times." 

Smirnov had an assist on each of the three goals the Lions scored Friday night. Sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz and freshman defenseman Kris Myllari scored the two other goals for the Nittany Lions.

Myllari said he felt the Nittany Lions' defense played well, but had a few costly breakdowns. The Kanata, Ontario native is keen to make some adjustments and get back on track tomorrow night against the Gophers.

"We're going to readjust and come back and we're just going to work hard," Myllari said. "Hopefully we'll have a better outcome tomorrow."

The Nittany Lions are ready to recharge for tomorrow's rematch and are willing to adjust in order to fix the mistakes that cost them some opportunities on Friday night. 

"I think for the most part all four lines played pretty well," Sucese said. "We got unfortunate bounces and we've got to clean up some things obviously, but I think for the most part we put in a good effort." 

Penn State is back on the ice tonight, closing out the series against the Golden Gophers at 8 p.m. in Pegula Ice Arena. 

Men's Hockey Live Blog vs. Minnesota (2/17/17)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey returns home from the road for a top 10 matchup at home in Pegula Ice Arena. The ninth-ranked Nittany Lions are set to welcome the fifth-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers in a weekend series beginning Friday Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. Follow along for in-game updates and exclusive content. 
Live Blog Men's Hockey Live Blog - vs. Minnesota (2/17/17)
 

Nittany Lions Forging Ahead

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Over the weekend, No. 9 Penn State men's hockey bounced back from two tough losses at No. 5 Minnesota, this time against No. 20 Wisconsin. For head coach Guy Gadowsky, Penn State's dominant performance comes from a collective effort, with a few Nittany Lions also skating to standout weekends.

Freshman forward Denis Smirnov scored three goals against the Badgers, stepping up after a few games without an appearance on the score sheet. Having Smirnov back performing at the level he was earlier in the season has provided a big boost for the Nittany Lions.

"With Denis, he's gone through a few bumps and bruises and is getting healthy, and I think it showed this weekend," Gadowsky said. "He was able to move a lot better."

Gadowsky also noted that the contributions from freshman forward Nate Sucese over the course of the season has also impressed him. Sucese has put up 10 goals, tallying 11 assists so far this season, currently sitting at a plus-10 rating. 

Outside of the individual performances though, it was the whole team effort that also impressed Gadowsky and the staff. 

"That win on Saturday was really a tremendous team win," Gadowsky said, adding that the third period is where he really saw the team come together.

Looking ahead to the Golden Gophers this weekend, Penn State does have an advantage, having played Minnesota just two weeks ago, despite losing both contests. 

For Gadowsky, he's realistic when reflecting on the previous Minnesota series, noting the Nittany Lions played well, but still emphasizing there's always room for improvement.

"It is fresh in our minds and I think there's a feeling that we believe we can play well against Minnesota because we have," Gadowsky said. 

Historically, the Nittany Lions are 3-11-0 against the Gophers, but the Nittany Lions have pulled out a few tremendous wins in the series, including a thrilling 3-2 overtime win last season. 

Gadowsky is still expecting Minnesota to come out fighting though, even with the home ice advantage playing at Pegula Ice Arena this weekend. He is also determined to have the Nittany Lions come out strong from the puck drop, skating all 60 minutes confidently. 

Gadowsky will also be looking toward veteran leadership to motivate Penn State both nights. He spoke highly of senior forward David Goodwin and how he has evolved as a leader during his final campaign. For Gadowsky, he has seen Goodwin keep Penn State focused on the here and now rather than getting caught up in the possibility of a bye the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

"Yes, it's something we very much would like," Gadowsky said of the possibility of a first round bye. "But I don't think that will change any preparation or strategy until possibly the very last weekend. It's nothing we're looking at now." 

The Nittany Lions are remaining focused on the next game ahead, looking for redemption against Minnesota. Gadowsky is sure the Nittany Lions will be able to forge ahead and use the momentum from last weekend's wins to propel them to success this weekend.

"I thought we got confidence that we played a very good game," Gadowsky reflecting on the last Minnesota outing. "But we would love to prove to ourselves that we can finish it." 

Penn State Weekly Check In

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's hockey is set to return home from a five-game road stretch, hosting Minnesota in a weekend series Friday and Saturday evening at Pegula Ice Arena. This week, catch up with Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky, as well as Nittany Lions Peyton Jones and Denis Smirnov as they look back at the weekend on the road and preview what's next in Penn State hockey. 

Guy Gadowsky

Jones, Smirnov


Reading Program Builds Community Connection

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By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Prior to the 2015-16 Penn State men's hockey season, senior forward Ricky DeRosa was inspired to somehow bridge the gap between his team and the local Centre County community.   

In the early beginnings, DeRosa talked about setting up a community service project for the team with Penn State marketing manager Dana Crouse. Inspired by his time volunteering with his Junior hockey teams, DeRosa knew a community outreach program was the way to go.

DeRosa came up with the idea of a reading incentive program for local elementary school students. Spring semester last year, the program was underway after the Nittany Lions paired up with Miss. McCracken's second grade class at Easterly Parkway Elementary.

The point of the reading rewards program is to incentivize students to read at least 20 minutes per night. Students are provided reading logs and encouraged to read as much as possible, then during math time at the end of each month they bring in their reading logs and add up their reading time. 

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"We promote that reading is a cool thing to do," DeRosa said. "Even as student-athletes, there's nothing nerdy about reading."

DeRosa and his teammates usually come to the class on a biweekly basis to read to the students. At the end of the month when the students hit their mark, the Nittany Lions come in to do more than just spend time in the library. 

"When the students hit their goal, which they always do, we as a team go in at the end of the month and that's their incentive," DeRosa said. "We either play floor hockey, have a pizza party, or do play games."

DeRosa said their program is designed to lead up to Read Across America, a day of celebration in the name of reading, which falls annually on the birthday of popular children's author Dr. Seuss, March 2.

To date, DeRosa's idea has grown far beyond the reaches of Penn State hockey, and now more than 13 Penn State Athletic programs have been paired with local elementary classes to promote the reading rewards program. The program encompasses kindergarten through sixth grade classrooms, and is entirely volunteer-based, so any student-athlete can get involved.

DeRosa, who will be graduating in May, has also had to find the next torchbearer for the program.  He found a willing partner in sophomore forward Chase Berger.

"Ricky did most of the leg work," Berger said. "We really want this program to continue once we both leave so I think my goal is to see how Ricky does it, form a good relationship with the teacher and then hopefully I can continue it next year and find someone after me to keep it going." 

In the short amount of time the program has been up and running, Berger has made lots of memories, having been able to see the impact reading rewards has made on students.

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"Those kids love it, they really do," Berger said. "It's so easy to give back to them in that way."

DeRosa and Berger both agreed that one of their favorite memories so far was when sophomore goalie Chris Funkey came along to a classroom. 

"The end of last year Funkey was playing goalie for a floor hockey game," DeRosa said. "Just seeing him having so much fun and all the kids laughing was hilarious. At one point he played chase with them and about 15 or so kids dragged him down, it was great."

Now a year into the program, DeRosa and Berger have been able to reflect on the progress they have made on the students they visit regularly.

"Our team always has fun going into the classrooms," DeRosa said. "It doesn't seem like community service. It's just us going out and having some fun in the community with kids who really look up to you, it's nice when the initial platform we have as student-athletes can be used to benefit the community." 

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