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."
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.
"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.
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
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."