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THON Family Adds Perspective for Nittany Lions

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When the Penn State men's hockey team walked into Pegula Ice Arena their eyes lit up as they took in the spectacle that was the Nittany Lions' new home. But it is nameplate on a locker that reminds the Nittany Lions of how great an opportunity they have on and off the ice.

Pegula Ice Arena is state-of-the-art arena with something for everyone.  Top-of-the-line equipment for top-of-the-line entertainment: a perfect match. 

But, after seeing the steep student section, the community rink, they entered their brand new locker room. Inside their locker room, right between forwards Eric Scheid and Zach Saar they found a locker that belonged to a special Nittany Lion.

You won't find him on the roster and you won't find him on the box score after the games. Nor will you see him chasing down a defender into the corner for a puck. Not yet, at least, because he is a different kind of asset to Guy Gadowsky's team.

He's a player that brings something more unique to the Penn State roster.

The locker belongs to the men's hockey team's THON family and seven-year-old Colton Buckley. A top-of-the-line kid working with a top-of-the-line team: a perfect match.

"He [Colton] is such a cool kid and he is so funny," Gadowsky said. "His family is great and it's really nice for us to be able to be a part of his journey. The guys really look forward to seeing him. They really get what he is going through and they love seeing him."

Colton might not suit up each night for the Blue and White, but he means just as much to the people in Pegula Ice Arena as anyone else on the roster. This weekend, while the team is in Ann Arbor taking on Michigan, Colton is on the lineup card for THON, Penn State's IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon.

He making the trek from Reading, Pa. to make his third straight appearance at the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.

"He's a great kid and he adds something special to our team," said Gadowsky. "Personally, the thing I was most impressed with at Penn State and what attracted to at Penn State was the passion of this university that people have for this university.

"I didn't understand exactly why and I think that there are a number of reasons, but I got a chance to walk into the Bryce Jordan center during THON last year and that stands out as one of the major reasons. Talk about the hair standing up on your arms. The feeling you get is just so amazing. I personally think THON is responsible for a lot of the extreme passion everyone has at Penn State University."


THON is a yearlong effort to raise funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer.  Since 1977, THON has raised more than $101 million for the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital.

One of those kids is Colton, a six-year-old that is in the midst of a battle with cancer.

It's a fight that has the admiration of Nittany Lions everywhere, including Colton's locker room neighbor, Scheid.

"It's awesome to have Colton around," Scheid said. "Getting to meet him earlier this year was incredible. He is such a strong kid and even though he has been battling cancer, he always has a smile on his face, which I think is awesome. For a kid to go through that much and to always be able to put a smile on and have so much fun is just awesome to see. I 'm just really glad I get to sit next to his stall in the locker room."

The Nittany Lions won't be at THON this weekend; they have a matchup against No. 10 Michigan in Ann Arbor. Although they might be 390 miles away, they will be there in spirit.

Colton and his fight have had a tremendous impact on the team this season. A team that is battling day in and day out to get better watches by as Colton does the same. It's brought Gadowsky's squad and their THON family closer and closer together.

"Colton is an inspiration and such an awesome kid," senior Michael McDonagh said. "Every time he is here he has a huge smile on his face. He's just so joyful. And with his condition, to get up and do that is really inspiring for us. I think we all kind of rally around him at certain times, especially when he is here. We want to get a win for him and just be with him. He's just a light at the end of the tunnel for us."

Although the Nittany Lions would prefer to be by his side at THON, they will still be thinking of Colton as they look for another win against the Wolverines. Colton is just a month away from taking his first few skating lessons, and owes his love for hockey to his Dad and sister.

"I'm really proud to be a part of it in the way that we can," Gadowsky said.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Practice Update - Feb. 18

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team was on the ice for practice on Tuesday (Feb. 18) after a hard fought weekend series with Michigan State at Pegula Ice Arena last weekend. The Nittany Lions enter the week at 5-19-2 overall after collecting a tie and taking a loss vs. the Spartans.

On Tuesday, we caught up with head coach Guy Gadowsky and freshman Mike Williamson to talk about what they took away from their weekend series with Michigan State, getting early leads in recent games and what the team can carry from their home venue to playing on the road with the voice of Penn State men's hockey, Brian Tripp.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky


Forward Mike Williamson


-- NITTANY LIONS--

Nittany Lions' Defense Strong Against Spartans

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team got a significant boost from their defense over the weekend against Michigan State. Despite not collecting a win this weekend, the defensive play was strong for the Nittany Lions and helped keep them in both games.

Koudys-Patrick (2).jpegGuy Gadowsky's squad was without arguably two of its best defenders in Nate Jensen and Luke Juha. Both suffered injuries against then-No. 10 Michigan last weekend, but the Blue and White, however, were still confident in their abilities to shut down the Spartans attack.

"I thought we played pretty well defensively," Gadowsky said after Saturday night's loss. "We didn't give up a ton of chances and we felt pretty good about that part of our game."

The Nittany Lions left Pegula Ice Arena after what they called a frustrating weekend, but they can feel good about how hard they played the Spartans and how well they played as a team for a full 60 minutes both nights.

Penn State limited Michigan State to just 13 shots Saturday night. That's the lowest total the Nittany Lions have allowed all season and Matt Skoff contributed 11 saves in net, but the offense could only muster just one goal in the defeat.

After the game, Gadowsky was very high on his goaltender. After all, Skoff had made some terrific saves to keep the Nittany Lions ahead throughout the game.

"I thought he [Skoff] played well," Gadowsky said.  "I thought he battled. I thought he was composed. I don't think he let in any of the goals that he shouldn't have. You can't blame him tonight. He had the angle on the first one and it just went off a skate. The other goal was a rebound that they got a stick on before we did. I thought he played well."

The Nittany Lions were quick on the rush out of their defensive zone and they were unbelievably aggressive and relentless when the Spartans tried to attack in their offensive zone.

Penn State relied on guys like Patrick Koudys, Mike Williamson, Connor Varley and Kenny Brooks, a forward playing defense, to step up and contribute to the team's effort at the blue line. Not only did they step up on the back-end, but they also stood tall against a very good Spartan team. 

"I thought Mike [Williamson] played with a lot more composure this weekend," said Gadowsky. "I think he knew that he was going to be counted on more and he really play with a lot more composure.

"I thought Connor [Varley] had a good weekend, as well. I think if both Luke and Nate were not out of the lineup, that would have helped our offense out, but I thought defensively the guys played very well."


It was no surprise to see Brooks listed as a defenseman against Michigan State. The sophomore had stepped in and played that role very well last weekend vs. Michigan and Gadowsky clearly had confidence he would play well again.

After the game, Brooks and Koudys were very complimentary of the play of their forwards, saying their defensive composure helped make their night much easier.


"I think it just shows we have a good backend, but also we have good forwards," Koudys said. "We lost a few guys on the backend and they [the forwards] were back-checking harder. They were helping us out and Skoff has been backing us up the last two games with great efforts. When everyone is doing their part we can play really well."

Offensively, the Penn State defensemen were very effective, as well.

Koudys led all Nittany Lions with four shots and scored the lone goal for Penn State on Saturday night. He fired a wrist shot from the blue line that trickled past Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand just 43 seconds into the game for his second goal of the season.


Gadowsky was not surprised to see Koudys score and set a tone for the Blue and White early. It's something he has come to expect from his big defensemen.

"I thought he [Koudys] made some nice plays and he got a goal," said Gadowsky. "I thought he had some other really good chances that could have gone in. He's just a really good, solid hockey player. He is a great defensive player, but I thought his whole game was pretty good tonight."

The Nittany Lions were led by the men on their blue line this weekend. They still have some kinks to work out as the season progresses, but they will be hungry heading forward as they ended the weekend feeling they let one go.

"We didn't give any ground this weekend," Gadowsky said, "but I think we could have [won] both of these [games]."

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

GAME BLOG: Men's Hockey hosts Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the Penn State men's hockey contest against Michigan State on Friday, Feb. 14 inside Pegula Ice Arena. 

BLOG: What to Watch  |  BLOG: Brooks Showcases Versatility vs. Michigan

Be sure to interact with today's blog coverage with questions or comments at the bottom of our widget. Post your photos to Instagram or Twitter and use the #PennState or #HockeyValley and your photos may be chosen for use on our in-game coverage.


 

GAME BLOG: Men's Hockey hosts Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the Penn State men's hockey contest against Michigan State on Friday, Feb. 14 inside Pegula Ice Arena. 

BLOG: What to Watch  BLOG: Brooks Showcases Versatility vs. Michigan

Be sure to interact with today's blog coverage with questions or comments at the bottom of our widget. Post your photos to Instagram or Twitter and use the #PennState or #HockeyValley and your photos may be chosen for use on our in-game coverage.


 

What To Watch: Penn State hosts Michigan State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team will look to win their second straight Big Ten contest when they welcome Michigan State to Pegula Ice Arena this weekend.. It will be the second straight weekend series for the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley.

BLOG: Brooks Showcases Versatility vs. Michigan

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Pregame Reading
What To Watch - Penn State

First B1G Victory: Penn State will look to follow up their first Big Ten victory by making it a Big Ten winning streak. The Nittany Lions upended No. 10 Michigan last Saturday on ESPNU when Matt Skoff shutout the Wolverines and four different players scored goals. The Nittany Lions were swept by Michigan State earlier this season in East Lansing, but will look to use the Pegula Ice Arena advantage vs. the Spartans this weekend.

Penn State's B1G Star: Sophomore goaltender Matt Skoff made 32 saves in his shutout of No. 10 Michigan last weekend. The net minder was named the Big Ten's Second Star of the Week. It was the third career shutout for Skoff, who also shut out Alabama Huntsville and Fredonia State in 2012-13. It marked the first time in Penn State history that a player was named to the conference's weekly honor roll.

Bailey on a Streak: Casey Bailey recorded a goal in each of his last three games entering the weekend and is tied for second on the team with five goals in 2013-14. After leading the team in points last season with 27, Bailey was off to a slow start, but the sophomore has picked up his point production over the past three games and now has seven on the year.

What To Watch - Michigan State

Top Tenders: When Michigan State's Jake Hilderbrand takes his spot between the pipes for Michigan State it will make the seventh time this season that a top-20 goaltender will make a start vs. Penn State. Hilderbrand ranks 18th nationally with a 2.21 goals against average and owns the sixth best save percentage in the country at .933. He has a 7-11-6 record and has started 24 of the Spartans 27 games this season.

Hungry Like Wolfe: Michigan State's Greg Wolfe wears the captain's "C" on his chest and showed why he does last weekend against Ohio State, netting three goals and one assist against the Buckeyes. He had a hand in all four MSU goals vs. OSU, as the Green and White grabbed a pair of 2-2 ties in East Lansing. Wolfe has a career-high 11 goals and leads the team with 21 points.

Road Woes: Michigan State will be looking for its first true road win of the season this weekend vs. Penn State. The Spartans are 0-7-2 in true road games in 2013-14 and are 1-1-1 in neutral site games this season. It will be the first trip to Pegula Ice Arena for MSU, who grabbed wins of 3-0 and 3-2 over the Nittany Lions in January.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

Brooks Showcases Versatility vs. Michigan

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK Pa. - It's never been a challenge to spot Kenny Brooks on the ice. He's normally the high-flying forward ready to crash into the boards to win a 50-50 puck.

Brooks-Kenny (2).jpegAnd while Hockey Valley knows him as a forward, there is more to Kenny Brooks' game than ripping shots, had checks and setting a tone physically.

During Saturday night's 4-0 win against No. 10 Michigan, the Nittany Lions suffered two injuries on the blue line as both Nate Jensen and Luke Juha had to leave the game.

This wasn't something new for head coach Guy Gadowsky and his staff. Last year, they played almost half the season with just four guys in the defensive rotation due to injuries.


Gadowsky, however, didn't want to just use four guys on this night. He decided to move a forward back to the blue line to help solidify his defense. The guy that came to mind as a potential defenseman for the bench boss was Brooks.

Brooks had some defensive experience from his time in the USHL when he played for the Tri-City Storm. However, he still had to make the mental adjustment to defense in the middle of an intense game against the talented Wolverines.

"At first I was pretty nervous," Brooks admitted. "It's kind of tough make that adjustment in the middle of the game without practicing certain things. I was pretty nervous at first, but then I calmed down and just played."

Brooks calmed down quickly and began to settle into his role as a defender. He was still able to play aggressively and pursue pucks in the corners while setting the same physical tone he is used to.

His fellow Nittany Lions noticed his play and were impressed with their teammate.

"I know it's something that was in his past," said forward Casey Bailey. "I played against him and I knew him the year before in the USHL and he had to make the same transition there. I think its something coach always knew he had if he needed it. I think Kenny was always prepared for that moment if it did happen. He's very solid back there."

Even from the blue line Brooks was still able to register an assist and rip four shots against the Michigan defense. The Las Vegas, Nev., native actually is second on the team with 73 shots, trailing only Casey Bailey who has 89.

Brooks' style of play caught the eye of his head coach, too.

"He played better than I even thought," Gadowsky said.  "Just watching his shifts on D today, I was a forward so I like watching forwards and saying, 'hey that was a good play' or 'I could have done that.' There is no way I could have done what Kenny brooks did ever.

"To have a forward move back and play so well, both moving the puck in unfamiliar situations and play so well defensively was amazing.  I don't know how he does it. I know he did play some in junior, but he's really good."

After the game Saturday Gadowsky was quick to praise the play of Brooks calling his performance "fantastic" among other compliments.

For Brooks, however, this is just another day at the office. His role within the team is constantly changing and the forward has to always adjust to something new.

Becoming a defender mid-game is just another role Kenny Brooks can check off on his hockey resume.

"Like I said, I have done it in games before so many times, so I've had some experience at it," Brooks said. "I was able to switch over by the third period and get things going a bit."

As of right now, Brooks has two goals and four assists for six points. Those six points rank No. 11 on the team. He has already matched his goal production from last season and is just one game away from tying his career-high in games played.

The Nittany Lions return to the ice this weekend when they take on another Big Ten Rival in Michigan State. You can bet Kenny Brooks will be on the ice for the blue and white, but who knows in what capacity. 

Brooks, as his coach says, is certainly an "amusing" guy.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

VIDEO: Practice Update - Feb. 11

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's hockey team was on the ice for practice on Tuesday (Feb. 11) after claiming the first Big Ten victory over Michigan on Saturday inside Pegula Ice Arena. The Nittany Lions enter the week at 5-18-1 overall after splitting their weekend series with the No. 10 Wolverines.

On Tuesday, we caught up with head coach Guy Gadowsky and freshman Ricky DeRosa to talk about the victory over Michigan, how the team skated at practice and what to expect this weekend in their second meeting of the year against Michigan State with the voice of Penn State men's hockey, Brian Tripp.

Head coach Guy Gadowsky


Forward Ricky DeRosa

-- NITTANY LIONS--

Signature Win Leaves Lions Wanting More

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By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As the horn sounded, Matt Skoff threw his arms in the air and jumped into a pile of ecstatic teammates. It was time to celebrate a marquee win for a young Penn State men's hockey team. A moment the players, coaches and all of Hockey Valley had been waiting for.

Saar-Zach.jpegThe Nittany Lions had defeated Big Ten rival Michigan, 4-0, in front of a sellout crowd of 6,170 Penn State faithful. The shutout came courtesy of Skoff, who stopped all 32 shots he faced, and nine different players recorded points in the programs first Big Ten victory.

"It feels fantastic," said Gadowsky. "Not just the win itself, but because of the work we have had to put in to get to this point. Maybe we got a little inspiration from Coach [Jeff] Tambroni and the men's lacrosse team from their win over Michigan earlier today.

"We talk about timely goaltending, and [Matt] Skoff made some huge saves early that gave us confidence. Great goaltending is more about timely goaltending and I thought that really started us off well. You really have to give credit to the defense, because we had two defenders go down."

The timely saves enabled Skoff to post the third shutout of his young career, but the head coach knows it was a team effort.

"The whole team really did a heck of a job," Gadowsky said. "I am very proud of them."

Beating Michigan marks the team's first win in conference play. It is also their first win since beating Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Classic on Dec. 27. The energy inside Pegula Ice arena was palpable throughout the game and the players fed off the student body's constant encouragement.

The scoring for the Nittany Lions got started early, 6:31 into the game, when Zach Saar registered his fourth goal of the season. He snatched a rebound and beat Michigan netminder Zach Nagelvoort with a quick shot.

Shortly after that, David Glen - back on the ice for just his second game after a bone marrow transplant - won a faceoff to himself, drove the net and shot the puck off of the back of Nagelvoort and into the goal for his third goal of the season.

With a 2-0 lead the Nittany Lion offense was full in sync in front of the home fans. The passes were crisp, the pucks were right on target and the Blue and White never looked content with their production on the ice.

That might have been the biggest highlight for these Nittany Lions and their bench boss. Despite playing with a lead, Penn State never once took their foot off the gas.

A few minutes after Glen's goal, Casey Bailey joined the party and registered his fifth goal of the season. He took a quick wrist shot from the slot and beat Nagelvoort to his glove side.

At that point, Michigan head coach Red Berenson decided to make a goaltender switch and he went to Steve Racine. It was a role reversal from the previous night when Gadowsky chanced goaltenders in the second period.

Racine would enter into a tenacious Nittany Lions attack, as the blue and white clad squad continued to put pressure on the Wolverines. For the fans in attendance and watching at home on ESPNU, it almost felt as if most of the game was spent in the Michigan defensive zone.

Freshman Ricky DeRosa was the last Nittany Lion to score when he deflected a David Thompson slap shot past Racine. It was a fitting ending for a team that needed a win.

Penn State registered 40 shots against Michigan, marking the fourth time this season Penn State took at least 40 shots.

As a reporter was quick to point out afterwards, the last time Penn State recorded a shutout was exactly one year ago, February 8, 2013 against Alabama Huntsville.

Earning their first conference win in front of a sellout crowd is the way this team wants to win. Simply said, that's why most of them are here.

"That's why I came here: To compete against the best teams in the nation, and in the Big Ten," Gadowsky said. 

The Nittany Lions now head back to work with a tally in the win column and doing so was is huge step for the program; the next stop comes this week in practice where they have to stay focused.

"Right now I think I'm still in a little bit of awe because I grew up kind of worshiping the Big Ten teams," Saar said.  "Right now is a good first step for our program. You're stuck between not wanting to be too excited and conducting yourself with an expectation to win more. We're going back to work on Monday, just like we would any other time. We'll soak it in right now, but we have to get back to work, as well."

In a year of "firsts", the most exciting might have happened on Saturday night.

 

--NITTANY LIONS--

GAME BLOG: Men's Hockey hosts Michigan

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome to live in-game coverage on GoPSUsports.com for the Penn State men's hockey contest against No. 10 Michigan on Friday, Feb. 7 inside Pegula Ice Arena.

VIDEO: Practice Update - February 5  |  GAME NOTES: vs. Michigan

Be sure to interact with today's blog coverage with questions or comments at the bottom of our widget. Post your photos to Instagram or Twitter and use the #PennState or #HockeyValley and your photos may be chosen for use on our in-game coverage.