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Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Until the summer of 2016, Penn State hockey freshman forward Brett Murray was a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, having grown up in the Toronto suburb of Bolton, Ontario. However, his allegiances realigned when the Buffalo Sabres drafted him in the fourth round, with the 99th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
"Growing up I was a big Leafs fan," Murray said. "My dad, my whole family pretty much were Leafs fans, but that changed after the draft."
Murray joined the Nittany Lions during winter break, making this the first time a Nittany Lion has joined the program midseason. Murray started out the 2016-17 season with the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, where he played in 27 games and scored seven goals.
"With team success comes individual success," Murray said. "So trying to better the team and playing for the team would help myself as a player, which is what I was trying to do at Youngstown so I could grow and work up to Penn State."
Murray said that despite knowing he would be leaving the Phantoms' program midseason, he wanted to stay in the moment with Youngstown and contribute in any way possible, all while developing as in individual player.
"I was very surprised when I came to Penn State, all the guys were very welcoming," Murray said. "Right away I was part of the team. The first practice was a little different, just being with a new team and coaching staff but it didn't take very long to feel comfortable."
Murray said he is already receiving feedback from head coach Guy Gadowsky on what areas of improvement he should focus on and how to use his 6-foot-5-inch frame on the ice, but for now, it has been all about adjusting to how Penn State hockey works.
Murray traveled with the team to Ohio State earlier this month, but made his on-ice debut for the Blue and White last Friday, when the then-fourth-ranked Nittany Lions hosted Michigan State. He earned the assist on freshman forward Liam Folkes' goal during the second period of Penn State's 5-2 win over the Spartans.
Although Murray didn't play in the second game of the Michigan State series, he is eager to continue to contribute in the coming weekends. He emphasized that there's still plenty of room for him to grow as a player and a team contributor.
Having experienced a few games with the Lions, either watching or playing, the 18-year-old has observed a few things about his new team.
"I think Penn State prides itself on being one of the best back-checking teams in the country," Murray said. "When we do it's a quick transition, so once you are back on defense being able to two-way transition quickly, get on the offensive side of the puck and create chances. At the same time always having support in the back so we don't give up odd-man rushes."
Murray concluded noting his eagerness to get back out in a Penn State sweater and see more ice time, possibly this weekend when Penn State hosts Ohio State. Earlier this month, the Nittany Lions earned a split during their road series with the Buckeyes.
"I'm just trying to get better day in and day out, and contribute where needed," Murray said. "When it's my time, I want to be ready."
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Fresh off a weekend sweep against Michigan State, Penn State men's hockey climbed to the top of the uscho.com poll for the first time in program history. The Nittany Lions remain home this weekend, welcoming Ohio State to Pegula Ice Arena for a pair of 7 p.m. matchups Friday and Saturday.
Catch up with Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky and Nittany Lions Chase Berger and Denis Smirnov to recap the weekend sweep against Michigan State, while also taking a look at what's coming up this week in Penn State hockey.
Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Although Michigan State (4-15-1, 0-6-0-0 Big Ten) fought hard, Penn State's (16-2-1, 5-1-0-0 Big Ten) strong offensive performance gave the Nittany Lions their first sweep in 2017.
Penn State, who entered the weekend ranked No. 4, had few problems handling the Spartans, thanks to standout performances from several Nittany Lions, including a new face.
Freshman forward Brett Murray made his debut for the Nittany Lions in Friday night's 5-2 victory. Murray arrived in Happy Valley just a few weeks ago during winter break, having made the decision to give up the remainder of his junior hockey season to join the Nittany Lions as a mid-year enrollee.
Murray, who recorded his first collegiate point with an assist on Liam Folkes' goal during the second period, was pleased with his weekend debut. Folkes' goal widened Penn State's lead, 3-1.
"It felt good," Murray said of his first game with the Nittany Lions. "Especially to get a win makes it feel even better. It was a lot of fun."
Murray played Friday night alongside freshman Liam Folkes and freshman Nate Sucese. The forward said he was nervous for his first game in Pegula, but once he got a few shifts in, his eager energy subsided.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky said after Murray's debut that the 6-foot-5 forward was in a tough spot joining the team in the middle of the season, but Murray handled himself well.
Gadowsky also noted how sophomore forward Chase Berger was in his element all weekend. Berger had both a goal and an assist in Friday night's win.
Come Saturday night, Berger and his linemates, senior David Goodwin and freshman Brandon Biro were fighting hard for chances in the first period, including a shot by Goodwin that nearly went in, batted away by Michigan State's goaltender Ed Minney.
Less than a minute into the second period, with Penn State behind 1-0, Berger was planted between the hash marks and redirected a pass from sophomore defenseman Kevin Kerr, tying the game at a goal each. Kerr and junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton assisted Berger's power-play goal.
Penn State entered the third period trailing 2-1, but the Nittany Lions were just getting started. Halfway through the third period, senior forward Ricky DeRosa got the momentum rolling once again as he tied the game at 2-2.
Minutes later, senior forward Dylan Richard followed suit with a goal of his own, and less than 10 seconds later, Berger followed up with his second goal of the night. Freshman forward Denis Smirnov followed with a goal of his own for good measure, giving the Nittany Lions a 5-3 win.
Berger said the toughest part about the weekend was battling a tough opponent like Michigan State and overcoming adversity.
"I think we had a lot of adversity last weekend with Ohio State," Berger said. "We kind of kept confidence in our game and didn't really change anything and I think that was the same kind of thing tonight. The message after the second was stick with it and it will come."
Berger ended the night with two goals and six shots on net, closing out the weekend with three goals and one assist.
Gadowsky was proud of the sweep, but as always, kept his eye on the finish line and the team's next game.
"If you're fortunate enough to sweep in the Big Ten you should celebrate that," Gadowsky said. "It's tough to do and at this point in the season they're all big wins."
By Maria Canales, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following Friday night's loss at Ohio State, the Nittany Lions had to regroup before Saturday's second game of the series. The Nittany Lions, who stuck to their guns, came home to Happy Valley with a split, victorious in Saturday's outing.
Despite more than 30 days off from competition, having last laced up for a matchup against Michigan Dec. 2, 2016, head coach Guy Gadowsky took positives from the pair of road performances.
"Normally we get back on the 26th and play on the 28th [of December], so I actually liked it, but we did have an extra week off," Gadowsky said.
Gadowsky noted that a split on the road against another highly ranked Big Ten team is a good jumping off point for the second half of the season, one that will challenge the Nittany Lions with nine additional road games looming.
He also emphasized that although the result Friday night was a loss, the Nittany Lions played better in that game than they did on Saturday.
"We did have rust, things just weren't clicking," Gadowsky said of Friday's game. "I think we actually probably played better on Friday than we did on Saturday. I think we were pressing because we knew we didn't quite have it and we had to press a little harder and we made some mistakes with the puck that cost us on the other end."
The Nittany Lions were unable to put up any points Friday night, but thanks to freshman forward Brandon Biro the team got on the board first on Saturday. Biro found the back of the net during the second period, while senior forward David Goodwin and junior defenseman Trevor Hamilton earned the assists.
The line of Goodwin, Biro and sophomore forward Chase Berger kept the offensive momentum pulsing even later in the game, a performance Gadowsky said didn't go unnoticed. Berger netted the fourth and final goal for the Nittany Lions, assisted by freshman forward Denis Smirnov and Biro, who tallied his first career multi-point game.
"I just try to do everything I can to help the team win," Biro said. "I guess that night I was just fortunate to get on the scoreboard a couple times. I just try to do the right things whenever I'm on the ice and good things will happen."
The Nittany Lions scored four times in their 4-2 victory against the Buckeyes Saturday, but Gadowsky also noted that freshman goaltender Peyton Jones and junior defenseman Erik Autio have made countless contributions to the team's consistency on the defensive end.
Autio, who often flies under the radar, scored the second goal of the night for Penn State on Saturday, his second of the season.
"First of all with Erik Autio specifically, that goal was a culmination of more than 20,000 shots in our shooting room," Gadowsky said. "This kid works extremely hard and right from day one he identified he wanted to improve his shot."
Gadowsky concluded his praise of Autio noting the young Finn's ability to break the puck out of the zone is on par with any other defenseman in the Big Ten.
Jones, who saw time between the pipes both Friday and Saturday, now has a .919 save percentage. Jones made 18 saves Friday, totaling an impressive 24 Saturday.
For sophomore forward Andrew Sturtz, the type of weekend split involving a team's ability to come back from an earlier loss, is something truly huge, especially in terms of perseverance under pressure.
"For us to battle the adversity and then even late in the game to go and take two penalties and give up two goals and battle our way to the end to get the win, I think that shows what kind of team and what kind of character we have in that dressing room right now," Sturtz said.The Nittany Lions are eager to keep their momentum rolling, set to host Michigan State in back-to-back outings Friday and Saturday evening at Pegula Ice Arena.
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
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."
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.
count has come a long way," Williamson said. "I hope it continues even after
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."
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.
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."
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."
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