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Dec. 17, 2013
By Michael Renahan, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Before the season started Penn State men's ice hockey coach Guy Gadowsky stood in front of a packed media room and fielded questions from curious reporters.
Was his team ready for the challenges of the 2013 season? What were his expectations from a program still in its infancy? Did he think a young team would have success against established programs this season?
Gadowsky answered each question thoroughly and spoke extensively about building a foundation. Building something that would set Penn State up for success for years to come. He spoke about key players on his roster and how excited he was to finally play a game in the team's new home, Pegula Ice Arena.
After his team's first 13 games of the season, Gadowsky sat down again and answered the same questions he was asked months earlier. Again, he spoke of the foundation he, his coaching staff and his players are building. He spoke about how anxious he is to get back on the ice in just a 10 short days for the second half of the season and how excited he is about his team's recent play.
"If Saturday [against Wisconsin] is a common play, if it wasn't just an aberration, if we can maintain that foundation, it's going to be huge [for our program]," Gadowsky said. "It's the best we've seen and that can be a huge step in the right direction for us."
The Nittany Lions are still finding their identity as a hockey team and everyone has started to see a team that plays intelligent, fast, effective hockey. They continue to battle hard night-in and night-out, and work towards that common goal of playing a complete game from puck drop to final horn. We have seen flashes of excellence in the first half of the season, and coach Gadowsky thinks his team is hitting its stride.
"I'm so pumped about how we played Saturday [against Wisconsin,]" Gadowsky said. " I'm really excited about it and I feel really good with how we've played [in the first half of the season.]
"At Wisconsin, we actually had an identity. You could see what we were doing and you could see it was effective. I was very encouraged by that. The coaching staff was very encouraged by what happened and it was probably the best game we've played as a program."
Gadowsky and his players understand the challenges in front of them. The only easy thing is looking at the schedule and knowing it only gets tougher going forward. The Blue and White will play several ranked opponents both at home and on the road, including elite Big Ten teams such as No. 1 Minnesota, No. 3 Michigan State and another meeting with No. 14 Wisconsin.
It's no easy task to walk into Division I hockey and be a force, but Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions understand how important it is to keep battling against these teams and to keep improving. It's mentally grueling to play at this level, both for players and coaches.
"When we first came about, there were coaches that said, `you're guaranteed to go 0-20 in your first year in the Big Ten conference.' That was what an expectation [from outside] right from the start. A thought that you just can't [just be successful from the start], but we don't feel that way," Gadowsky said. "But, because it's all new to us, and we're in the infant stages of our program, it's really important that we judge our results based on how we play, not just wins and losses."
"Keith [Fisher] was very quick to say, `If you remember Princeton, we weren't even close.' And it's true. Sometimes you have to look back and understand why it takes a while," Gadowsky said. "It doesn't happen overnight; it can't happen overnight. You have to be patient but consistent."
So through the first 13 games of the season, Gadowsky has been right on with his media day answers. His team is ready for the challenges of the 2013 season and they continue to meet them each day.
His expectations about building foundation are coming to fruition every time he sees a young player take a pivotal step in the right direction. He is watching a team and, more importantly, a program grow in front of his eyes and the anticipation to get back on the ice grows each day with this fiery coach.
"You have to practice it. You have to buy in [to the process]," Gadowsky said. "You have to understand why you have to [practice and play] at such a high level all the time. That's the reason for the difficulty and we're continuing to work at it."
The Nittany Lions return to action on Dec. 27, when they take on Robert Morris in the opening round of the Three Rivers Classic. The puck drops at 7:35 at the CONSOL Energy Center.