It was the latest historic win for the Penn State men’s hockey team, the first upset of a top-five team, but it also marked a little personal history.
It gave goalie Eamon McAdam his first collegiate win.
“It was a really good feeling, especially with being able to enjoy such a good team win,” the sophomore said about Saturday night’s 4-1 win against No. 4 Massachusetts Lowell. “With guys blocking shots, backchecking and making good plays. The team going right from the beginning.”
It catapulted the Nittany Lions into the Big Ten season feeling even more confident, into a place where they already have plenty of confidence — they visit Michigan on Friday and Saturday.
Penn State won three of five meetings last season with the Wolverines, including an overtime victory at historic Yost Ice Arena.
That McAdam is now contributing again in games is a major step.
He arrived on campus with an impressive resume, including a third-round draft selection by the New York Islanders. But he struggled for most of last season, frequently giving up early goals. He played in just 10 games, the last of which was on Feb. 7 against the Wolverines.
Matthew Skoff ascended to the No. 1 spot and didn’t let go the rest of that season and the early weeks of this one, and has been a major reason for the team’s 6-2-2 record.
“Up to this point, I can tell you he gets full marks for how he’s handled himself off the ice and for his attitude,” Gadowsky said of McAdam. “His practice habits have greatly improved as well. I give him a lot of credit for the work that he’s put in, not just the work but the decisions that he’s made.”
McAdam admits it was a “humbling experience” to be stuck on the bench for so long, and for a stretch was third on the depth chart behind P.J. Musico, and he learned what he had to do to get back into games.
“It’s definitely changed my outlook and my mindset,” McAdam said. “It’s helped me really, kind of, apply a lot of the things that I’ve been thinking about like the work ethic in practice, battling and making second and third saves, trying to earn the team’s respect and the coaches’ respect through the way that I’m working, not really feeling any entitlement to anything. Just really having to work for everything. It makes it all the more gratifying when you get in and you do well.”
Gadowsky said the decision to put McAdam into action again also was based on what he has done in practices, statistically improving each day the team hits the ice to train.
He was thrown into the fire Friday in relief of Skoff, who had an off night but, as Gadowsky pointed out, also was let down by the defense in front of him also breaking down. Penn State was already down 4-1 midway through the second period when Skoff was pulled, and McAdam was immediately peppered with more high-quality shots.
He only allowed one more goal while making 17 saves, and then stopped 24 more shots in the 4-1 win.
Gadowsky would not divulge what the goalie plans are for this weekend, but McAdam said he is “ready for anything at this point.”
A win, a loss and a loss?
It was a head-scratcher for the Nittany Lions in the national rankings. A week ago they were hot, receiving a program-high 30 points in the voting in the USCHO top-20 poll, and they figured to get even more respect from national voters after a weekend split against the then-No. 4 River Hawks, who were the two-time defending Hockey East champions.
Instead, Penn State dropped, gaining just 19 points in the voting.
“At this time of year it doesn’t matter to me at all,” said Gadowsky, who earned career coaching win No. 200 Saturday.
Hockey in the desert
Penn State no longer has the newest Division I hockey program. On Tuesday, Arizona State announced it will elevate its club program, made possible by a $32 million donation from a group of hockey supporters.
The Sun Devils, a former rival for Penn State in the American Collegiate Hockey Association and the ACHA Division I national champion last season, will play a hybrid schedule of Division I and club teams next season, a full D-1 slate the following year and join a conference in 2017.
There is a hope the move will inspire other western schools, especially those in the Pac-12, to add hockey.
“There are a lot of people that are really happy for this day, starting with the Pegula family,” Gadowsky said, referring to Terry Pegula, whose $102 million in donations helped make the Penn State hockey programs possible. “That was part of his vision.”
The newest Lions
Penn State announced its 2015 recruiting class Monday, and Tuesday was Gadowsky’s first chance to comment on the group of five men — forwards Chase Berger, Alec Marsh, Matt Mendelson and Denis Smirnov, and defenseman Kevin Kerr.
All five are currently playing in the USHL, which produced many other members of the current Nittany Lion team.
“The transition for them is going to be pretty quick,” Gadowsky said. “… This class as a whole … I think you’re going to see their game translate pretty quickly to college hockey.”
Two of the Big Ten’s weekly three stars for the week were given to Nittany Lions on Tuesday.
Casey Bailey was the No. 1 star after netting a goal and an assist on Friday and two goals on Saturday, while linemate Taylor Holstrom was the No. 3 star after collecting five assists in the two games. It’s the first weekly conference award for both.
Holstrom now leads the nation with 1.44 assists per game and is second at 1.78 points per game. Bailey leads the Big Ten and is eighth in the NCAA with eight goals.