Curtis Loik admitted there were butterflies when the Penn State men’s hockey team took to the ice at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
“Not like ‘nervous butterflies,’” the junior forward said. “Just like, ‘Wow, this is so cool butterflies.’ It was unbelievable. It’s such an historic rink, and to play in it is just a dream come true.”
The Nittany Lions skated to a 3-1 loss to Cornell in New York in front of 15,027 fans, the majority of whom were cheering for the Big Red, but there were a few thousand clad in blue and white.
For those who enjoy hockey history, and sports history in general, it was a special night.
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“A lot of big memories, big wins in that arena,” said Loik, a native of Vancouver, Canada, who was wowed by New York. “It was cool to play there right next to them.”
It was the fourth NHL rink the team has played in during their two-plus seasons as a Division I program.
They will add another major rink in March when the Big Ten Tournament goes to Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena, and the chance to play in these kind of venues, win or lose, helps the whole team in the long run.
“I think it’s something we’ll definitely benefit from,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “It was a really cool experience on its own, and when we do go to Joe Louis, I’m sure this experience is going to help us with the ‘wow’ factor.”
Despite the loss, Gadowsky did not have too many complaints with his team’s performance. The few rare mistakes the team made resulted in Big Red goals, the Nittany Lions had trouble generating quality chances against one of the nation’s top defenses but persevered, and they never let Cornell take control of the game.
“I liked the way we played,” Gadowsky said. “I liked the chances we had and I don’t think we gave up a ton. We played a good game. They deserved to win, but I certainly don’t think we deserved to lose.”
Penn State (7-4-2) is on the road again this weekend, returning to Big Ten play for games at Wisconsin (1-8-1) at 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Take a break
Following the trip to Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions will have some time off to rest, take final exams and celebrate the holidays. After Saturday, they do not play again until Dec. 29 when they meet Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Classic at Pittsburgh’s Consol Energy Center.
After that, Penn State will finally return home to face Ohio State on Jan. 9, the first home game since Oct. 31.
After undergoing knee surgery last week, Gadowsky is using a cane to help him walk, with a design apropos for a hockey coach. It had a carved wood handle mounted on a hockey stick for a shaft.
Good news, bad news
Gadowsky said a pair of key forwards, Dylan Richard and David Glen, will return to the ice this weekend in Madison after missing time with injuries.
However, the team will still be missing Connor Varley, Eric Scheid and Jonathan Milley to unspecified injuries, plus Zach Saar. Saar has missed the entire season with offseason surgery.
The Flying Fin
Penn State will have freshman defenseman Erik Autio this weekend, but he may miss the team’s games in Pittsburgh.
Autio, a native of Finland, has been spending time with nation’s junior national team, and the World Championships are approaching. He will miss Finnish team practices in mid-December — when he will be taking final exams on campus — but will join them for practices in Canada just before Christmas. A few training sessions, and exhibition games, will follow before the team makes its final roster cuts.
The tournament begins Dec. 26, when Finland faces the U.S. in Montreal, and runs through Jan. 5 in Toronto and Montreal.
Remembering a legend
Gordie Howe, who was the NHL’s all-time goal-scorer until his records were broken by Wayne Gretzky, suffered his third stroke since October on Monday at his home in Texas. His daughter told the Associated Press that the 86-year-old Howe is stable and “a little bit alert.”
When he was young, Gadowsky saw the legend play, along with his two sons, for the New England Whalers in the old WHA in a game in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
“We were sitting in the corner, and there was a scuffle in the corner and the whistle blew, and all you saw was this butt end (of a stick) just slam the glass right by this guy’s chin,” Gadowsky recalled. “The whole place just sort of stopped, and then you saw Gordie just sort of peek over and look at everybody. I’ll never forget that.”