Alex Limoges — who learned to skate when he learned to walk and played on a hockey team when he was 4 years old — has always been immersed in hockey.
Growing up in Texas and northern Virginia, Limoges wasn’t exactly playing the popular sport. However, his father, who grew up near Montreal, Canada, and played professionally in Europe, made sure hockey was a possibility.
“It’s kind of always been in the background,” Limoges said. “He’s watching a game on TV, or listening to the radio in French, where I pick up things. It’s just always hockey. I never really had an option, but I’m glad I chose hockey.”
So are the Nittany Lions. Limoges’ interesting road led him to Penn State, where the freshman winger has three goals and nine assists heading into the No. 14 Nittany Lions’ weekend series at No. 18 Wisconsin.
When Penn State announced it was adding a Division I hockey program in 2011, Limoges was still in middle school and not yet contemplating a college future. He busy at the local roller hockey rink — the only place in his hometown of Winchester, Va., to skate.
But there was definitely an appeal to Penn State. It was the closest Division I program, about three hours from Winchester.
Nittany Lions coach Guy Gadowsky has picked up several players from areas that might be considered non-traditional for hockey, including natives of Las Vegas, Dallas and southern California. Gadowsky said he might have been skeptical eight or 10 years ago about someone from those places having enough breadth of hockey knowledge, but not anymore.
“In the past I think we probably addressed that situation more,” Gadowsky said. “What’s happened, because of the success of USA Hockey … has a lot to do with generating, developing players in those markets. Now I think it’s part of the norm (and) now we don’t look at it that way. We might have eight years ago.”
Limoges did play occasionally on that roller rink in Winchester to stay sharp with his hands and keep his legs in shape. He also put in plenty of time perfecting his shot in the unfinished basement of the family house.
“We have a net and a marked-up wall,” he said. “Not many broken windows, surprisingly.”
He still calls his dad the most important coach he’s had, and they talk or text regularly for advice. But he’s adding to his learning process at Penn State by staying late at practice to shoot extra, and going to goalie sessions and getting pointers from them.
“Limo’s a super-smart player,” junior forward Chase Berger said. “He’s been really good on pucks, battles really hard. So it’s good to have a guy like that … bringing the same game, bringing energy, and you know what you’re going to get out of him at both ends of the ice.”
Gadowsky hopes to see a little more consistency from Limoges. But he has seen the freshman’s confidence grow and believes Limoges “will be a go-to guy in all situations.”
Limoges is just happy the time and extra effort just to get on the ice has paid off.
“It’s all about the team first,” he said. “I’ve just got to win my battles and do the little things on the ice, and I’ll get rewarded by goals when I’m in the right place at the right time.”
Who: No. 14 Penn State (13-10-3, 6-7-3-2) at No. 18 Wisconsin (12-12-3, 6-8-2)
Where: Kohl Center
When: 9 p.m. Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday
TV: BTN (Friday)
Radio: WAPY 103.1
Leading scorers: PSU — Andrew Sturtz (11 goals, 19 assists), Brandon Biro (5 G, 18 A), Trevor Hamilton (4 G, 18 A), Nate Sucese (11 G, 10 A), Chase Berger (7 G, 13 A). UW — Ryan Wagner (9 G, 13 A), Wyatt Kalnuk (2 G, 18 A), Trent Frederic (11 G, 8 A), Tarek Baker (10 G, 8 A).