Penn State Hockey

Penn State men’s hockey: Nittany Lions picked to finish sixth in Big Ten Conference

With the men’s ice hockey season a mere 2½ weeks away, Penn State is eager to get back on the ice and show the rest of the Big Ten what it can do this season.

The conference held its annual media day Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena, and those who cover the Big Ten wanted to know how much closer the Nittany Lions will be to the other five teams in the league who have much more established programs.

“We’ll see this year,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I think that’s something that we’ll see. I can’t answer that yet. I hope that you will see it a lot closer this year, but that still remains to be seen. We want to get better, we’re improving, but so is every other program. We all have the same goal, to get better. As we improve, so will other programs, but I hope it’s going to be a lot closer than it was last year.”

In a vote of the coaches, Minnesota was selected as the preseason favorite. Penn State, which finished 8-26-2 last season and 3-16-1 in the Big Ten, finished sixth in the balloting.

A 16-man list of Players to Watch also was chosen, with defenseman Luke Juha the Nittany Lions’ representative.

In 26 games last season, Juha led the conference’s defensemen with four power play goals, and he tied for the team lead with eight points with a man advantage. He finished the season with four goals, 11 assists and 15 points – all career highs.

Penn State opens its season Oct. 10, hosting Connecticut at Pegula Ice Arena. The arena’s 960-seat student section was sold out in just three minutes earlier this month, 95 percent of last year’s season-ticket holders renewed their seats and ann available season tickets were sold out. Just a scattering of single tickets and standing-room-only passes are available for games this season.

Gadowsky confirmed Wednesday that his program is turning a profit for the university’s athletic department, and he is happy for the sustained enthusiasm for hockey on campus and in the region.

“I think the guys have done a great job, but really the credit goes to Penn State University,” the coach said. “The student body, they’re very excited to support anything, and they love hockey. So that hasn’t been a tough job. It’s just happened naturally.”