Hard work and patience was rewarded for PJ Musico on Friday.
The Penn State senior was named the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award winner as college hockey celebrates the Frozen Four at TD Bank Garden.
Musico is the first goalie to win the award and the first player from a Big Ten program to be honored by the Hockey Commissioners Association, which is made up of representatives from each of Division I hockey’s conferences, since it was first given out in 2007.
The award is named in honor of Derek Hines, a forward at Army who graduated in 2003 and was killed in action in Afghanistan on Sept. 1, 2005.
The award “recognizes a fearless leader and beloved fan favorite who always places his team ﬁrst. Displaying exemplary sportsmanship, he’s supremely competitive, intelligent and extraordinarily conditioned with an unmatched work ethic. The contributions of this individual, on and off the ice, cannot be measured by statistics alone.”
“I couldn’t be more honored to have been selected as the recipient of the Derek Hines Unsung Hero Award,” Musico said. “I have always taken an amazing amount of pride in the qualities that he represented. Leadership, character and selflessness are only a few of the characteristics that Derek stood for. These qualities are what I aim to exhibit on a daily basis, not only in athletics, but my career and life in general.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to receive this award in Derek’s name. I plan on continuing to follow his example in all that he represented. I have a massive amount of respect for Derek and his family: A sincere thank you goes to Derek and the Hines Family for everything they have done. Lastly, thank you to Penn State University, my teammates, coaches, and parents for the incredible guidance and inspiration throughout my career in college hockey.”
Musico, who started his career with the Icers club program, began this past season third on the Nittany Lions’ depth chart and did not step onto the ice for game action until the season’s 17th game. But Musico remained upbeat all season, eventually making appearances in relief during four straight three-goal deficits. He finally earned his first start in Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 31 in a victory over Vermont.
He took over as the No. 1 goaltender, anchoring a sweep of Wisconsin and helping the Nittany Lions stay in the hunt for the Big Ten regular-season title, and later adding wins against Michigan and Minnesota. His play helped spark the program to a record of 18-15-4.
The All-Big Ten honorable mention selection set career-highs with 310 saves, a .909 save percentage, a 3.05 goals-against average and six wins. He finished with a 6-5-1 record.
“Penn State hockey is so proud of PJ,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “What a great accolade for a great guy. I love seeing perseverance and a great attitude get rewarded.”