Usually Penn State men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky is tight-lipped when divulging his starting goaltender.
Not so Wednesday at the team’s first weekly media session.
As the team prepares for its season opener at Canisius, Gadowsky said Eamon McAdam will be the starter in goal when the puck drops at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s always nice to know a few days before,” McAdam said. “Get more of a preparation in and more visualize and all that stuff.”
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Gadowsky even gave the goalie schedule for next weekend, when the Nittany Lions host Notre Dame at Pegula Ice Arena. Senior Matthew Skoff will be in the net Oct. 16, and McAdam will be minding the net for the second game.
It has been quite the climb back for McAdam.
The junior arrived with huge expectations, both for outsiders on him and for McAdam on himself. He was a third-round draft pick by the New York Islanders, and had accumulated plenty of accolades through previous teams and leagues.
He struggled through his freshman season, however, playing in just 10 games and not winning any of them. He also had a penchant for giving up a goal on one of the first shots he faced. By the end of the season he had dropped to third on the three-goalie depth chart.
He admits he’s now “in a different place” than he was that season, and even last year.
“That whole potential thing was almost like a burden before,” McAdam said. “It was almost a heavy word, because it’s all I ever heard coming up. It’s become a lot lighter of a word, more of a fun word.”
He was humbled, and worked his way back up. He finally got into action in the ninth game of last season, then started the 10th, a win over then-No. 4 Massachusetts-Lowell. He still had his inconsistencies through the season, but he showed progress.
Gadowsky can definitely see a change now that a new season is arriving.
“The aspect that gets me more excited than anything,” Gadowsky said, “…his mental approach to the game and the way he conducts himself has been awesome. I think he’s grown a great deal from his first year. I think he went through some adversity last year and went through it terrifically.”
The coach also pointed out the goalie started fall practices as one of the best-conditioned players on the roster.
“The way he carries himself, the way he practices, I certainly know the way he trains,” Gadowsky said. “… We don’t necessarily see it in the summer with him, but we certainly saw the results. He came back in tremendous shape.”
Gadowsky also knows the lofty expectations that weighed on McAdam, and talked Wednesday about how proud he was getting to this point after the last two years.
“Often it’s unfair,” Gadowsky said. “It takes a while to get used to, it takes a while to overcome.”
Both McAdam and Skoff have been mentoring the team’s third goalie this fall. Chris Funkey figures to be third on the depth chart for a while behind the two experienced netminders, and it will give him plenty of time to learn.
McAdam can provide a unique perspective to the position, beyond merely stopping pucks.
“There’s a lot of mental things that go on as a goalie,” McAdam said. “I think that’s a lot of it. That’s one of the biggest things I’ll be able to pass along to him, that there’s certain ways that you can look at things in a college season as a goalie, there are better ways of handling things, and worse ways of handling things.”
The Nittany Lions do not play in the newest hockey rink funded by Terry and Kim Pegula. The couple, whose $102 million in donations made the program a possibility in Division I and helped open the arena that bears their name in 2013, have since made a huge investment in the city of Buffalo. They own both the Buffalo Bills and Sabres, and have constructed a huge hotel and restaurant complex downtown, the Harborcenter, which includes two ice rinks.
The building, across the street from the Sabres’ home rink, is where the team holds daily practices and also is the home for Canisius. The $172 million facility has 1,800 seats and opened last year.
“It’s going to be nice to see,” Gadowsky said. “It’s a cool thing about this game. Obviously we were both the beneficiary of great people, Terry and Kim. It makes sense, and it’s going to be interesting to see the similarities too.”
• Gadowsky had no updates on Eric Scheid and Zach Saar, each of whom sustained preseason injuries. Both figure to be out a while.
• Both Scheid and Saar were in the lineup most of the last two seasons, but with them missing, Gadowsky had six of the team’s eight freshmen in the lineup for last Sunday’s scrimmage against Windsor. Four freshman forwards saw ice time, and Gadowsky said it just worked out that way that they were each on different lines. New defensemen Vince Pedrie and Kevin Kerr also hit the ice in different pairings.
“I was a little nervous before the game,” Pedrie said. “But as soon as I stepped on the ice I felt at home. I’m hoping it’s the same way on Saturday. I felt comfortable last weekend.”