It was a long time coming for Eamon McAdam.
He had been close several times, but the Penn State junior earned his first collegiate shutout Sunday in a 4-0 win over Vermont.
Making the moment even more special was having the game in front of 9,213 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. The native of Perkasie, in Philly’s northern suburbs, had about a dozen or so in his personal rooting section.
“I had a bunch of family there,” McAdam said Wednesday at the Nittany Lion hockey team’s weekly media session. “It was cool that I could have a performance like that in front of my family and friends.”
The junior made 30 saves for the victory, the first shutout for the team since Feb. 8, 2014, when Matthew Skoff helped the Lions stop Michigan 4-0.
Growing up a Flyers fan, putting on such a performance in front of the net where so many other greats have shined, added to the special experience.
“Before the game it was a little bit humbling,” McAdam said. “I’ve played there a few times. I grew up literally watching hundreds of games there. I’ve seen a lot of cool things happen in that rink. I always dreamed of playing there even when I was a kid.”
Before the game it was a little bit humbling. I’ve played there a few times. I grew up literally watching hundreds of games there. I’ve seen a lot of cool things happen in that rink. I always dreamed of playing there even when I was a kid.
Eamon McAdam, earning his first college shutout in Philadelphia
He also was trying not to watch the clock in the third period, knowing he was working on the shutout. The Catamounts had a number of solid chances in the period, and the junior was put to the test.
“You always want to get your first shutout,” McAdam said. “It took me a few years. But in a game like that, you almost don’t want to look at the clock, you don’t want to be counting down the seconds because that’s almost counteractive for you.”
McAdam earned the No. 1 star of the Week from the Big Ten for its weekly three stars awards, but it also was the latest in a string of impressive performances by both the Nittany Lion goalies and the defense in front of them. McAdam and Skoff combined to give up eight goals over six games in the month of November. They also have combined for 117 minutes, 37 seconds of shutout play, stopping the last 50 shots they have faced.
The team has been working with a two-goalie system this season, with Skoff and McAdam alternating each start, and coach Guy Gadowsky has no plans to change that system.
“If this month is any indication, it’s working very, very well,” Gadowsky said. “Right now, if it’s not broken, we’re not going to fix it.”
Not so Big Ten
No. 19 Penn State (8-2-3), off to its best start as a program, begins Big Ten play this weekend, hosting Michigan State (4-7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday.
While the Nittany Lions have been rolling, much of the rest of the Big Ten is not. No. 12 Michigan (7-2-2) is the only other conference team in the rankings, and the only other team with a winning record.
Does the lack of success for the conference surprise Gadowsky?
“If you look at the players we have coming into the Big Ten? Yes,” he said. “If you look at the players that have left the Big Ten early? No. It’s a little bit of the nature of college hockey right now that when you get a lot of these higher profile student athletes a lot of the Big Ten schools have been getting, they leave early.”
In the Pairwise rankings, which are used to assist slotting the 16-team field for the NCAA Championships come March, the Wolverines (12) and Nittany Lions (18) are in good shape, while Minnesota (37), Wisconsin (38), Michigan State (tie-42) and Ohio State (49) are far behind.
A very hot topic in the college hockey world is the age of the players on the ice. Unlike pretty much every other college sport, with athletes enrolling right after graduating high school, hockey players can play several years in the junior leagues.
Right now, hockey players can enroll as late as age 21, but the Big Ten has proposed to the NCAA to dial that back one year, or someone can still enroll at 21 but lose a year of eligibility. The Big Ten’s six hockey-playing programs support the legislation, which is set for a vote in April, unanimously. However, most of the rest of Division I is against the measure. According to a memo obtained by College Hockey News, a straw poll had Division I coaches 49-11 against the measure.
The claim is the smaller programs would lose more ground to the deeper pockets and many other recruiting advantages of the Big Ten. But there also is an interest in drawing in more major colleges to the hockey world.
“I think it’s very important that we do what we can to grow the game for the good of the game,” Gadowsky said. “I think this is something that will help.”
Rosters in hockey definitey skew older. On Penn State’s roster, only four players are younger than 21, including the freshmen, and some are as old as 24 or 25.
Having a major impact on this discussion — on both sides of the argument — is the fact that the Big Ten is involved. Because it is a major all-sports conference, the Big Ten can propose legislation directly and has a major voice, something none of the other hockey conferences, like the WCHA and Hockey East, have.
Before the Big Ten added hockey three years ago, the sport did not have an influential voice in NCAA legislation.
“I’m hopeful that now with the Big Ten, and this is really our first opportunity doing this and learning the timelines and what happens,” Gadowsky said, “this is a good experience that will be used for the benefit for all college hockey in the future.”