While Guy Gadowsky has done an impressive job building the Penn State men’s hockey program, turning it into a contender in just its fourth season of Division I play, this isn’t his first turn at growing a program.
Before he took over the Nittany Lions, he was at Princeton, a school with a lot of hockey history, but not much of note before he got there.
For the first time since he left the Tigers to help get the Nittany Lions off the ground, Gadowsky meets his old program at 7 p.m. Friday at Pegula Ice Arena.
To say Princeton (4-8) has a rich history in hockey may be an understatement. It is where the legend of Hobey Baker started, eventually being memorialized in the name of their home building and in the trophy given annually to the nation’s best college hockey player.
But in the five seasons before Gadowsky’s arrival at the school, the Tigers never won more than 11 games, and had just five wins in the season before he was hired. In seven seasons at the helm, the last five years they were better than 11 wins and twice had more than 20 victories and NCAA tournament appearances.
Helping out those seasons were assistant coaches Matt Lindsay and Keith Fisher, who moved to State College with Gadowsky.
“Obviously we have a ton of great memories there,” Gadowsky said. “We are very proud to be a part of what went on at Princeton.”
There are still many in the athletic department with whom Gadowsky is close, and there are many current Tigers who were initially recruited by Gadowsky, Fisher and Lindsay.
But the coach also downplays the significance of Friday’s game.
Penn State (10-2-3) is unbeaten in its last eight games, has risen to No. 16 in the U.S. College Hockey Online poll and No. 12 in the Pairwise ratings. With 16 days off after Friday’s game, the Nittany Lions would rather not be stewing over a loss over the holidays.
“We recognize it is a big game for us,” senior captain David Glen said. “We can’t look past that. As much as we are looking forward to the Christmas break, for sure, with our families, that sort of thing, (we have to) take it one game at a time.”
They also know it’s a win they need to get to pad their resume if they are contending for a postseason berth when March rolls around. While the record may not be impressive, the Tigers enter the game on a two-game win streak and winners of three of their last five.
“This is a really important game for us, I don’t care who we’re playing,” Gadowsky said. “This is all about just us playing the best game that we can. They happen to be the opponent.”
Statistically, Penn State has a lot of numbers in its favor, with more goals scored per game, fewer allowed per game and a better power play unit, but the Nittany Lions can assume nothing Friday.
It also is the second reunion game for Gadowsky. He also spent five years at Alaska before he went to Princeton, and he took the Lions there last season.
“I don’t think we’ll have feelings,” Gadowsky said. “Our staff has very strong feelings about Princeton in general and it doesn’t change, it won’t change Friday, but we have work to do this week. This is an important game for us to end up the first half. We feel we’ve had a pretty good start (and) it’s important that we end up this first half well.”
Men’s ice hockey
Who: Princeton (4-8) at No. 16 Penn State (10-2-3)
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: Pegula Ice Arena
Radio: WRSC 103.1