Gadowsky looks for stronger second season

UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State men’s ice hockey coach Guy Gadowsky reminisced about the season just completed, his team’s second season of Divison I play and its first in the Big Ten Conference.

The Nittany Lions posted an 8-26-2 mark, including a 3-16-1 record in the Big Ten.

The Nittany Lions moved into Pegula Ice Arena, a new, on-campus facility for this season and have enjoyed playing there against Big Ten competition.

Penn State Coach Guy Gadowsky’s favorite moment from the inaugural season in the new building was probably on opening night, he said at a season-ending press conference Tuesday.

“It was everything I expected,” Gadowsky said. “I think my favorite moment. Just walking out into the rink and seeing the student section. It’s something I was looking forward to for four years.

“We love Pegula Ice Arena – it’s fantastic,” he continued. “I can’t complain one bit about this arena.”

His team responded to the energy of the new arena and the start of a new season and defeated Army 4-1 to open the home season.

With Penn State moving to the Big Ten and opening the new arena, it sometimes detracted from the task at hand: winning games.

“There were a lot of things going on other than hockey,” Gadowsky said. “There were a lot of different things going that could easily take our focus off the ice. Were actually looking forward to focusing on just hockey right from the start (next year), where we don’t have other things that are diverting our attention.”

Junior forward Tommy Olczyk agreed with his coach’s sentiments.

“I guess the way you look at it now, the firsts are over,” Olczyk said “I think it obviously leads to a lot of experience. You look at our roster next year, there are a lot of juniors and seniors. Moving forward, the experience is invaluable.”

The coach is somewhat relieved to be past a season of firsts and focus more in the future on continuing to build the foundation, which Gadowsky says is not a finished product.

“It’s still important that we keep building a foundation,” Gadowsky said. “There are still a few things that we haven’t done yet. There are still a lot of things that we have to work on. We can certainly a lot of areas that we can refine.”

The team will return a bulk of the team and 100 percent of its offensive players along with goaltender Matt Skoff, who took over in net midway through the season and was responsible for all of Penn State’s wins.

“Nothing was given,” Gadowsky said. “By no means, when he came in, no one assumed that Matt Skoff was going to take the No. 1 reigns. I think it’s important to make the point that nothing was given to him. He had to earn it all.”

Penn State, led by Skoff, was playing its best toward the end of the season and advanced to the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament, where the Lions fell to Wisconsin 2-1.

“I think he does it every year,” Olczyk said. “He plays his best hockey at the end of the year. The past few years, you’ve seen him at the end of the year, how great a competitor he is. He’s a guy you can count on. He plays his best at the end of the year and that’s important.”

The late-season play gives the team hope to build for next season and improve in the win column.

“We will have higher expectations as far as results,” Gadowsky said. “I think that’s fair. Being the second-year, I am thrilled. I’m very happy with where we are in the program. I think we have tremendous people as student-athletes and staff.”

The only game set in stone for the team’s 2014-15 schedule aside from the Big Ten schedule is a game with Cornell.

Gadowsky said that the program will continue to schedule tough teams in order to gain experience.

He also hopes to schedule games in Pittsburgh at the Consol Energy Center and Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center, both areas where the school has a huge alumni base.