Hockey Preview: vs. Army

Derek Leung

Penn State Hockey hosts its first game in new Pegula Ice Arena, as a member of the Big Ten Hockey Conference.

It's here. On Friday night at 8pm, the puck will drop on Penn State's gorgeous Pegula Ice Arena, and Penn State will be playing Big Ten hockey, against the Black Knights of the Hudson. BTN will broadcast coverage live.

Way back in September 2010, the school announced its move into D-I, along with a cool $88M from the Pegula family. In April 2011, Penn State tabbed Guy Gadowsky to build the program, a coach who'd successfully rebuilt two hockey programs at previous stops. And last season, Penn State's first as a D-I (Independent) side, the Lions finished 13-14-0, with wins against new conference foes Ohio State, Michigan State, and Wisconsin (who made the NCAA tournament (16 teams)).

What will 2013 hold? No one thinks we'll finish higher than 6th in the Big Ten - out of six teams. Wisconsin is ranked 3rd in the nation. Minnesota is 5th. Michigan is 10th. And both Ohio State and Michigan State are found in the "others receiving votes" category. We'll be playing each of those five teams four times - two home, two away. That's 20 games against top 40 competition.

Oh, by the way - the rest of the schedule is ridiculous, too. Our non-conference slate includes Air Force, RIT, and Robert Morris, all of whom are pre-season top 40. Plus, we also get #16 Union, #4 Boston College, and to top things off, #1 UMass-Lowell. Out of 34 games on the schedule, Penn State will play 3 squads not in the pre-season top 40, and gets 18 games against the top 16.

True, there are only 59 squads in D-I hockey - but, dang. This is a lot different than scheduling tune-ups against Temple, and laughers against Coastal Carolina.

Meet Some Skaters

#25 Casey Bailey - Sophomore - Forward - he's last season's points leader, with 27 (14 goals, 13 assists)

#11 David Glen - Sophomore - Forward - Dave is your leading goals scorer, notching 16 last year, and an Assistant Captain. He's also pretty handy when you need to win a faceoff, and led the team in penalties and minutes.

#27 Max Gardiner - RS Junior - Forward - Max began his collegiate career at Minnesota before transferring. Last season he led the Lions in assists, with 19.

#28 Taylor Holstrom - RS Junior - Forward - Taylor's a little fast guy. He's a terrific pain in the ass if you're the opponent, and the dude has a knack for making plays. He led the team in game winning goals last season (3).

#5 Mark Yanis - Sophomore - Defenseman - Yanis only played in 15 games last season, but in the two I got to watch on BTN, he stood out. Look for the big dude wearing #5.

#2 Connor Varley - Sophomore - Defenseman - Varley's a smaller defenseman, but he skates well. I liked him, and I don't care what any of the rest of you think.

#24 Nate Jensen - RS Junior - Defenseman - Nate began at Mercyhurst, but came to Penn State in 2011, and played 33 games with our Icers. He's an Assistant Captain.

#14 Tommy Olczyk - Junior - Forward - Tommy's our Captain for a second year in a row. Tommy scored 3 goals in 26 games last year, and played 31 games with our Icers in 2011-2012.

#15 Curtis Loik - Sophomore - Forward - He's an all-around player. You'll like him.

#26 Mike Williamson - Freshman - Defenseman - MIke was drafted last year in the 6th round, #175 overall, by the Canucks. This is his first year in blue and white.

#3 Patrick Koudys - Junior - Defenseman - this will be Patrick's first year at Penn State. He was a 5th round selection of the Caps in the 2011 draft.

Goalies

#31 Matthew Skoff - Sophomore - Skoff's from McKees Rocks. He's wearing 31, which looks awesome on ice. Matthew had a pretty sweet 2.48 goals against average last season, finishing 9-8-0.

#1 PJ Musico - Junior - PJ finished with 3.22 gaa and a 4-6-0 record last season. He came to PSU in 2011 and posted a 14-1-1 record for the Icers. And, he does a nice job giving you a tour of Pegula.

#34 Eamon McAdam - Freshman - Eamon was selected in the 3rd round, 70th overall, of the NHL draft by the Islanders. He's from Perkaskie, and learned everything he knows from his pee-wee coach, BSD's own kmart.

Overall

The concensus outside opinion, as noted above, is that we'll finish last in the Big Ten. Don't be offened. The other 5 teams in the league bring 23 National Championships, 246 All-Americans, and 9 Hobey Baker Awards. There are 63 NHL players from those 5 skating in the big league right now. They're some of the biggest brands in college hockey, with Minnesota, Wisconin, Michigan State, and Michigan all in the top 10 for attendance. And we're in our second season of D-I (you might notice that none of the dudes listed above is a senior). So, it'll be a fun challenge.

Having said that, though, our guys are going to win some games. We have three very good goaltenders, we've added some size to the blue line with Kourys and Williamson (and Yanis is back), and we have a good mix of forwards. And, as Guy pointed out at Big Ten Hockey media days, "if we recruited you to come to Penn State, we believe you're someone hungry to accept the challenge. Guys that just want to show up and arrive at some place that's already established and ready to go, those aren't the type of players that we need." Coach wants tough guys. Fighters.* Guys who will skate to the whistle. You know - Penn State guys.

*Metaphorically speaking. You're screwed if you drop the gloves in college. So as much as we - Flyers, Pens, Caps, and Sabres fans - all love hockey fights, that's correctly not part of the college game. But, college hockey, in my opinion, is a lot more wild and open, end-to-end, too. It's good stuff.

The Opener, vs. Army

Penn State took out Army last season on the banks of the Hudson, 5-0, registering its first official NCAA shutout. PJ Musico stopped all 34 shots on goal, and the Lions chased Army goalie Rob Tadazak, after he let all 5 goals past on just 18 shots. Find the box score here, and Coach Gadowsky's post game comments here.

Tadazak is your likely goalie for Army - the only other two net minders on the current roster are both untested freshmen. Army is, like Penn State, a very young squad. The Black Knights have just two senior forwards, and zero senior defensemen (and none in any year with much size). #18 Mac Lalor, a junior defensemen, is your top returning points leader (6 G, 12 A). Sophomore winger Thane Heller is the top returning goal scorer, with 9.

Prediction

Oh, it'll be Penn State. It's Homecoming. It's the first game at Pegula. It's sold out. At the time this is being typed, there are 2 tickets on StubHub. The cheap one is $165. The student section should be nuts. And if you can't make it inside, be sure to put on BTN at 8pm, and then swing back here to BSD for the open thread.

Hockey, you guys. We have hockey.

This is gonna be fun.

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