Tommy Olczyk was arguably the most important person in Penn State’s program about a year ago. A starter nearly every night, Olczyk wore the ‘C’ on his jersey for the second straight year, and was a key team leader as the Nittany Lions entered their 102-million dollar haven donated by Terry Pegula.
A year later, Pegula Ice Arena doesn’t have the same captain, as Olczyk has since been succeeded in the role by defenseman Patrick Koudys. But Olczyk still remains a key cog in the surprisingly successful Lions’ season. He hasn’t played every game, but when he has, he’s come up with big plays time after time — most recently doubling Penn State’s lead in its 4-2 victory over Wisconsin on Saturday night, sealing the sweep for the lions.
Olczyk has seen the highs and lows for the Penn State program, and as a senior, he is one of three players who was around for all three of the Lions’ Division I seasons, as well as a season while they were still a club program.
He’s seen the progress over the years, seeing a team that went 8-26-2 a year ago, get off to a blazing 9-4-2 start this season.
The forward thinks that the progression is due to both the variety and quality of players that coach Guy Gadowsky has assembled over the past few years.
"It’s unbelievable," Olczyk said. "One of the biggest things about college hockey is experience. We have predominantly juniors and seniors on this team, and even our sophomores, guys like Ricky DeRosa and David Goodwin come to play every night. They do it a little differently, but they’re both game changers."
Along with Taylor Holstrom and Nate Jensen, Olczyk is leading the senior class in year two of Penn State Hockey in Pegula Ice Arena. As he mentioned, the team is heavy in juniors as well, and that has been paying off for the team.
"We have a real veteran presence in the locker room, and that experience is vital to what we do," he said.
Time for a Break
Going forward, the Lions will have a good bit of time off, as they won’t play again until December 29th, when they’ll take on Robert Morris at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
The team will be off entirely during finals week, and Olczyk said it’s going to be up to the guys to find their own best time and way to get on the ice and stay sharp.
"I think the onus for that is going to be more individually based than anything," Olczyk said.
Welcome to New York
It was announced this week that Penn State would be returning to Madison Square Garden in 2016, as part of a two-year series of "Big Ten Day," with the first year seeing Penn State and Michigan face off in both Basketball and Hockey in the same day.
For the announcement press conference, MSG and the Big Ten made former conference stars, and current New York Rangers Derek Stepan and Carl Hagelin available, and Gadowsky said that it’s awesome to see that guys in the conference can go on to that kind of success.
Gadowsky said that they’re "aware" of the success that guys like that have, but it certainly helps to see it every night.
Gadowsky offered a brief injury update on Wednesday’s media session, as the statuses of several key players was updated.
While the status of Luke Juha is uncertain at this point, Holstrom, Eric Scheid, and Taylor Holstrom are all expected to be back at 100% in time for the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh at the end of the month.
Freshman forward Scott Conway recently underwent a cleanup procedure on his knee, something that Gadowsky described as being "fortunate" that it happened before the team went into a break. The coach is uncertain on his status for the tournament, but assured that he was going to be "better" than he is doing now. The team is going to play Conway’s status by ear.