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Penn State Set To Host Alaska-Fairbanks

The Nittany Lions will welcome coach Guy Gadowsky’s former team as they look to build on their opening weekend success.

Penn State Men's Hockey Head Coach Guy Gadowsky
Penn State Men’s Hockey Head Coach Guy Gadowsky
Heather Weikel/Black Shoe Diaries

Guy Gadowsky has made plenty of stops throughout his hockey career. He played four years at Colorado College, donned the maple leaf on his chest with the Canadian National Team and suited up for seven professional teams during his 12-year playing career.

One of the most important stops in his life was the first collegiate head coaching gig he landed at Alaska-Fairbanks. There wasn’t anything particularly special about how Gadowsky landed the job.

“There just happened to be an opening and I got a call saying they thought I might be a good fit,” he explained.

Though he was with the program for just five seasons, the university left an indelible mark on the coach beginning his eighth season behind the bench in Hockey Valley.

“My wife and I still have great friends from Fairbanks that were the result of such unbelievable support for the hockey team.”

It will be hard for Gadowsky to avoid feelings of nostalgia when his current and former squads clash this weekend. That nostalgia may be paired with sorrow at the uncertain future of the Alaska-Fairbanks and Alaska-Anchorage programs.

“Obviously, I’d really like to help if I could,” Gadowsky said of Alaska-Fairbanks’ precarious future. “I try to stay up on it, but I’m not so sure I have a role to make any significant difference.”

Gadowsky spoke with Nanooks’ coach Erik Largen prior to Monday’s press conference, and came away from the conversation more optimistic about the program’s future.

“I think it’s very important that we do what we can as a community of college hockey coaches, to make sure we do everything we can to retain those programs,” Gadowsky said.

Gadowsky will always have a soft spot for smaller programs like the one that gave him his start in college hockey. Gadowsky earned 68 of his 300 career victories in his five seasons with the Nannooks.

After winning just six games in his first season in The Last Frontier, Gadowsky led the Nanooks to a 22-12-3 record. That success in turning a program around — a feat he also accomplished at Princeton — certainly helped him secure his current role at Penn State. His success with the two programs isn’t the only similarity between the two stops.

“Obviously, the size of the schools are very different, but one thing that is very similar is the passion of the community and the support of the hockey teams,” Gadowsky said.

Gadowsky believes the atmosphere at Carlson Center would be familiar to those in Hockey Valley.

“I think Penn Staters would love the experience to go up there and see a game in a packed house. It’s a lot of fun. They would draw a lot of similarities with Pegula Ice Arena.”

Scouting Alaska-Fairbanks

The Nanooks are coming off a disappointing 2019-20 season in which they finished 12-21-3, falling to Northern Michigan in the opening round of the WCHA Tournament. Their 2019-20 campaign has gotten off to a more promising start.

After being swept in the opening weekend of the season by current No. 1 Denver, the Nanooks went into Houghton, MI and swept Michigan Tech with a pair of one-goal wins.

After riding the bench during an opening night loss to the Pioneers, Gustavs Grigals has been outstanding in goal for the Nanooks. In his three starts, he has a 1.69 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. He will face plenty of rubber against the Nittany Lions, who once again are near the top of the NCAA in shots following their opening weekend.