Ten years ago, Penn State was the new kid on the block in college hockey. To this day, coach Guy Gadowsky expresses nothing but appreciation for the teams who were willing to reserve even the smallest portion of their schedule to the Nittany Lions.
They’ve since done their part to return the favor, welcoming series against Arizona State as they were building their program and sort of welcoming the independent Sun Devils into the Big Ten for last season’s shortened schedule.
Now, as they begin their 10th season of Division-I play, the Nittany Lions will once again take their chance to return the favor, welcoming second-year program Long Island University for the 2021-22 season opener.
“We’re proud to play Long Island,” Gadowsky said. “We almost feel it’s part of our duty in a sense.”
The series marks a step toward the return to normalcy for the Nittany Lions. Gadowsky admitted to having difficulties in preparation and communication with the team in a condensed and compressed 2020-21 season.
Building the team culture that has been so important to Gadowsky requires connection among the coaching staff and players, something that was difficult to accomplish via Zoom calls and practices divided into multiple groups.
“First half of the year, I didn’t get to know any of the freshmen. Like, I barely knew their names,” captain Paul DeNaples said. “The only time I’ve ever seen them it was like on a phone call or FaceTime.”
Scouting Long Island
As an independent program last season, the Sharks played a 13-game schedule against Atlantic Hockey Association opponents and posting a 3-10-0 record.
Though the Sharks averaged just under two goals per game in those contests, they do return eight of their top 10 scorers from their first season of competition. Zackary Bross paced the Sharks with four goals in 11 games, while Nolan Welsh led the team with seven points.
The Sharks return just one goaltender who saw action with the Sharks last season. Vincent Purpura appeared in six games, posting a 1-2-0 record. Purpura will be pushed for playing time by a pair of Alaska-Anchorage transfers, Kris Carlson and Brandon Perrone. Neither has played since the 2019-20 season, however, as the Seawolves elected not to compete during the 2020-21 season.