Editors note: The Penn State men’s ice hockey team just finished their final year competing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association at the club level. Guy Gadowsky was hired one year ago today to bring the Nittany Lions along their journey to become an NCAA Division I program. Next year, Penn State will be classified as an independent Division I team, playing a mixed schedule, before joining the Big Ten Hockey Conference in 2013-14. Coach Gadowsky gave Lions247 some time to pick his brain on all things Penn State hockey.
Photo courtesy of Penn State Athletic Communications.
How do you reflect upon the previous season, finishing 29-4-1 before bowing out in the semifinals of the ACHA national tournament?
Guy Gadowsky: With disappointment. We had a very good team, but I feel very good about the environment at least where we are headed. You see it in all types of sport, anything can happen in one game, so certainly there were mistakes made in our final game of the year that cost us moving forward. I give Oakland full credit because they played a great game, but overall I'd say it was a successful year.
Texas Lion: How have the guys responded to the loss?
Guy Gadowsky: Some of the most spirited workouts we’ve had have been recent ones, and I’ve been getting the guys to realize that is going to take a lot more work. No one is naive at the level of a jump in competition we are going to be facing next season. Everyone is very excited about that challenge.
Moving forward, what are the plans for the rest of the semester and over the summer?
Guy Gadowsky: We have been working out here until schools ends and workouts will continue over the summer, whether on campus or on their own time. That is one of the areas where we need to make a jump. The strength and conditioning of players coming in next season will be huge and I think a lot of that has to do with individual responsibility during the summer months.
Derock63: What is the logic in terms of scholarship breakdown for the next couple of years?
Guy Gadowsky: You can’t go out and spend 18 scholarships in one class, that isn’t taking care of the program. We have to gradually move a long, and until we have four full recruiting classes under our belt we won’t be able to see how things are going. It is certainly a process, and when we get to the Big Ten, they certainly are the best college hockey programs in the nation. They have tons of tradition and success that they can draw from and we are the new guys on the block, so it is going to take a couple of years to see where we stack up – but that is part of the fun of it.
Solo: Sticking with recruiting, where do you scout in terms of leagues and geography and will that change in any way as the program becomes more established?
Guy Gadowsky: We are going to go anywhere we feel there is a great student-athlete that will help our program. One of the great things about Pegula Ice Arena is that is will greatly increase the quality of local hockey in this area, and we feel strongly that the Mid-America district as well as the Atlantic district have good talent. There are very good hockey players in this footprint and we will always target those guys to keep the very best hockey players close to home. But we will also at the same time, you certainly can’t fill an entire roster like that, we will go anywhere we can when we hear of guys who fit the style of play we have.
Do you know when the schedule will be released?
Guy Gadowsky: We can only release it when all of the contracts are back, so right now there isn’t anything we can talk about regarding next year’s schedule, and there isn’t a timetable I can give you on when it will be out.
For those who haven’t followed the hockey program closely, what can Penn State fans expect from the team this upcoming season?
Guy Gadowsky: I think our style is fun to watch, and we put our players on a platform to show what they can do. We understand the step we are making, but we aren’t going to be intimidated and slow things down. As the years go by and we get more recruiting classes under our belt and the overall skill level increases, you’re going to see a very high-paced, high-tempo hockey team that is fun to watch.
psuproud: What is the timeline for this team to be competing with the top level teams in college hockey?
Guy Gadowsky: I think next season will be very interesting, because I don’t think anyone knows how it will play out. We are going to continue the philosophy of laying the best foundation that we can, because that is extremely important and our number one priority. I think it was huge to get our staff here and acclimated this season because I think we are ahead of the game now. However, we only have one year as a Division I independent before hitting the Big Ten season so as a staff we will continue to move forward and progress.