Though it had been a little over three months since the Penn State hockey program picked up a verbal commitment, head coach Guy Gadowsky received two in the span of eight days, landing 2015 forwards Conor Garland and A.J. Greer.
Garland scored 94 points last year.
In 2011-12, Garland, the Scituate (Mass.) native, played in the Empire Junior Hockey League with the Junior Bruins, and finished third in scoring with 94 points in just 40 games - a 2.35 point-per-game clip.
“I actually went way beyond my personal goals for last year,” admitted Garland. “I went in there hoping to have a good season, but having a 94-point season was never in my mind. As a team we didn’t really reach our goal of winning the championship, but it was a good year overall.”
After the successful campaign, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound winger was drafted in the third round of the USHL Futures Draft by the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
“I went out to the tryout camp earlier this summer not really expecting anything,” explained Garland. “After the camp head Coach McKenzie told me they wanted to have me there on the roster in the fall for the start of the season.
“I’ll be out there for three years, obviously I don’t expect to have the same type of scoring total this season as I did last year, it just isn’t realistic, so hopefully I can help the team make the playoffs and go from there.”
After the initial interest from Penn State earlier in the year, Garland had some contact with the coaching staff before traveling to State College for a visit this summer. The 16-year-old sophomore and his father were wowed as they drove in from the airport.
“Campus is pretty unbelievable, seeing Beaver Stadium when we were pulling out of the airport was pretty crazy,” said Garland. “They took us around campus and saw the basketball center, all the different facilities they have for sports, and then obviously the hockey rink is going to be state of the art.”
Garland, who had offers from every school in Hockey East in addition to a number of ECAC schools, said Penn State was about the 15th different campus he visited, standing out from the rest.
Greer will be playing the next three years at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire.
With three years to go before he steps on campus in the fall of 2015, Garland spoke to his game and singled out areas of improvement.
“I’m on the smaller side, so I’m a skilled player, offensive-minded, a point getter and my coach has said when I’m in tight its usually a goal - I always find a way to put it in the net,” said Garland. “I’m looking to become as well-rounded as possible, definitely get bigger and hopefully grow a bit so when I get to Penn State I’ll be ready to step right in and contribute.”
With all of the visits and recruitment process over, Garland is looking forward to enjoying his time in the USHL, and honing his craft to be ready for NCAA hockey.
“It definitely felt good, and not to commit to just and Division I school, but a school like Penn State, it felt awesome because that place is going to be unreal.”
For Greer, he hadn’t been in touch with Penn State for more than a few weeks before pulling the trigger. Assistant coach Matt Lindsay approached Greer’s coach and asked him to come down for a visit after scouting the Canadian throughout last season.
“The visit was was just amazing, one thing that made me decide on Penn State was every person in the streets had smiles on their faces, they all were happy to be there,” said Greer. “Another thing I noticed was the campus and buildings were so clean, there weren’t any wrappers on the floor, the community was there to help and they cared about the school.”
While in State College the second-year coaching staff made their plans for the program clear to the 15-year-old.
“They explained to me how they were restructuring the hockey program, how they’re going to make me a good person in addition to teaching me hockey,” praised Greer. “They showed a lot of interest in me, and everyone I’ve talked to about them have said they’re nothing but gentlemen.
“Coach Gadowsky talked about the Big Ten, it is going to be one of the prestigious leagues in college hockey. He was very straightforward about everything.”
At 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, Greer considers himself a power forward who can score, and a player who shows up when it matters - scoring five points in the final three games last season for Collège Esther-Blondin in the Quebec Midget AAA league.
The Montreal native will be playing the next three years at Kimball Union Academy in New Hampshire before enrolling at Penn State in the fall of 2015. Greer said he was told he would be a first or second round pick had he wanted to take the Canadian Major Junior route before he declared for prep school.
Providence, St. Lawrence, Clarkson and Boston University had all shown interest but Penn State was the first school Greer visited.
“Penn State brings all the needs for my future life, and it also meets the needs for how I want to advance my hockey career,” said Greer, whose first language is actually French. “My dad always said throughout this process ‘when you invite the prettiest girl to the dance, you don’t look anywhere else,’ and after visiting Penn State I felt that was the case.”
Greer already has some Pennsylvania ties, growing up a Philadelphia Flyers fan - “I don’t know why, the Flyers have always been a big team I liked” - the power forward is looking to do everything he can at prep school to prepare him for Division I hockey.
“Its just stress off my shoulders, practically seven years of my life are now guaranteed. Some people commit and don’t work hard, but I’m the total opposite of that. I’m going to train hard on and off the ice so when I get to Penn State I can light it up.”