More than 20 years ago, a Penn State hockey player stormed up to the eighth floor of Beaver Terrace. He was faking an injury from an object that was launched from the balcony above him as part of a prank.
He entered the room and released his phony aggression by tackling unsuspecting defenseman Josh Brandwene. He fell for it and had no idea the entire event was a hoax played on him by his teammates.
Former teammate Rich Filar said Brandwene was concerned with the ordeal before learning of the joke.
“We played plenty of pranks on him,” Rich Filar said. “He was easily had.”
Back then, from 1987-91, Brandwene was a member of the Penn State Icers. Twenty years later, in June 2011, it was announced he would return to guide the Penn State women’s hockey team in its first year of Division I competition in the College Hockey America conference.
Brandwene said the decision to come back was based upon his love for the university and his experience as a Penn State student-athlete.
“This job was a perfect fit for me in every way,” Brandwene said. “I learned so much and really became the person that I am today here. To have an opportunity to give back to this community and this athletic program in this way is just a special opportunity.”
During his 1990- 1991 senior season, Brandwene acted as one of three captains for the Icers. He became the first Icer to be named league MVP and broke the team’s career record for most points tallied by a defenseman. In fact, he took the record away from his former coach, Joe Battista, who is now an assistant athletic director of ice hockey and arena development at Penn State.
Filar, who played with Brandwene for three years, said Brandwene was a consistent player who played both ends of the ice and was trustworthy.
“He was a leader and he had a passion and the desire to do as best as he could in everything that he approached,” Filar said. “Absolutely, he’ll thrive in that [coaching] role.”
Filar even plans on “coordinating” his schedule appropriately to support his former teammate.
Brandwene acknowledges that the sport of hockey has changed since he was playing it back at Penn State.
“Obviously any sport is going to evolve and change over a multi-decade period,” Brandwene said. “There’s such a premium on skill and speed and it really makes it fun to be involved in the game of hockey these days.”
Penn State assistant coach Gina Kearns said Brandwene’s coaching style, much like hers, is all about positivity. Kearns said Brandwene is upbeat and even takes the positives out of situations in which the team did not play its best.
Brandwene said that his education from the kinesiology department coupled with his past coaching experience at summer camps at Penn State has allowed him to hit the ground running.
Kearns, who graduated from Boston University in 2009 as the team’s all-time leading scorer, said she thinks that Brandwene was the right guy to bring in to fill the head coaching position because of what he adds to the program.
“His passion for game, his passion for this school, his passion for just the community is unmatched,” Kearns said.
“He loves this team. He loves Penn State hockey.”