Casey Bailey made history when he scored the first goal in Penn State history on opening night against American International.
The winger had to make adjustments to his game as a freshman coming from the junior level where the game is a little different.
One of those adjustments was to reduce not just the number of hard hits, but scrums with a lot of pushing and shoving between whistles. In college hockey, fighting is not allowed. At the junior and professional levels, it is allowed and a huge part of the game.
“I think I was kind of the guy who stirred the pot,” Bailey said. “I wasn’t necessarily a tough guy, but I did rack up quite a few penalty minutes.”
Bailey described himself as a “chippy” player at the junior level. In his final year of juniors, he led his team with 83 penalty minutes.
Nittany Lions’ coach Guy Gadowsky said he knew that Bailey would grow out of taking penalties and use his 6-foot-3, 195-pound body to create offense even though he is naturally a physical player.
“He’s a very passionate, instinctual, offensive player, and that’s why he’s here,” Gadowsky said. “We expect him to be a big guy, but we don’t expect him to go and start fights. He is too good.”
Bailey did not just lead the Omaha Lancers in penalty minutes. He led in goals with 27 in the category last year. Despite some early success with the Lions, the Anchorage, Alaska native experienced a small drought, scoring only six goals in the first 17 games.
It looked like another freshman was going to be the Lions’ go-to goal scorer. Center David Glen led the team in goals during the first half of the season. Bailey’s emergence has added a silent competition that Glen said is good for the team.
Since the turn of the New Year, Bailey has shown he is more comfortable with the college game.
Once Bailey was put on a line with junior center Taylor Holstrom and sophomore winger Max Gardiner for the game against Ohio State on Dec. 29, Bailey’s numbers spiked. In the first game as a line, Bailey recorded four points with two goals and two assists in a 5-4 victory.
Since then, he has gotten at least one-point in all but one game including exhibition games where the statistics did not count towards the season’s final totals, against club team Ohio and the United States Under-18 National Development team.
He currently leads the team with 23 points off of his 12 goals and 11 assists in NCAA games.
“I think my line is really clicking right now,” Bailey said. “All three of us are going hard and I think when you have that, good things happen and you get rewarded.”
Adjustments to college hockey also included off-ice lifestyle changes as well. Time management and going to class along with practice and games was something he had to get used to.
On-ice adjustments were simpler. One was as simple as playing with a full facemask again, which Bailey said is hard to explain.
“When I was brought in here I knew I wanted to be one of those high-end scoring players,” Bailey said. “To be producing how I am feels good.”