As recently as two years ago, ice hockey at Penn State existed only as a club team with a first-year head coach, a medley of unheralded players and a decrepit ice arena.
Today, Penn State is entering their second season as a Division I program. Coach Guy Gadowsky is entering his third season. Multiple players are highly heralded, and some have even been drafted by NHL clubs.
And the team is less than a month away from their first game in the brand new, $90 million Pegula Ice Arena on University Drive.
But the team is looking to remain grounded and keep its focus on winning games amid all the excitement and all of the brightness of the future.
“Even with all this excitement, we haven’t accomplished anything yet,” junior defenseman Nate Jensen said. “We have to go into the rink everyday, the gym, and work hard and be ready for that first game, because you have to win games to get support too.”
Those games, especially early in the schedule, will be big tests for the Lions.
After opening the season at home against the Black Knights, the Lions will also play a notable early season series at home against powerhouse UMass Lowell, and a equally important road match-up in Madison against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.
Of those now-heralded players on the team’s roster, one of them is Eamon McAdam, a freshman goalkeeper who was drafted by the New York Islanders in the third round of the 2013 NHL draft.
At Tuesday’s student ticket sale, McAdam was another member of the team who knew that there was more down the road than just opening the new stadium.
“There’s a lot of good teams, and we know we’re going to have to come out every day and really, really compete to be in games and win games,” the Perkasie, Pa. native said. “That’s going to keep us levelheaded.”
As the season approaches and the bright lights of a brand new arena shine, however, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to be unaffected, Gadowsky said.
“This week it’s [going to be] pretty tough because [the team] just moved into the building yesterday,” the coach said at Tuesday’s sale. “And then to come here today and see the excitement that’s going on, it’s tough to stay grounded right now.”
The coach, along with the players, staff and fans are sure to be sharing at least one more feeling as well.
“This is the first season of the Big Ten and it’s starting to get a little tingly,” Gadowsky said.
Evan Romano can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter @EvanRomano.