No. 1 Ranking Just the Beginning for Nittany Lions
In the early days of Pegula Ice Arena, the Penn State men’s ice hockey team held an open midnight practice in their home rink.
The event drew a good-sized crowd, and head coach Guy Gadowsky skated toward the student section, where the fans had gathered. Gadowsky thanked everyone for coming out, and then the team went through some drills as folks snapped photos and nibbled on the first offering of hockey inside the state-of-the-art arena.
Sure, it was just a glimpse, but standing inside the building that night, I remember that I couldn't shake this feeling:
Penn State hockey was on the verge of something special. Really special.
Now, here we are in 2017, five years after Penn State elevated to Division I, and the Nittany Lions earned their first No. 1 ranking in program history last week.
The fans have continued to turn out — the arena routinely sells out and fans line the concourse in standing room-only style — and Penn State gives the community plenty of reasons to constantly come out in droves.
Penn State picked up a point in conference play against No. 11 Ohio State over the weekend. The teams tied 3-3 in regulation on Friday, when the Buckeyes picked up an extra point by winning the shootout 2-1 in the seventh round. Ohio State then captured a 6-3 victory Saturday with three goals in the final period.
Pegula Ice Arena is always loud, and is a tremendous atmosphere for hockey. Gadowsky said as much after the series opener, as he has before on multiple occasions. But even against those normally high expectations, the rink looked sparkling on Friday night, with the Roar Zone and arena dressed in white.
“It never gets old,” said junior forward James Robinson, who scored the Lions’ first goal. Freshman forward Nate Sucese said he got chills from experiencing his first White Out at Pegula, sounding like the atmosphere met his expectations.
Speaking of expectations, the Nittany Lions continue to surpass them, on a yearly or weekly basis.
To say it another way, what the Penn State men’s ice hockey team has done is the NASA equivalent of deciding to build a spaceship and fly to Mars five years later.
Gadowsky and the Nittany Lions have done that. They’ve landed.
After the Penn State football team claimed the Big Ten’s East Division by dismantling Michigan State in late-November at Beaver Stadium, head coach James Franklin addressed the crowd, telling everyone that this is only the beginning.
The words were inspiring and motivating, and directly connected to the program’s promising future.
The same is also true for Penn State hockey.
We hope you come along for the ride. And if the past few seasons at Pegula Ice Arena are any indication, we know you will.
Photo: Mark Selders | Penn State