Even though the Penn State Nittany Lions hockey team may not have placed where they wanted to in the Big Ten Tournament, their season was successful overall.
Top Ten Moments:
1. Head coach Guy Gadowsky brought the Nittany Lions their first winning season as a Division I team. Penn State finished the year with an 18-15-4 record, doubling the number of wins it had in the 2013-2014 season.
2. Nicknamed “The Sniper,” Casey Bailey became the program’s first professional player when he signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 21. Bailey led the Big Ten with 22 goals and 18 assists and was a Hobey Baker nominee.
In statement released by the program, Bailey said: “I am truly fortunate and humbled by this opportunity to sign with such a prestigious Original Six organization, the Toronto Maple Leafs. I would also like to acknowledge how thankful I am for all of the love and support I have gotten over the years from my friends and family. I would not be where I am today without them. Also I would like to sincerely thank all of my coaches, teammates and staff at Penn State for getting me prepared for the next stage of my career.”
3. The Nittany Lions pulled out a win over every conference opponent, another first for the program. Penn State was picked last in the preseason, going on to shock major opponents like the Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Michigan Wolverines.
4. Gadowsky was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by league coaches and media members. This is Penn State hockey’s first major conference award. Under Gadowsky’s tutelage, the Nittany Lions remained in the Big Ten title chase until the final weekend of the season.
This is Gadowsky’s third Coach of the Year Award, having been granted the honor during his tenures at Alaska and Princeton.
5. The Nittany Lions had a lot to celebrate on March 7 after they swept Michigan, knocking the Wolverines from their seat atop the Big Ten standings and pushing them from the number 16 spot in the nation.
The win was made even sweeter by the fact that this was Senior Day, marking the final time that the seven outgoing seniors would play in Pegula Ice Arena.
“We always seem to play our best when we’re against them,” said captain Patrick Koudys. “I don’t know what it is. We just play well.”
6. Nine Nittany Lions were recognized in the Big Ten awards race. Junior forward Casey Bailey nabbed a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team, the program’s first postseason conference player award.
Scott Conway was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team, and David Goodwin, Taylor Holstrom, Nate Jensen, Luke Juha, Patrick Koudys, and PJ Musico all received All-Big Ten Honorable Mentions.
Senior Max Gardiner, the Nittany Lions’ leading student-athlete, who averages nearly a 4.0, received the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award.
7. Bailey and linemate Taylor Holstrom were nominees for the Hobey Baker award, one of college hockey’s most prestigious awards. Designed to be an equivalent to college football’s Heisman Trophy, the Hobey Baker Memorial Award recognizes the top college hockey players in the nation.
8. Penn State received their first national ranking in the USCHO.com poll, climbing as high as 19th.
9. The Goodwin-Holstrom-Bailey line, or as Gadowsky likes to call them, “the best line I’ve ever coached,” combined for 63 assists, 107 points, and more than 40 goals through the season. Losing two of the biggest contributors will hurt Penn State next year, but with four offensive freshman joining the team and other returning players, the Nittany Lions should be in good shape.
10. While this may not be one particular moment in the season, the Penn State men’s hockey team is finally starting to see the fruits of their labor. Just three years ago, the program was just a club team; now it is a fully functioning Division I team.
From the completion of the state-of-the-art Pegula Ice Arena to Toronto’s signing of Casey Bailey, the Nittany Lions have proved that they are contenders in college hockey. Over the last few years, the growth of the program has surprised critics, but for all appearances, Penn State has only begun.
Gadowsky praised the progress of the team.
“I think we made a lot of great strides in a lot of areas of the program. Like I said, I think the whole team, especially the seniors, should be very proud of that.”
The official schedule for the Nittany Lions will be released in the next few months, but Penn State will host at least 18 home games over the course of the 2015-16 season.
Photo Credit: OnwardState.com