The Cinderella story is over.
Guy Gadowsky is not interested in coaching just a good hockey team and addressed the expectations facing the program at Preseason Media Day.
“There comes a time when you probably have to stop patting yourself on the back for [first-time accomplishments] and look ahead to what you haven’t done.”
It’s great to see a head coach realize that simply making the NCAA tournament isn’t good enough and expect the team to be better. After making the NCAA tournament and losing to Denver two years in a row, Penn State has proven that it is good, but also that it has not reached an elite level, yet.
In what was the biggest moment of the day, Gadowsky placed the pressure on his goaltenders to perform this season, confirming that both Peyton Jones and Chris Funkey would share time in net. If either goaltender’s save percentage drops below a .905, Gadowsky said that we can expect to see incoming freshman Oskar Autio. With Jones coming off a lackluster sophomore season and Autio ready to challenge for the starting position, the competition among the goaltenders is sure to be one of the leading storylines of the first half of the season.
Gadowsky also confirmed that Kevin Kerr has a lower-body injury but was hopeful that Kerr would be available for the regular season opener against Clarkson on October 11. While Kerr is on the mend and transfer Evan Bell remains ineligible until the spring semester, Gadowsky said that sophomore Adam Pilewicz will get time on the blue line. As for what the defensive unit as a whole will look like this season, Gadowsky simply said, “We’ll see.”
Chase Berger and Cole Hults also earned praise from Gadowsky. In my opinion, Berger is one of the players that is coming off a season that could have been much better, and Gadowsky plans to mix up the lines at the start of the season to get the most out of Berger’s game and find the best combination for him. Hults was praised as a high production, low-risk defenseman, and Gadowsky doesn’t expect him to be different and instead simply wants him to continue to build his game.
Gadowsky also highlighted the abilities of two freshmen. Freshman Max Sauvé set the Penn State lap speed record during camp, and Gadowsky hopes to see his skating speed translate to playing fast in a game. Aarne Talvite is “a bit of a throwback” that loves to play in the tough and dirty areas, according to Gadowsky, and will be a very visible part of the team this season.
This season is a crucial one for Penn State. Key players have departed, and some returning players are coming off lackluster seasons. It’s obvious that there is plenty of room for improvement in all areas of Penn State’s game, and it’s time to be better. With the Big Ten as strong as it is, there will be plenty of opportunities this season for Penn State get better and prove that it’s no longer a Cinderella story. Gadowsky said simply, “This is probably the time now to raise our expectations.”