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October 8, 2012His first whistle signified the start of Penn State's second official Division I hockey practice.
Circling the ice with more than two dozen of his players and a couple assistants, Guy Gadowsky's next whistle meant the rate of the warm-up laps increased, almost to a sprint. Wearing his navy blue windbreaker outfit, Bauer hockey gloves and a stick in his hand, Gadowsky kept pace. And he couldn't resist from delivering a few loose pucks to the back of the net on each pass, too, almost to prove that his MVP days for the Fresno Falcons aren't that far off after all.
"He's the most passionate guy on the ice every time he steps out there," captain Tommy Olczyk said of Penn State's second-year head coach. "He's a guy that really gets the players going."
He certainly had them going Monday afternoon as Gadowsky opened the Greenberg Ice Pavillion to the press. Before practice, donned in their white game sweaters, they answered an array of questions from reporters - Olczyk, a sophomore forward from north of Chicago, got the most press time - then they suited up for practice. Some wore blue practice jerseys, others had white, Olczyk had on the bright yellow captain's jersey, but they all seemed to be buying into Gadowsky's attitude, practice pace and philosophy.
With Penn State's inaugural Division I season ready to kickoff Friday (7:30 p.m. vs. American International), that's the most Gadowsky can ask for. He understands his squad - a combination of former club team members, key transfers and potential-latent freshmen - is a work in progress. And with only one full week of official practice to prepare, it adds to the task's difficulty.
"It's not ideal to just have one week and then jump into our Division I games," Gadowsky said, "but our guys have been working very hard off the ice with our strength coach and they're allowed to skate on their own. We're allowed to condition the athletes, so we take advantage of every minute we can, but certainly it is a huge challenge with so many new players to address systems and objectives with only one week to go. Fortunately, were all in the same boat, but obviously the other teams that have established systems are at an advantage over us. We're just going to do the best we can and improve every day."
Penn State's schedule - a mix of games against powerhouse Division I programs, challenging Division III schools and an exhibition vs. the U.S. National U-18 team - offers plenty of opportunities in which to measure its improvement. Like Gadowsky pointed out, though, experienced opponents are going to hold an advantage and wins might be difficult to come by during season No. 1.
"We will not be judging our success and our progress through wins and losses," Gadowsky said. "Certainly, wins and losses are going to be a byproduct of the job we do in terms of how we do with the foundation. So were going to control how we do in the areas that we can control."
Nate Jensen, a junior defender who played Division I hockey for Mercyhurst his freshman year, added, "We're going to get our feet wet. We've got a lot of young talent and some older guys with experience, so I think game by game we'll get better."
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