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October 12, 2013The Pegula Ice Arena was filled to standing-room capacity Friday night, as Penn State defeated Army, 4-1.
The newest arena on Penn State's campus cost $90 million and took 20 months to build, but the results of all that hard work were on spectacular display on opening night, as more than 6,300 fans filled the facility for its debut.
Just a little over three minutes in the inaugural game, redshirt junior defenseman Nate Jensen scored the season's first goal. Jensen was able to redirect a shot by Taylor Holstrom that went right past Army's goalie, Rob Tadazak.
Jensen said he didn't even know whether it was he or Holstrom who had scored. "I saw Taylor went down and did some celebrations after the goal, so I was confused," he said. He said it was a real honor to get the first goal in the new "barn."
Jensen praised the student section, which was on its feet for the entire game. "I think it is going to be crazy throughout the whole year," he said. "When a goal is scored, it gets loud. I might black out every time I score."
The other goal scorers on the night were sophomore forwards Curtis Loik and Eric Scheid and freshman David Goodwin. Schied's goal was an empty-netter to seal the victory.
Nittany Lion head coach Guy Gadowsky said it was a tremendous night for Penn State. "It was a great night for Terry Pegula, Joe Battista and the guys," he said. Pegula, of course, got the men's and women's varsity programs started with his initial donation to the university in 2010, while Battista long nurtured the dream of bringing Division I ice hockey to Penn State, first as coach of the club-level Icers and later as an associate athletic director.
"But the real star of the night," Gadowsky added, "was the student section."
The students were energized from the start, helped by a three-row Blue Band, cheerleaders and the Nittany Lion mascot. With about six minutes left in the game, Gadowsky saw the Lion being carried up the stands by a crowd of students. He said he was scared for him but impressed by the Lion's trust in the students, since the section is as steep as building codes allow.
Penn State's only problem on opening night was the amount of penalties it took. The team was penalized 11 times, successfully killing 10.
Gadowsky jokingly blamed it on Battista. Earlier in the day, Battista had warned Gadowsky, "We just cannot take a lot of penalties because we are so jacked up."
Jensen and Goodwin attributed the penalty minutes to the fact that the team was hyped for its first game in the new arena. Said Goodwin, "With the hype, it makes it that much harder to control your adrenaline."
Adding to the energy in the arena, Pegula addressed the team at about 6:45 p.m. Gadowsky had been hoping that the gathering would take place earlier in the day because he expected it to have a big impact on his players. As it turned out, he was right.
"After he spoke to the team, the guys were absolutely ready to tear through metal," Gadowsky said. "I was feeling really cool [about tonight], and then Pegula ruined everything."
Gadowky said that Pegula referenced a couple of movies and complimented everyone on their impact in making Hockey Valley a reality. Pegula said there were a couple of NHL teams might be jealous of their new facility.
Army head coach Brian Riley said it was a thrill to be part of the arena's debut. He complimented the staff at Penn State for their patience in dealing with the possibility that the Black Knights would have to back out of the game due to the government shutdown. Penn State had been working on a backup plan to play Canisius, but earlier this week, Army confirmed that it would be able to make the trip.
"It was an unbelievable experience being here tonight," Riley said. "What they have and what they are going to build here is truly amazing."
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