Judging by Guy Gadowsky's demeanor in the post-game press conference, you never would have guessed that his team just dropped a 3-2 overtime heartbreaker on his home ice.
"It's hard to say why I feel so good after an overtime loss," he said, "but right now, I'm thrilled."
Sure, Penn State lost its first home NCAA ice hockey game to American International and since the Nittany Lions more than doubled the Yellow Jackets' shot attempts (63 to 29), they probably could have won the game. But Gadowsky, in his second year at Penn State, said the inaugural Division I season won't be judged solely on wins and losses. Instead, it'll be graded on progress, aggressiveness, puck control and improvement. Gadowsky saw a little bit of it all Friday night at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
"We had no idea what we had, and we didn't know if we'd be completely outmatched," Gadowsky added. "We had no idea. I thought we played tremendous. I thought we generated a ton of offense. Anytime you have 60 shots over three periods is fantastic. I love the offense."
The sold-out crowd of 1,300 also added to the joy for Penn State's D-I debut. Waving their white pompoms and standing for the entire duration - similar to a Beaver Stadium football Saturday - students packed the student section for the 7:30 p.m. puck drop. Some students were even turned away once capacity was reached. (General admission tickets sold out Friday afternoon.)
"To come out and see the crowd and to see the student section, it was fantastic," Gadowsky said. "That's why I came here. That's why our staff came here. That's why our recruits came here. That's a major reason, and it's just fantastic to see it."
American International's senior goalie Ben Meisner, who was named the game's first star player for his outstanding 61-save overtime performance, said the arena provided one of the more hostile environments he's ever played in. And that was something he fed off.
"I knew this place was going to be rocking," he said, still wearing all of his goalie gear save for the helmet, "but it's probably one of the best atmospheres I've ever played in. I mean, the rink is a smaller rink, but if it were up to a lot of these guys, it's probably what they'd prefer. The fans are right on top of you, and they're into it. They're yelling, they're screaming. It's always a fun atmosphere to play in and it's always fun as the visiting team to come in here and silence that."
Penn State and American International continue their two-game series Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The Lions don't return home until a Nov. 3 matchup vs. Buffalo State.
The Lions will play the remainder of the 2012-13 schedule in the Greenberg Ice Pavillion before moving to the Pegula Ice Arena for the 2013-14 season. The arena is still under construction and the completion date is set for September 2013.