Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Coming Home to Hockey Valley

A familiar face for long-time Icers fans will be the first coach of the Penn State women's hockey team.

Former Icer, ACHA Hall of Fame member Josh Brandwene was announced in a press release from the Penn State Athletic Department late this afternoon.
It's an outstanding decision based on Josh's history with Penn State and his previous roles as a coach and an administrator.

After an award-filled four years for the Icers under new boss Joe Battista, including breaking JoeBa's career points record for a blue-liner, Josh went on to coach ACHA powerhouses Michigan-Dearborn and Delaware. Brandwene has also coached at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts.

Most importantly, perhaps, is the stint by Josh as the head coach of the girl's hockey team at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn. After rebuilding the girl's program from 2008 to 2010, Josh served as head coach of the boy's team this past school year.

JoeBa tells me that current Lady Icers coach Mo Stroemel will have a role to be determined with the new varsity team. That's a great move by the Athletic Department. Mo has done a great job recruiting for the Lady Icers and building the program from near nothing.

Josh will be formally introduced at a press conference Tuesday morning. The full press release can be read here. In the meantime, here are some notable quotes:

Athletic Director Tim Curley:
We are proud to welcome Josh back to Penn State as the first head coach of the women's varsity ice hockey team. His wealth of experience and unique hockey background have prepared him to build our program and we are excited to have him on board.

Director of Hockey Operations Joe Battista:
I have known Josh and his family for almost 25 years. He was my first recruit as an Icer coach in 1987 and a big part of our early success. He has the perfect skill set to be a successful coach and mentor to the student-athletes in our women's hockey program. He has incredible passion for Penn State and coaching and has impeccable values, boundless energy and enthusiasm, and shares our culture for Success With Honor.

Josh has been a builder everywhere he has been, taking each team to unprecedented levels of success. His accomplishments reach beyond any one team or institution as evidenced by his impact on a national level as the only four-term president of the ACHA and a member of the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) Board of Governors. We are proud to welcome him home.

And last but certainly not least, from the Coach:
I am honored, humbled and thrilled to return to Penn State to lead the women's ice hockey program at this amazing time in the hockey program's history.

I truly love every aspect of building a successful program. To have the opportunity to build a program the `Penn State Way,' here at this place that has meant so much to me and shaped who I am as a person and as a coach is a dream come true.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Changing of the Guard

If you want news about Penn State hockey, just wait until a holiday weekend. However, in all seriousness, the news today is tinged with some sadness.

Icers Head Coach Scott Balboni announced that he will step aside to allow varsity coach Guy Gadowsky and assistant coaches Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay to take over the bench duties in Penn State's final ACHA season.

Here is the official press release from the athletic department:

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; May 27, 2011 – Penn State men’s ice hockey coach Guy Gadowsky and his staff will coach the Penn State Icers in the 2011-12 season, their final year of American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) competition. Current Icer head coach Scott Balboni has agreed to step down as coach so that Gadowsky and his staff can begin to coach the current team and evaluate the players and 2011 recruits for the future varsity team.

The move accommodates the accelerated time frame for the transition to NCAA Division I status in 2012-13. Coach Gadowsky and assistant coaches Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay are on campus and have begun preparing to coach the Icers next season. Gadowsky and his staff have the challenge of leading the transition to play in the proposed Big Ten Hockey Conference by 2013-14 in the new Pegula Ice Arena, a full year earlier than originally planned.

“We are very appreciative of all the hard work and efforts that Coach Balboni has put into continuing our tradition of a strong ACHA club program during his 13 years as a member of the Icer staff,” said Tim Curley, Penn State Director of Athletics. ”We wish Scott and his family all the best and thank them for their contributions to the growth of hockey in Happy Valley.”

Gadowsky was named Penn State head coach on April 24, bringing 15 years of head coaching experience to Hockey Valley, including the last seven at Princeton University. The 2008 Inside College Hockey National Coach of the Year, Gadowsky led Princeton to NCAA Championship berths in 2008 and ’09 and the 2008 ECAC Hockey Championship. He was head coach at Alaska-Fairbanks for five years prior to reviving the Princeton program and has earned league coach of the year honors at each of his three head coaching posts.

“I am grateful to Coach Balboni for agreeing to allow my staff and I the opportunity to begin coaching the Penn State Hockey team right away,” Gadowsky said. “It will give us the opportunity to evaluate the players and work with the team in preparation for the move to varsity play in 2012-13 and the inaugural Big Ten Conference season in 2013-14. We are excited to build on Penn State’s strong ice hockey tradition.”

In his five seasons as head coach, Balboni led the Icers to a 150-34-9 record, winning at least 30 games on four occasions. The 2006-07 Icers were ACHA national runners-up and the 2008-09 Icers advanced to the ACHA semifinals.

“The past nine months have been very exciting for Penn State hockey,” Balboni stated. “After much thought and consideration about the future direction of the program, I believe it is in the best interest of the overall program to step down now as head coach of the ACHA Div. I Icers team. I can assure you that Coach Gadowsky and his staff are excited and are working to have as seamless a transition as possible and are looking forward to working with current players, recruits, boosters, HMA, support staff and fans both during this final season of ACHA play and leading into varsity play in 2012-13.

“I would like to thank Tim Curley and Penn State for all that they have done over the years to support the Icers and for their continued support to assure that everyone is being treated as fairly as possible in this transition period,” Balboni added. “I also want to personally thank all the players, alumni, boosters, HMA, support staff and fans that have made the last five seasons as the head coach so special to me. I am proud to have been associated with Penn State hockey for 13 seasons and I am proud of all we have accomplished together. I plan to remain a fervent supporter of Penn State hockey.”
Barb and I want to thank Scott for working with us during his five years as head coach, and for his dedication to the Icers throughout his years with the team. I know we'll see him around the Greenberg and eventually the Pegula Ice Arena as he continues to support the program.

Of all the interviews we did, my favorite was at Rhode Island in November 2009. The Icers came from behind to beat the Rams 4-3 in a shootout, with John Conte netting the winner in the SO.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chip Off the Ol(czyk) Block

Well, that was a heck of a hockey game on Monday night. Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final went down to the wire, with the Bruins beating Tampa Bay to take a 3-2 series lead.

As always, Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk did a great job in the booth, ably aided by Pierre McGuire between the benches.

Question for you though. How many of you heard what Doc and Edzo were talking about as the third period was about to begin?

Nope, wasn't the great goaltending (that was to come later in the period), or Lightning coach Guy Boucher's decision to start Mike Smith in goal.

The boys were talking college hockey recruiting, specifically the decision by Tommy Olczyk to play hockey at Penn State!

The news that the son of the NHL great and former head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins hit Twitter earlier in the evening. After four seasons of junior hockey with the Sioux City Musketeers, Tommy O. will be in Hockey Valley in the fall.

Kyle Rossi has done his usual outstanding job putting together all the facts and figures on Tommy's career, so I'll direct you here for the skinny on the newest member of the Icers.

From what I've read, Tommy is the type of solid two-way player that his father was during an NHL career that spanned more than 15 seasons. I'm looking forward to seeing him in action.

Their playing styles are similar and it's obvious that Tommy is Eddie's offspring.

Father and son.

Apparently Tommy has some of his dad's on-camera talent, judging by this video tour of the Sioux City locker room.

By the way, Tommy's tour will give you an idea of what the team facility at the Pegula will look like.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Talking Hockey

A trip home to Toronto on Victoria Day weekend, the "official start of summer" in Canada has given Barb and yours truly the chance to visit my family, celebrate my mother's 81st birthday and talk a little hockey with one of Canada's most respected hockey analysts.

Bob McKenzie, in addition to having his finger on the pulse of the NHL, is your typical hockey dad. In fact, he's written about it in "Hockey Dad - True Confessions of a (Crazy?) Hockey Parent."

Come to think of it, aren't all hockey parents a little off kilter? I can think of several in the Icers family, and I mean that in a good way.

Bob and I played the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" game, since we both grew up in Scarborough in the late 60s and early 70s. He played with Al Avery, father of Rangers bad boy Sean. Al was one year behind me at Agincourt Collegiate Institute.

Bob is a close friend of NHL player agent Rick Curran, whose son Mike played at Rhode Island. I interviewed Rick a number of times, and we figured that we played against each other at some point in our minor hockey careers. Rick is also a very good friend of Steve and Nina Zodtner, the parents of former Icer Paul.

I lived around the corner from Hall of Famer Brad Park. Brad's father coached Bob early in his minor hockey career.

The hockey world is a small one indeed. While at TSN, I also met TSN's Darren Dreger. My brother Rick refereed one of Darren's sons - Darren asked if my brother threw him out of the rink.

Former Michigan State Spartan and NHL veteran Aaron Ward was also in the studio. Aaron had just flown in from his North Carolina home to be in the studio on Saturday afternoon. He told me he was happy to see Penn State going varsity.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


It's not the Pegula Ice Arena, but I think it's safe to say you might not recognize the Greenberg Ice Pavilion when you arrive for the home opener against Washington & Jefferson on Friday, Oct. 7, 2011.

The old barn is undergoing a transformation of sorts. The ice is out, the floor is being repaired and repainted -- even the glass is being cleaned and polished.

Arena staff take a break from polishing the glass.

You are going to have to look down to see the biggest difference at the Greenberg. Gone is the ugly and tattered black rubber that covered the floor from the entrance through the lobby and down the corridor to the locker rooms.

In its place will be a new rubberized "carpet" in shades of blue that will brighten up the surroundings.

The new floor will brighten things up.

I stopped in at the Ice Pavilion after attending at meeting to discuss plans for the 2011 Icers Open, which is set for Sunday, Aug. 21 at the Penn State Blue Course.

You need to put the date on your calendar and book your hotel room. Once again this year, the Open will be held on move-in weekend so rooms will be at a premium.

Coach Gadowsky was at the meeting and will be at the Open along with assistant coaches Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay. I met Keith and Matt for the first time today. They are as excited to be here as we are to have them in Hockey Valley.

Coach promised that "as soon as their heads are above water" the trio will sit down for an interview.

To make the day a complete success - despite the rain - I sold my old baseball glove to a State College resident. When I delivered it to him we started talking Icers hockey. He asked if it was too late to buy season tickets. I expect that he called Marci before I was out of the door of his office!

By the way, a belated Happy Birthday to Marci, as well as Tim O'Brien and Bill Downey. And while I'm at it, congratulations to former Icer Greg "Dubbie" Windsor on his engagement to Ngan Ngo.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Guy Gets His Guys

Penn State got its Guy with the hiring of former Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky as the first head coach of the modern-era varsity hockey program.

Now Coach G. has his guys, adding his Princeton assistants Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay to his Nittany Lions coaching staff.

"Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay both have excellent work ethic and have proven to be very successful recruiters of the top hockey student-athletes in North America," said Gadowsky.

"The culture at Princeton, which puts heavy emphasis on both strong academics and athletic achievement, is very much in line with the values of Penn State Athletics, so the transition should be an easy one for these two coaches. I think having both of them on our staff will be a great asset to the rebirth of varsity hockey at Penn State.
Fisher spent the past six seasons with the Tigers
after five years on the coaching staff of the USHL's Omaha Lancers.

The St. Cloud State grad knows recruiting, helping to recruit and develop a dozen NHL draft picks, including Keith Ballard, Paul Stastny, Matt Carle and Jeff Lerg. Lerg backstopped Michigan State to the 2007 National Championship.
"I am very excited to join Coach Gadowsky and his staff at Penn State," said Fisher. "It is a great opportunity to be a part of the transition to a Division I hockey program at a great institution like Penn State and the Happy Valley region."
Matt Lindsay has been with Gadowsky for the past four seasons.
He went to Princeton after stints on the coaching staffs at Robert Morris, Colorado College, Hobart College and Utica College.

Lindsay was the video coordinator at Bobby Mo and CC and was involved with pre-scouting the opposition and on-ice training.
"I am very excited to be joining the Penn State community," said Lindsay. "I am looking forward to getting to work immediately as we begin to lay the foundation for Division I hockey. I know Penn State has a proud history on the ice and I know there is a ton of enthusiasm for the future. I am honored to be a part of it."
Both assistants will have active roles with the Icers during the upcoming season. Associate Athletic Director Joe Battista says that Fisher and Lindsay "will serve as instructors with the Icers, focusing on skill development."

UPDATE: This evening, I caught up with Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley and spoke with him about Matt Lindsay and Keith Fisher. Schooley says both men are well respected and have a good eye for talent.

He says in Lindsay's one season with the Colonials, he had a hand in recruiting the senior class that this past season became the all-time winning class in the history of Bobby Mo's program.

Derek told me he's spoken with Lindsay and told him one thing:
"Leave the Pittsburgh guys alone!"