College Hockey: Penn State seeking their identity with start of season
STATE COLLEGE, Pa -- Over the first four years of the Penn State men's hockey program, coach Guy Gadowsky occasionally had a trio of players on the same line he called the "Identity Line."
David Glen, Curtis Loik and Kenny Brooks -- each of whom finished their careers last season -- were on the same line much more frequently early in their careers, but the combination served not so much for their scoring prowess but for the chemistry they had and what their style together embodied.
They were about effort and hard work, personifying Gadowsky's vision for the program as a whole, strapping on the hard hat, putting the head down and getting to work without concern for the obstacles.
As the team held its first practice Saturday, and played an exhibition game against Queens College on Sunday, the Nittany Lions will be seeking to reclaim that identity.
"It's evolving and I think our identity -- I think we always want Penn State hockey to be the same," Gadowsky said. "The way it gets done is going to be slightly different."
The coach gets asked frequently each season what "Penn State hockey" means as a concept. It's exemplified by the hard hat given away each game during its first Division I season to the player who showed those sought-after traits, digging in the corners for pucks, back-checking to create turnovers, battling in front of the net and generally outworking the opponent each time on the ice.
Perhaps the best example, as one person, of those traits is Andrew Sturtz. The sophomore forward is hardly the flashiest, but he has plenty of substance.
The mere mention of Sturtz's name lit up Gadowsky's face at the team's annual preseason media day on Thursday.
"We're excited just to see him," Gadowsky said. "Andrew Sturtz, just seeing him makes you excited. Honestly, he doesn't have to score goals to make you excited to see Andrew Sturtz. He's that kind of guy. Love having him in the locker room. The team just can't wait to have him back on campus."
The native of Buffalo, N.Y., brushes off the compliments, but knows his personality lights up the locker room.
"I have a pretty happy personality," Sturtz said. "You'll very rarely see me come into a room and be upset about anything. Life's too short. I'm only here for four years and I'm trying to make the most of it."
His 18 goals led the team last season and ranked fifth in all of Division I among freshmen, and his 27 points ranked third on the Lions.
His very first collegiate goal exemplified some of those treasured traits, skating across the front of the crease, sprawling through the air and flicking the puck into the net against American International. It was the No. 1 highlight of the weekend by the NCAA, and was a top-10 highlight for the college hockey season.
As for that identity line, it's likely to be a work in progress and the means to get there may be changing with the team's skill level improving.
Gadowsky thought Ricky DeRosa, James Robinson and freshman Nikita Pavlychev display that identity as a grouping, at least for the beginning of the season.
"We also have a line that we really hope that embodies everything that's brought us the success that we've had at this point and has allowed us to overachieve," Gadowsky said.
What fans see Sunday will serve merely as a sneak preview. Lines and pairings likely will look a lot different by Thursday, when the season opens against St. Lawrence, not to mention later in the season.
But fans can count on being reacquainted with the concept of "Penn State hockey" and everything that it means.
"I'm very excited to get back out there," Sturtz said. "Very excited just to play a live game and really get to go at it with some other guys."
This article was written by Gordon Brunskill from Centre Daily Times and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.