It has been a long time coming for Penn State, but the wait is finally over. After announcing they would be adding ice hockey more than two years ago, the Nittany Lions program hits the ice for the first time on Friday at home against American International.

Since being hired in April 2011, head coach Guy Gadowsky has been charged with the task of getting the Nittany Lions ready to play. Last year, they finished fourth in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (club hockey) before playing this year as an independent in Division I. PSU will join the Big Ten in 2013-14.

Check out seven of the top returning players in Division I as they prepare for the 2012-13 season and eye a shot at the Frozen Four.

“So far everything has gone great,” Gadowsky said. “There is a lot of excitement about us starting play as Division I this year, but not only that, there is excitement about college hockey in general. We have accomplished a lot so far, but we have a lot more work to do.”

On Oct. 5, the first time teams could hold an official practice, the Nittany Lions held a practice open to the public – a midnight madness on the ice – and more than 500 PSU students showed up to watch. It’s this type of support that has Gadowsky excited for the year.

“Everything is brand new,” Gadowsky said. “We aren’t sure what to expect for this season, the only thing we know is that there are going to be a lot of firsts. I think the fans are as curious as we are to see how everything goes.”

The only thing that won’t be brand new this season for Penn State will be its arena. The Nittany Lions will play its first varsity season in the Penn State Ice Pavilion, which has been the home of the club program. However, next season Penn State will be playing in the Pegula Ice Arena, which will arguably be the nicest facility of its kind in the nation. The main ice arena will feature a competition ice arena with seating planned to be around 6,000 spectators. The facility will also include a practice rink, offices, locker rooms and player areas.

“Its just an amazing project,” Gadowsky said. “There is a visible difference every week. There is no question Penn State is doing it the right way. It will have everything you need for student-athlete development and the arena is going to built in such a way that the environment is going to be absolutely nuts. With the passion and pride of the Penn State community it is going to be a special atmosphere.”

• The Ice Breaker heads off campus for just the third time in its 16-year history with this year’s visit to Kansas City. Maine will face Notre Dame in the opening game on Friday night, while Army will play Nebraska-Omaha in the nightcap. In 2007, the event saw its largest crowds as Minnesota won the title at the Xcel Energy Center (28,995 attended the two days). Two years ago the Ice Breaker was four hours east in St. Louis before returning to Missouri this year. This is the first time the event has been held at an arena that isn’t home to either a college or NHL team.

• St. Cloud State has two legacy players on its roster this winter. Junior defenseman Kevin Gravel is the son of former Husky forward Jim Gravel, who skated at SCSU from 1977-81 (51g/50a). The other family connection belongs to forward Jonny Brodzinski, who is the son of former Husky forward Mike Brodzinski. The elder Brodzinski played at SCSU from 1984 to 1987 and charted 76 goals and 70 assists, which ranks first on the SCSU scoring charts in the Huskies' pre-Division I era. Mike Brodzinski earned All-America honors in 1986 and 1987 and helped the Huskies to a third-place finish at the 1987 Division III championships – under the leadership of legendary coach Herb Brooks.

• Colorado College's first victory this season will be No. 300 for Scott Owens as head coach. Owens heads into this week's non-conference series against Clarkson with a 299-185-43 record (.608 percentage) in 13 campaigns at the CC helm.

North Dakota’s Danny Kristo is the leading active scorer in the WCHA with 109 career points in 117 career games. Colorado College senior forward Rylan Schwartz is right behind Kristo with 106 career points … Miami (Ohio) will open the season with as many newcomers on its roster as it has returners with 13 new faces joining the RedHawks in 2012-13 while 13 players are back from a year ago, including 10 letterwinners. Of the 26 players on the roster, 18 are freshmen or sophomores … Canisius will play Alaska Anchorage on Friday and Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday as it looks to improve a 0-4-1 all-time record against the Alaska schools. Its only meeting in the Division I era resulted in a 3-3 draw against the Seawolves on Oct. 15, 2004. … Alabama-Huntsville will play host to Minnesota State Mankato Friday and Saturday, marking the only time all season it will host a Division I team … There are more than 150 college hockey games scheduled to be televised this season.