Penn State hockey outside of the club level was but a pipe dream for the longest time. That all changed with PSU alumnus Terry Pegula though.
The billionaire invested a good chunk of change and made a once interesting club hockey team a full-fledged NCAA program starting in the 2012-13 season. It was an ambitious ask, going from pure club to D1 hockey overnight.
Many wondered if Penn State would be anything but a doormat for the rest of the D1 programs out there, as even the best of the ACHA club programs are nowhere near the level needed to compete at the D1 level.
Penn State was literally asking to create a D1 hockey program out of whole cloth.
It not only had to find players capable of playing at the highest level, but willing to start from the ground floor. There was a new arena to be built, 6,000 seats to try and pack and a fervor for hockey to establish in the Penn State community.
However, as Penn State looks forward to its fifth season of D1 hockey and fourth as a full member of the Big Ten it is hard not to notice the crazy ride Penn State has had towards the top of the college hockey world already.
After two seasons of losing hockey, Penn State put together its first winning season in 2014-15 by finishing 18-15-4 overall and 10-9-1 in B1G hockey play. It followed that season up with a 21-13-4 season in 2015-16 and again finished with a 10-9-1 record in conference play.
For a program just forming, having half of its life as a D1 hockey program on the positive side of the ledger is certainly impressive, it also indicates that Pegula’s big investment in the sport in State College, Pa. has paid off in spades.
Now the march to a first-ever NCAA hockey tournament appearance is the next hurdle, as is proving that head coach Guy Gadawosky can be a hit on the recruiting trail as well. After all, those players who started this program from scratch are all gone by now.
The only remaining question is if Penn State can become a long-term player in college hockey. If so, the Big Ten goes from a questionable league to one of the strongest in college hockey with four out of six programs drawing attention in the college hockey world.
Add in Notre Dame in 2017 and you have a lot of firepower for the league as whole. The addition of Penn State could hardly have gone better for the Big Ten conference, who added the sport in direct relation to PSU adding the game as well.
What was a once crazy idea has become a thing of dreams come true for Pegula and for plenty of those hockey crazy Penn Staters who have packed Pegula Ice Arena the last four seasons.
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