Thursday, January 19, 2012

Something in the Water at Penn State?: Former Gopher Max Gardiner Heads to Penn State

By Jessi Pierce

Maybe it's the allure of a brand new arena. Or maybe it's the appeal of putting an unknown team on the map as they forge ahead into unchartered waters in a teams history. Whatever it is, Penn State's doing something right, tabbing their first ever NHL draft pick yesterday with the announcement that Max Gardiner (St. Louis Blues, 2010 3rd Rd.) has committed to PSU.

The highly sought-after recruit has already had a taste of NCAA Div.I action, suiting up with his hometown--and future Penn State Big Ten rival--Minnesota Gophers for the 2010-11 season.

But limited playing time with the Gophs caused the Minnetonka, Minn., native to rethink his options and the forward decided to leave Minnesota in favor of the USHL, where the Dubuque Fighting Saints wasted no time nabbing his rights.

"We had a good conversation and he was disappointed in the ice time he received last year and was concerned about playing time in the upcoming season," said Minnesota coach Don Lucia in a released statement to the press last May. "Leaving assures him of the ice time he is looking for. I am disappointed he is leaving, but I understand his decision and wish him the best of luck."

Seeing action in only 17 games and registering one goal and two assists for Minnesota, the USHL has been a much better option (as the Minnesota program has often be heavily criticized in recent years for grabbing players directly from high school without allowing development in juniors) for the former Skipper who helped lead his team in the 2010 Minnesota State High School Championships.

Now in 21 games, the left-hander has tallied 11 points and has certainly come into his own as of late this season.

Will he make an immediate impact for Penn State? Maybe. Is it a great lock for the Icers/Nittany Lions? Absolutely.

I say only maybe because, while an excellent player in high school, Gardiner really has yet to prove himself at a level beyond that. Struggles at Minnesota didn't necessarily disappear while in juniors as the once power forward still needs time to gain his footing.

Despite that, there is no doubt in my mind, or I am sure many others, that Gardiner will be a sensation on the ice for this Penn State team. Already drawing on the talent of Taylor Holmstrom (Mercyhurst transfer),  Bryce Johnson (St. Cloud State transfer who, like Gardiner opted for USHL after freshman campaign), Gardiner will be able to move around with these two and plenty of others.

The Gardiner news, while not quite on the hot news circuit yet, is sure to gain attention and shift focus on to recruits entering the  PSU hockey organization. The forward committing to Penn State also speaks volumes on this program, with Gardiner being heavily recruited by other Div. I schools such as North Dakota and Western Michigan.

All in all another shocking, and impressive, move for Penn State as the program continues to develop into an elite Div. I contender.

For even more on Max Gardiner, check out the Thank You Terry site. Some great stats and breakdowns.