Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Preseason Previews: Penn State Still Too Many Unknowns

By Jessi Pierce
@jessi_pierce on Twitter

I know, I know, it seems predictable and I am sure you Nittany Lion fans have a thing or two to object to constantly being put at the bottom with so much to prove.

But that is exactly the reason I predict Penn State at the bottom of the Big Ten -- because there is just too much to prove with so many unknowns.

It's the team's first season in an organized NCAA conference against the big boys who have been doing it for decades. That's tough for any team to swallow.

Last year in its first Division I season, Penn State went a respectable 13-14 with notable wins over Michigan State and Wisconsin. But the rest of their schedule was fairly weak -- expected to ease the transition from ACHA to NCAA -- compared to what other B1G teams have faced in past years and jumping into that this year will be a large dose of Division I reality.

But it's not all grim of course for PSU this coming year.

Standouts on the squad include Tommy Olczyk, a junior and likely to lead the team, along with transfer Max Gardiner who already has experience on the Division I level as a former Minnesota Golden Gopher. Eamon McAdams (goalie from USHL's Waterloo Blackhawks) and Mike Williamson (defenseman from AJHL) total the number of NHL draft picks on the roster to four (along with Gardiner and RPI transfer Patrick Koudys), and I am anxious to see how they shake out.

But despite those names, like the team itself, the rest are still relatively unknown, in large part due to the fact Penn State hasn't been able to land some of the top recruits being so new to the DI market.

That said, I do have a lot of faith in Guy Gadowsky and the potential he sees in this program, and realistically it just is going to take some time for PSU to get the ice beneath their feet and their stride about them.

As Gadowsky told in a recent feature story:

“Night in and night out, the Big Ten will be extremely difficult,” he said. “But it’s fun, and that’s why you come to Penn State. The building will be ready in September and our first game is Oct. 11 [against Army], and then it’s on to the Big Ten schedule.

“There’s a lot of very exciting new things going on.”

Like any good sports journalist I do tend to root for the underdog and I would be more than happy to see Penn State prove me wrong, which they just might. Either way, I am excited to see how it pans out for the boys in blue and white and anxious to see where the move to in our mid-season previews.

Preseason Prediction: Bottom of Big Ten with a 12-22 regular season record