Before Guy Gadowsky was tasked with building Penn State’s hockey program from the ground up, he was tasked with rebuilding a struggling Princeton program.
In his first season behind the bench at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink, his Tigers finished with just eight wins.
Just three seasons later, the Tigers won 21 games, won the ECAC Tournament and made it to the NCAA Tournament.
Gadowsky went on to win 105 games with the Tigers and make a second NCAA Tournament appearance before he, along with Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay, took on the challenge presented to them in State College.
The time spent with the Tigers still holds a special place in Gadowsky’s heart, though.
“I think our whole staff that came from Princeton, we are very proud of what happened there,” Gadowsky said.
On Friday night, Gadowsky and the No. 10 Nittany Lions will be paid a visit from the No. 13 Tigers.
With seven years now separating the coaching trio from their time in Princeton, the connections are sparse, which only makes it easier for Gadowsky to remain focused on the task at hand and not get caught up in any emotional response.
“This is a game where if we can have success it is going to be a really good RPI win and that’s all I care about,” Gadowsky said. “The fact that it’s Princeton doesn’t mean one thing.”
Seldom is a team fortunate enough to return both of its top two scorers from the previous season. It’s even more uncommon for them to have ranked in the top four nationally.
Such is the case for the Tigers, however.
Max Véronneau recorded 55 points last season, while linemate Ryan Kuffner notched 52. Véronneau’s 38 assists ranked second in the nation. Kuffner finished in the same position with his 29 goals.
“To have two guys that have been so successful coming back for their senior years is unheard of right now,” Gadowsky said.
Gadowsky won’t have much recent history to look to as he scouts Princeton, as Friday will be the first game of the season for the Tigers.
Véronneau and Kuffner helped lead the Tigers to a 19-13-4 record last season, including another ECAC Tournament title, before losing in the opening round of the NCAA Midwest Regional to Ohio State.
After back-to-back weekend sweeps, this one-off matchup will serve as the first tough test of the season for Penn State. Gadowsky believes his team — his current one, that is — will be ready for the test.
“They are an excellent team and this is a really good opportunity for us,” Gadowsky said.