Scheid's Experience Helps Lead Penn State
by Sam Obermyer/CHN Reporter
For Penn State, the first year of Big Ten hockey, and second year as a Division I program, has been a struggle. But that does not mean there has not been some bright spots for a program that has the resources to become one of the premier teams in the league.
Perhaps the biggest bright spot of the season came Feb. 8 when Penn State shutout Michigan 4-0 for its first Big Ten Conference win.
"We have been playing some great programs, certainly Michigan is right there with them so to get a positive result against a program like that means we are going in the right direction," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said.
While Penn State did pick up victories over Ohio State, Michigan State and Wisconsin last year, playing as an independent, Gadowsky said there is a difference between those games and games with conference points on the line.
"Certainly, it helped our experience but I don't think it would shock anyone to know that they probably approached those games last year a lot differently," Gadowsky said. "It was certainly something we were grateful for and that experience for our young program and it definitely helped. Every experience we could get playing against better competition was very valuable to us."
Another bright spot has been the play of sophomore forward Eric Scheid. He leads the Nittany Lions with 11 goals and 18 points in his first season in Happy Valley after having transferred from Alaska-Anchorage, where he played one season..
"It felt great to get that one out of the way." Scheid said about their first conference win. "The guys are pretty happy about it and we are excited to get back out there this weekend."
Said Gadowsky, "You look at what he is doing for us statistically, the only guy on our team that does have that experience, he is a great leader for us."
The school and a chance to start something historic was the main reason Scheid decided to come to State College to join the two-year-old hockey program.
"Both of my parents went to the University of Wisconsin. They talked really highly of Big Ten schools. I think part of that was the big draw of the campus and everything about it," Scheid said. "Also, being able to start a new program and be part of a foundation. In 20 years being able to look back and see where the program has come and say that I was part of that first Big Ten inaugural season and that I helped lead the program to where it is today. That is really special to me."
Scheid played with the Lincoln Stars of the USHL last season, rejoining the team he played with before college, something Scheid said was a benefit over not playing in any competitive games.
"Playing in the USHL is no tap in. You have to bring your A-game just like you do in college hockey," Scheid said. "Playing a 64-game schedule was very beneficial for me, getting a lot of games in before I came back to the college hockey schedule. It was really nice not to just have to go to another school and practice but get some game time in next year."
Adding Scheid to the roster also gave Penn State someone who had experience playing against Wisconsin and Minnesota in conference games.
"We really like him as a player so we would have been as hard after him whether he played in the WCHA or not," Gadowsky said. "Knowing that we were a very young team with very limited experience, the fact he did have that experience against Minnesota and Wisconsin was an added benefit. To have that one person that could let you know what to expect and show that he's been there before and being a calming influence was extremely important."
While the Big Ten has become one of the tougher conferences to play in, Scheid said it is similar to the quality of competition that he faced when playing for Anchorage.
"It was not actually that different because you can say if you were on a team like Minnesota, there were nights off in the WCHA playing a team like Anchorage," Scheid said. "But playing for Anchorage, obviously we were not the best team in the league and we were struggling to find wins as well. We had to play every night and every night we were playing teams that were much better than us."
The schedule does not get any easier the rest of the way for the Nittany Lions; they still have two games left against every Big Ten team.
"We are just going to have to continue to play our game and get some solid goaltending," Scheid said. "The games that we have been in and had a chance to win we have been playing our style of game and dictating the play. And the games that we haven't really been a part of and been blown out of the water in we have just sit back and played the other teams style. I think it just a matter of us keeping to our systems and believing and playing the way we play."
Gadowsky said his team has learned a lot so far this year but there is still work to do.
"We have to continue to improve but not forget the lesson we have learned. I think it has been for our team a bit of a process learning how to play hard within the rules. Last year we played all conferences, we played Division III games, club games, we really did not have any consistent officiating. And we are in a process to learn how to play very hard but play without getting penalties. That is something we have been doing a lot better now than we had been but something we are going to have to work on."
But the challenge of playing in the Big Ten is something the Nittany Lions embrace.
"That's why everyone came here. That's why our coaching staff is here, that is why our student athletes are here, to compete in the best conference in the nation," Gadowsky said. "And it's certainly an honor to do that."