Penn State men’s hockey set a Pegula Ice Arena attendance record Friday night, with 6,588 fans.
Unfortunately, the night didn’t end with a win.
Despite outshooting Notre Dame, 53-24, Penn State lost 2-1.
Saturday night, Penn State broke the attendance record again, with 6,566 turning out. For a while, it looked like Saturday’s game could tell another unfortunate tale. Penn State played well throughout the night, outshooting Notre Dame 45-31. But Penn State fell behind 1-0 and then 2-1 and never led until the 14:33 mark of the third period when Christian Sarlo scored the eventual game-winner of the home team’s 3-2 triumph.
Setting the attendance record would have been a proud accomplishment regardless of how the game played out. But winning makes it easier for coach Guy Gadowsky and his program to relish in another record-breaking crowd.
“Isn’t that something?” Gadowsky rhetorically asked reporters after the game.
Gadowsky said the milestones show that Penn State is “such a great university and such a great community” and noted that the fans keep their energy throughout the game, not just at the beginning.
“Their support is absolutely incredible,” he said, “and usually you’d expect, like right out of the gates, it was awesome. But it’s never wavered. It’s just never wavered.”
Penn State hockey didn’t have fans for more than a year and a half, thanks to COVID-19. Gadowsky feels this made Penn State fans appreciate the Pegula experience more.
“I think, you know, coming out of COVID, I heard a lot of people say, ‘Oh, man, we get to go back to Pegula,” Gadowsky said. “We’ll never take that for granted again.’
The players loved the support, too.
“It’s really special,” Sarlo said post-game. “I mean, we know we have the best fans in college hockey, and honestly, maybe in hockey. The turnout’s always fantastic. I think we kind of had a sneaky suspicion that on Whiteout Weekend, maybe we’d get a pretty good crowd. But the fact that it was both nights, it was really special.”
“It’s always fun to play in front of that crowd,” Danny Dzhaniyev said. “I knew– we were like making jokes about it– maybe we’d break it back to back, but we all kind of knew it was going to happen. When we stepped on the ice, in the first period, we were like, ‘alright, yeah, this is it.'”
Overall, Gadowsky feels the milestones show that Hockey Valley is thriving.
“To see back-to-back nights setting attendance records,” Gadowsky said, “it speaks to the great support that the students and the community have for Penn State University.”