Last updated: February 17. 2013 9:41AM - 13 Views

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He's played with Ray Whitney, still a star winger in the NHL.

He's been teammates with Perreault (Yanic, not Hall of Famer Gilbert), Eastwood (Mike was never known for empty chairs), Lindros (Brett, the not-as-famous brother of Eric) and even Gretzky (not The Great One, Wayne, but The Other One, Keith).

Now, coach Guy Gadowsky leads Penn State into the ice age, as the Nittany Lions begin their Division I era this weekend. After a game today against American International in State College, Penn State comes to Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza for the second game in program history – again against the Yellow Jackets.

"From a team standpoint, it is a lot of fun," Gadowsky said of getting ready for the inaugural season Monday in a press conference. "We know it will be a huge step up. We understand that in terms of the speed and strength of the athletes and even more the speed of the game, the thinking and it is something we will have to work on every day at practice. It will be a huge challenge for us the entire year."

Gadowsky had been a successful minor league coach for three seasons when he took over the Alaska-Fairbanks program in 1999. After turning Fairbanks into a winner, he moved on to Princeton, where he restored the Tigers to glory.

In 12 years as a college coach, he is 173-198-37. Gadowsky moved on to Penn State in 2011, and last season coached the club team.

"Last year was basically a year-long tryout for those who wanted to be with us when we were D-I," Gadowsky said of the club team, which provided all but 11 players on this season's roster. "There are many upperclassmen who came to Penn State because it is Penn State and to play club hockey, but now they get to play Division I. There are 16 players from last year's team who are on this year's team."

The Nittany Lions will have a neutral-site game in Philadelphia on Jan. 19 against Vermont, and will play in Robert Morris' tournament in Pittsburgh in late December. The team has a handful of exhibitions slated as well.

"We are playing Union, which made it to the Frozen Four last year," Gadowsky said. "We are going to Michigan State. We are going to Wisconsin. Those are the top of the food chain. For us to do that in our very first year is very daunting."

American International is coached by Gary Wright, who has led the Yellow Jackets since Gadowsky was in high school. Like the Penn State bench boss, Wright transitioned AIU up to the Division I level, posting a record of 280-516-59 along the way in 29 seasons at the Springfield, Mass., school.

Tickets remain available through Ticketmaster for Saturday's game. All seats are $12 for adults and $8 for children.

Two Penguins on the mend could return soon

Coach John Hynes talked about injuries after Thursday's practice:

Rookie forward Jayson Megna, who collided with defenseman Joey Mormina during Wednesday's practice, is day-to-day. Robert Bortuzzo is still questionable for Saturday and a decision on his status will be made today. Keven Veilleux is progressing and should be ready to return this month or early November.

If Megna isn't ready for the season opener on Saturday, Hynes said it's possible someone will get called up from Wheeling.

With one day of practice left before the season opener at Binghamton, Hynes said his line combinations and defensive pairings should be set after today's practice.

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