When the Pegula family proudly made their generous donation to create the Penn State ice hockey program, no one could have foreseen the scandal that would rock the university. As a new ice hockey program competing at the NCAA Division I level is hurled into the same throes as an expansion team in the National Hockey League, trying to escape the dark shadow of a tragic event only adds obstacles to the task of building a team.
For the Penn State Nittany Lions, their beginnings are mired against the backdrop of a football coaching scandal that crippled the football program while giving the university a black eye. In the wake of these events, every program will be under intense scrutiny. In the case of Penn State, it can only hope that it does not endure the same beginning as its sister team in the CHA, the Robert Morris Colonials. In its inaugural season, the club had a dismal 1-7-0 start and head coach Kevin McGonagle was dismissed.
Tragically, any athlete or team associated with the University will have the black cloud of the scandal hover over them for now. As unfair as it may be, it is a burden that the women’s ice hockey team may have to shoulder in their inaugural season.
Heading into the new look College Hockey America conference, the Nittany Lions will compete for a respectable third place finish against the Syracuse Orange, and newly admitted clubs, the Lindenwood Lady Lions and RIT Tigers. Two other team from Pennsylvania, the Mercyhurst Lakers (from Erie) and the aforementioned Robert Morris squad (from Moon Township) will battle for top spot.
Despite the obstacles that have been presented in light of the football scandal, there are other aspects to consider. As Sports Illustrated mentioned, it is one of the leading academic institutions in America, with the largest student run philanthropic organization. The ability to excel and perform amidst the dark cloud cast among them may still prove to be their finest hour.