In April - seven months after the university announced Terry Pegula's $88 million dollar donation to fund the arena and help the program establish Division I status - Penn State hired Gadowsky away from Princeton.
Rather than take the year to focus on recruiting and getting ready for the move to Division I, the Edmonton, Alberta native and 2008 Inside Hockey national coach of the year is coaching the Penn State Icers, the school's club team - which opened its season with a 12-1 win over Lebanon Valley College on Friday - in its last season playing in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA). Four of the team's players are transfers that came after Gadowsky was hired and four others are freshmen he recruited for the program.
"I think they're all excited. The new guys are excited to be here but the guys that were on last year's team, they're seeing it is a whole different level of expectations," said Joe Battista, Penn State's associate director of athletics for Ice Arena and Hockey Development. "It's a whole different level of speed and just what they're expected to do for the team."
Gadowsky and assistants Keith Fisher and Matt Lindsay have been on the road recruiting "best student-athletes all over" the nation. The head coach confirmed they have already received commitments but could not share details due to NCAA rules.
"We're still in club mode and there's a number of moving parts to it, but I think when we look back these are going to be the days we smile about," Gadowsky said.
Once it jumps to Division I, Penn State will play one more year in its current home - the Penn State Ice Pavilion - before the new arena across from the Bryce Jordan Center on the east side of campus is finished. The same year it moves into the new arena, which is expected to hold 6,000, it will start Big Ten play.
The conference will have six hockey programs - the others being Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State and Wisconsin - and Gadowsky didn't hesitate to say the Big Ten will be the best conference in the nation.
But as exciting as the future sounds in "Hockey Valley," Gadowsky said it's important for the team to continue its success as a club team for one last time. The team went 150-34-9 in its last five seasons under coach Scott Balboni.
"This is the last time Penn State's going to be in the ACHA, and they've had a lot of success and we want to continue that," Gadowsky said. "But besides that, there's the goal of making sure we do set a foundation of success for the future. We want to set the foundation moving forward to Division I."