Monday, August 8, 2011

A Coach in Hand is Worth Two in the Bush, which covers southern-based ACHA organizations, is reporting that assistant coach Josh Hand - whose position with the program had been in limbo for months - has been retained on Guy Gadowsky's staff as a goaltending coach. In addition, he will serve as the head coach of Penn State's ACHA Division 2 squad.

Hand joined Scott Balboni's Icers staff for the 2010-2011 season, where his broad responsibilities included recruiting, video analysis and practice development. He also took over head coaching duties while Balboni was in Turkey for the World University Games. The Reading-area native guided the Icers to a 4-1-1 record during that period, including a split at Delaware and a three-point home weekend against Rhode Island - a stretch that more or less ensured that PSU made the ACHA National Tournament for an unmatched 20th straight year. As the season wore on, it also appeared as if he superseded the head coach (who resigned May 27th) as the team's media spokesperson. A quick survey of Steve Penstone's blog shows seven 2011 in-season interviews with Hand, compared with zero for Balboni.

Hand played an integral role in recruiting a large portion of the 2011 class, no minor feat considering the uncertain identity of the coaching staff at the time most committed - including doubt whether Hand would even be a part of it. Those fears (yes "fears," I'm an unapologetic fan) are now passe, obviously.

His new responsibilities include coaching up returning goalies Matt Madrazo and Dan Ivanir (who combined for 13 wins and a 2.48 goals against average last season) as well as incoming recruits Tim Carr and P.J. Musico.

Penn State's D2 job had been open since early April, when Ryan Behnken departed for the head coach position with the Philadelphia Revolution's Tier III Jr. B Continental Hockey Association team after just one season. The Ice Lions were 15-8-5 last season and advanced to the finals of the regional tournament before falling to perennial D2 power UMBC. Behnken did predict big things for Hand upon leaving, even if he didn't know who his successor would be at the time. Presumably, he did know that the team will have as many as 26 returning players, plus the possibility of adding D1-caliber players who don't make the D1 team this season due to the unique circumstances in play right now.
“Next year’s team looks like it will be very strong. Whoever gets to coach the team will be really lucky.”
Hand explained a little about his strategy for the Ice Lions to
While Hand said he will coach to his players’ abilities and experience, he favors an uptempo game. “I think we’ll be very good. We’ll push the guys and an uptempo style of hockey.

“I think I bring a lot of experience from playing and being part of the DI team here. My hope is for us to be back where we were . . . And any coach’s goal is to win a national championship.”

Hand, who will conduct a training camp after the DI [Icers] hold theirs, is still in the process of building his team’s schedule.
Before coming to the Icers, Hand lived a typically-nomadic hockey life, including playing stops with the Atlantic Junior Hockey League's prestigious Boston Bulldogs organization (whose alumni include Icers Eric Steinour and Creek Lewis) and as a four-year goalie at NCAA Division III Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. Following graduation in 2008, he relocated to College Station, TX where he served as an assistant with Texas A&M's ACHA Division 2 program and as director of hockey at the Arctic Wolf Ice Center. Despite a brief history in a non-traditional area, the Aggies finished No. 10 in the West Region and made the regional playoffs for the first time ever in 2008-2009.


  1. you said "plus the possibility of adding D1-caliber players who don't make the D1 team this season due to the unique circumstances in play right now."
    This is the team the transfers (not the recruits) should play on to use it as their NCAA "sit out" year. They shouldn't be taking spots from kids who have been playing the last few years for the Icers in the ACHA. It may make the ACHA a little less angry as well. Just a thought.

  2. I agree that we probably could've done better by some of the players and that we should have considered setting the whole thing up a little differently. Even considered a full post about it, but here are the problems I keep running into. I started with the assumption that the administration eventually wants to end up with an NCAA DI team and an ACHA D2 team. Figure these out, and it could be a great post!

    1. You have to recruit an entire team's worth of players for this season in one way or another. If you have some new DI players and some Icers on the "varsity team" (the most likely scenario since getting 25 NCAA players in one year is unlikely for anyone, and Icers are going to want to take a shot at the NCAA team), how do you get players for the ACHA D1 team and it's uncertain future? You're taking the best players off the Icers and replacing them with what? The guys left on the ACHA team deserve to play for a competitive team obviously.

    2. When do you "move down" and merge the ACHA D1 and D2 teams? After all the current Icers have graduated? That might be the most fair way to do it, but you're still going to be pulling a rug out from someone who wanted to play ACHA D1. Maybe it's not quite the same since they knew what they were getting into, but again, that goes back to point 1. Who's going to agree to play in that situation? And what of the numerous D2 players whose careers would end in that transaction? Don't they count for something?

    3. Money. I think people confuse Terry Pegula with "bottomless pit of money allowing PSU hockey to more or less do whatever it wants." Quite simply, guy doesn't roll that way, and carrying an extra hockey team and related expenses for an undetermined period would probably be a pretty tough sell to him, other donors, or the athletic department - especially when the ACHA team would suffer pretty significantly in terms of sponsors, ticket sales, etc.