Friday, December 30, 2011

One Game, Two Coaches

Different coaches, identical scenes: Neumann's 2009 national championship (top), Princeton's 2008 ECAC championship (bottom).

While the schools employing Guy Gadowsky and Dominick Dawes could not be more different, the two coaches actually have similar reputations - as builders.

We know Gadowsky's track record well by this point. Following his playing days, he started coaching in the now-defunct West Coast Hockey League. His college career began at Alaska, where he took a six-win program to its only 20-win season since joining a major conference (the CCHA, in 1994). He moved on to Princeton which, since the NCAA hockey championship began in 1948, has had 11 winning seasons, three NCAA tournament appearances and two conference tournament titles. Three, two and one of those came in Gadowsky's seven seasons. Now, he's undertaking perhaps his most difficult challenge yet: turning new program Penn State into one that can compete in a conference with schools like Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Dawes, despite not being among the coaching ranks for as long, has quickly developed a similar aptitude for success. He was a four-year defenseman for NCAA Division III Norwich from 2000-2004, winning a national championship in 2003 and playing in two other Frozen Fours. After a couple years in the Southern Professional Hockey League, he spent 2006-2008 as an assistant at Hamilton College before accepting his current position at Neumann. In his first season as a head coach Dawes led NU, a program with all of three winning seasons since its 1998 founding, to a stunning national championship. It wasn't a one-off either - another trip to the NCAA tournament followed in 2011, and the Knights are the No. 11 team in the country right now.

TYT recently asked the men behind the impressive resumes a series of identical questions related to their January 4th meeting. Here are their answers side by side.

Thank You Terry: What does this game mean to your program?

Guy Gadowsky: First and foremost, I’m really happy for the guys. I think it’s just going to be a great experience. I’m very thankful that they’ve asked our program to be a part of it, so I feel very good about that. But I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to play outside in this venue, so I think it’s going to be an experience that our players never forget.

Dominick Dawes: I think the games means a lot to our entire university. It's an opportunity for us to get the Neumann name and brand out there.

TYT: Any personal experience playing outside?

DD: To be honest, I have skated outside a few times but never actually played outside.

GG: I didn’t play inside until I was 11 or 12 years old. I’ve obviously never played in an outdoor venue like this, but growing up, I played the majority of games outdoors.

TYT: Are there any adjustments you have to make for an outdoor game that don't exist playing inside?

GG: I wouldn’t know. The last time I did play outdoors was when I was a kid. Every time I’d get a chance to come home for Christmas, or I coached in Alaska as well – we would play outdoors for fun. As far as playing a real NCAA game, this is the first experience that I’ve had.

DD: I don't think we are worried about any adjustments. This will be new and unique for both teams, we just need to focus on playing our game.

TYT: Could there be a period early on in the game where everyone's a little in awe of the surroundings and not focusing on the hockey game?

DD: We will just have to stay focused on playing the way we are capable. We have an older team that has played in some big games and fun environments over the past couple years.

GG: Well I think it’s interesting, because I’m not sure that either team will have an opportunity to have a pregame skate on it, so I think there is going to be that sort of look-around ‘wow,’ you know, sort of that wow factor. But I think once the puck drops, Neumann – obviously they won the NCAA Division III championship three years ago, they’re an excellent program. So they’re certainly going to be the most talented team that we face.

TYT: What do you know about Coach Dawes and Neumann/Coach Gadowsky and Penn State?

GG: I know Coach Dawes, he would come and work our camps at Princeton. He’s a very good guy, he’s a very hard worker, so I have a lot of respect for him. And from what he’s done at Neumann, like I said, they won the Division III national championship, so I’ve got a great deal of respect for him, I know he works hard, and I’m sure his teams are going to emulate those characteristics.

DD: I know Penn State has a very strong and rich tradition in hockey. I worked the past couple summers with Coach Gadowsky and his staff at the Princeton hockey camps. They did a great job rebuilding that program and I am sure they will great job building the PSU program and transitioning into Division I.

Gadowsky knows Dawes from the latter's working Princeton hockey camps. Now they're ticketed to go head to head under the stars and under the lights.

TYT: Who is the biggest Phillies fan on the team?

DD: Not sure. I would probably say our trainer Sal Capone. He grew up in South Philly.

GG: You know what? I don’t know. I’m sure there’s several, but I don’t know who’s the biggest.

TYT: How is your team looking injury-wise coming off of the holidays?

GG: My biggest concern right now is Bryce Johnson. I think everyone else will be fine. I expect to have Taylor Holstrom back. Matt Madrazo will be back. But I think Bryce Johnson, who suffered a broken hand against Liberty, is going to be a question mark.

DD: Hopefully everyone will be healthy.

TYT: Will you be able to watch the Winter Classic, or are there preparations that take priority?

DD: I will not. We have a pretty busy schedule. We get back to campus on December 26th and play in a holiday tournament in Oswego, NY over New Year's.

GG: I won’t see it personally, we’ve got a lot to do – after we play the game with Neumann, we head out the next day to Oklahoma. I know some of the guys talked about possibly making the trip up to see it, so hopefully they’ll get the opportunity. But as far as the coaching staff, we’re going to be here getting ready.

TYT: Flyers or Rangers?

GG: It’s funny, because those are actually two teams I liked when I was a kid. When I was a kid, the Flyers, they were my team. Until the Oilers joined the NHL, the Flyers were my team, and then we had recent Princeton grad Darroll Powe who did a great with the Flyers in their run to the Stanley Cup finals, and he was an instrumental part of that. I really enjoyed watching them then, but he got traded to the Minnesota Wild. I don’t know what’s going to happen here with [Claude] Giroux (who was out with a concussion, but returned on December 21st), I know [Chris] Pronger’s out. The Flyers have some injuries, but I still like their team. It should be an excellent game, but I’ve got to pick the Flyers.

DD: Flyers.

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