PSU takes win in ice arena debut

UNIVERSITY PARK – Terry Pegula stepped to the podium at center ice to a standing ovation during the dedication ceremony of the building adorning his name just hours before Penn State won the first game ever played in it over Army, 4-1.

Pegula, who had his family members on his left and Penn State representatives on his right, including President Rodney Erickson and men’s hockey captain Tommy Olczyk, waited for the applause to taper off before discussing how the arena was built.

“Joe [Battista] and I, you could say, started the whole idea when we had dinner one night. … Penn State gave me [a] petroleum and natural gas engineering degree, which I took and dedicated my whole life to building a company… and from that company was the foundation and the ability to fund this beautiful facility,” Pegula said.

Less than seven hours later, Penn State took on the Black Knights in front of a raucous, sold out crowd of 6,370 to break the ice of the new arena, which Pegula donated $102 million to build.

The Roar Zone – the student section – and other Penn State fans did not have to wait long to show their excitement since the first goal was scored more than three minutes into the period.

Nate Jensen ripped a shot from just inside the blue line that found the top shelf of Army goaltender Rob Tadazak’s net to ignite the crowd and give the Nittany Lions an early advantage.

John Warner, a Penn State freshman who sat in the Roar Zone, said watching the first goal was a release for him and the fans.

“[There] was a lot of excitement built up for that,” Warner said. “I’m really glad we scored the first one.”

While it is uncertain if the electricity experienced in the Pegula opener will carry over to Penn State’s remaining 17 home games, Warner said he expects it to continue.

The historic game also provided an opportunity for many former Penn State club players to come back with their families to the new arena.

Elizabeth O’Connor, who is married to John O’Connor, a member of the 1990 Penn State club team that took home the ACHL national championship, made the three and a half hour trek from Delaware with her husband to experience the new jewel on Penn State’s campus.

“When I first came here … you couldn’t find a parking place and it was jammed packed into this small rink, so I’m amazed,” Elizabeth O’Connor said. “This is like major league hockey here.”