Column: McAdam Growing Up Before Our Eyes

Story posted February 5, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Ross Insana

Every program needs a standout recruit to further build their program, by not only helping the team on the ice, but to help lure in more upper-tier talent in future recruiting classes. At the beginning of the season, Eamon McAdam seemed like he could be just that, as expectations were through the roof for Guy Gadowsky’s most heralded recruit.

The Perkasie, PA, native was ranked as the third-best North American goalie by the International Scouting Service and the sixth-best North American goalie according to the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau leading up to the 2013 NHL Draft.

At No. 70 overall, McAdam became the first goalie taken by the New York Islanders regime since 2010, when they took Kent Simpson and Cody Rosen in the second and seventh rounds, respectively. Even before stepping on campus and officially playing his first game as a Nittany Lion, McAdam made history by becoming the first Penn State student-athlete with an affiliation to the university to be taken in the NHL Draft.

So, there was indeed pressure on McAdam to perform at a high level, considering his background and pedigree. That label of being an NHL draft pick for a second-year program goes a long way when it comes to expectations for a player. If you are talented to the point that an NHL team liked you enough to use a draft pick on you, some production is a necessity.

McAdam sure did not get the production anyone expected to start his Penn State career.

He made his collegiate debut on the road against Air Force on October 18, in a 5-2 loss, where he made 27 saves on 32 total shots. That start, though, came with struggles with two goals early in the first period. He even admitted he had the jitters in his first ever game in net for the Nittany Lions, which is expected for pretty much any freshman.

McAdam then dropped his second start of his Penn State career, allowing another batch of five goals to Vermont, in his homecoming of sorts at the Wells Fargo Center. That even included a dumped puck that took an odd bounce off the end-boards, off his own skate and somehow found its way behind him in the net.

Things were clearly not going as scripted for McAdam. 51 saves on 61 shots in two games. That is a .836 save percentage for you math wizards.

In hockey terms, that is not good.

Gadowsky likes to implement what is called a, “results based” decision-making process when giving his goalies playing time. The Penn State head coach even said that he planned on being patient with McAdam, and expected him to have better performances down the stretch as he “gets his legs under him”.

But “based” on McAdam’s “results” in those first two games, he needed to make some changes if there was any hope for him to get some playing time over Matt Skoff.

It was November 15, against then No. 16 UMass Lowell, at Pegula Ice Arena, where the tide starting turning in McAdam’s favor and Penn State fans got to see a snapshot of what he was all about. Despite allowing three goals in the first period, he would finish the rest of the game turning aside the rest of the 31 shots thrown his way.

Something was about to poke through the surface. The tip of the iceberg, perhaps?

Fast forward to the end of the holiday break, to the big home weekend series against No. 1 Minnesota. The first ever Big Ten hockey series in Pegula Ice Arena history. Second best offensive team in the country, statistically, is in town.

Gadowsky goes with his freshman goalie for the first game of the series over Skoff.

McAdam wound up saving 42 of 45 shots, getting beat three times with shots from the point where he was screened, against a deep and offensively gifted Golden Gophers team. He gave his team a great opportunity to dethrone the best in the country in a 3-2 loss. That even included an acrobatic save against one of the best young talents in the country, Hudson Fasching.

"You get in a groove and you really start rolling. Stuff just seems to hit you even if you don't see it," said McAdam after that start. "Bounces start going your way and eventually start going your way for the whole team."

Gadowsky himself even called it the best goaltending performance of year for the Nittany Lions.

Anyone in attendance would have agreed with Gadowsky’s comment, too.

Clearly he was starting to find some sort of rhythm that was not evident at the beginning of the season. Better rebound control, staying on his angles, using his big frame and athleticism to his advantage and most importantly; more mental toughness.

Then, the vaunted Boston College Eagles offense, with three of the top five scorers in the country came to Hockey Valley.

After two road losses in East Lansing, from Skoff, Gadowsky went back to McAdam again for the start between the pipes against another marquee opponent.

The encore?

Another quality start, including what I like to call a slight reenactment of “The Save” by Frank Pietrangelo against Peter Stastny in the 1991 Stanley Cup playoffs. A 27-save game in another 3-2 loss and once again, giving his team a chance to come back and get a crack at collecting the biggest win in the program’s history in front of the home crowd.

It has been in three of those last four home games where McAdam has really shown his true colors of not only what he is capable of, but a strong sense of built up confidence in himself. This all comes despite not having the tangible evidence of not having his first collegiate win yet.

He seems like a completely different goalie compared to those first two starts and some change. Gadowsky even spoke highly of McAdam’s maturation and progression as a goaltender throughout this recent stretch of strong starts.

“We’re really happy and it’s not necessarily unanticipated if you look at the path that [Skoff] took last year sort of mirroring him in a certain degree,” said Gadowsky. “He’s had a great opportunity to grow and he’s gotten better every game. When you’re talking about a maturation process I think that’s exactly what we are all seeing. It gives you a lot of optimism for the future.”

If you want to make his Penn State hockey career into a story, let’s call this the rising action of his freshman season. Some might say he has already peaked for this season already. Me? I do not think we have seen the best out of McAdam so far. That is saying a lot, too.

Since the end of that first period against UMass Lowell, McAdam has saved 120 of 130 shots. That is 92.3 percent of shots saved with 89 of those saves coming against the two best offensive teams in the country.

In hockey terms, that is pretty good. Especially in that context.

Have we seen the coming out party of Eamon McAdam: Penn State number one goalie? Time will tell.

Ross Insana is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email rxi5007@psu.edu.