UNIVERSITY PARK (AP) - Penn State is about to drop the puck on Division I hockey.
The Nittany Lions' debut as a major college program arrives Friday when American International visits Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Penn State had a varsity team from 1940 to 1947 before dropping the sport. The school picked up hockey again in 1971 as a club sport and Penn State turned into one of the top programs in the nation at that level.
Energy company executive Terry Pegula sparked the move to Division I after a donation in 2010 that eventually grew to $102 million, the largest private gift in Penn State history. The gift funded the men's program and a new hockey arena scheduled to open next season in time for the inaugural season of Big Ten hockey.
The school also elevated the successful women's club program to Division I status. Both teams will play at the new Pegula Ice Arena.
"There are so many moving parts and it takes so much work," men's coach Guy Gadowsky said this week. "There are a lot of challenges behind the scenes for sure, when you talk about building the foundation ... It's like a garden - you can't ignore it."
The Nittany Lions will spend their first year in Division I as an independent before moving to Big Ten play in 2013.
The two-game series will conclude Saturday (Oct. 13) at 7 p.m. as the teams will travel to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and face off at Mohegan Sun Arena in Casey Plaza, home of the American Hockey League's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
With the addition of Penn State to the NCAA Division I ranks, there are now 59 schools that sponsor NCAA Division I men's hockey. The last school to establish NCAA Division I hockey was Robert Morris in 2004-05.
Penn State will play at four neutral site venues during the 2012-13 season. The Nittany Lions will also play at two NHL arena's - CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh (Three Rivers Classic Jan. 28-29) and Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center (vs. Vermont Jan. 19).