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Sewickley hockey coach named director at Pegula Ice Arena

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When an opportunity came up at the Pegula Ice Arena, Ryan Patrick couldn't turn it down.

“It is an amazing opportunity,” he said. “I took a tour of the new arena last week, and there is something special going on here. I am lucky to be part of it.”

The former Sewickley Academy hockey coach was named the new hockey director for the State College arena last week.

The new $80 million facility will be home to the Penn State men's and women's hockey teams, both of which made the jump to NCAA Division I status.

Patrick's role at the new arena will include managing the facility's learn-to-skate and play hockey programs, the youth amateur hockey program and student and adult hockey leagues.

“There is a lot of excitement in the area,” Patrick said. “It should be like in Pittsburgh with the ‘Sidney Tsunami.' There was a spike in playing when Sidney Crosby came to Pittsburgh. That is what we are hoping for here with the new arena.”

For Patrick, it will be a bit of returning home. He is a 2003 graduate of Penn State and also played for the school's club hockey team. His wife, Colleen, is also a graduate of Penn State.

But the new position didn't come without some hesitance. Patrick had only coached Sewickley Academy for a single season.

“One of the things that was hard about taking the position was the team,” Patrick said. “Having a new coach season after season is tough. I am working with the athletic director to find a good replacement.”

The Panthers returned to the ice this past season after being on hiatus in 2011-12. The team competed in the Independent School Hockey League in its first year back and finished with a 5-5 mark.

The team battled with low numbers throughout the season, but the effort the players put in is something Patrick won't forget.

“In hockey, you should want your shift to be from 45 seconds to a minute,” Patrick said. “Due to our numbers, players had to take six-minute shifts sometimes.

“They would come over to the bench and I would say ‘no, you can't come off.' They put every inch of effort into the games and were wiped out by the end.”

But with the middle school program continuing to grow and more numbers expected to be on the varsity squad next season, Patrick thinks his former squad will continue to grow.

“The school is behind the program,” Patrick said. “The numbers should keep growing for the varsity team. The future is bright.”

Nathan Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at nsmith@tribweb.com or via Twitter @NSmith_Trib.

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