Blast from the Past

Penn State tabs former Icer standout Brandwene as its first Division I women's hockey coach.

Consider Josh Brandwene a go-to guy for Penn State hockey athletic director Joe Battista.

When he was named head coach of PSU's club hockey program in 1987, Battista made Brandwene his first recruit. Nearly a quarter of a century later, Battista identified the Hershey, Pa., native as the best candidate to be the first Division I women's hockey coach in Penn State history.

Brandwene (pronounced BRAND-ween) was introduced as the Nittany Lions head coach during a press conference at the Jordan Center Wednesday. He was one of three finalists for the job, though Battista and Penn State athletic director Tim Curley both declined to identify the other two prospects.

“Suffice it to say, we had three very good candidates,” Battista said. “We would have been happy with any of them. But we're thrilled with the one we got. It's a Penn State family. … We've got somebody here who lives and breathes hockey, cut his teeth here, loves this place. Everyone is going to rally around this. To me, it is a win-win situation.”

“I'm thrilled beyond words to be back,” Brandwene added. “It's a great day in Happy Valley.”

Brandwene is coming off a stint at Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, Conn., where he coached the girls' program from 2008-10 and the boys' program last season. Prior to that, he coached for three seasons at the boys program at Northfield Mount Hermon (Mass.) School.

Brandwene had previously served as head coach at three American College Hockey Association men's programs, including West Virginia, Delaware and Michigan-Dearborn. He also served as president of the ACHA from 1997-2004. Further, Brandwene assisted Battista when the latter coached the United States World University Games team in 2003.

“What's great about him is he has experience not only on the college side for the men, but he's got it on the prep school side with guys and girls,” Battista said. “So he's connected in the right circles for where the recruits are on the women's side.

“He's built programs everywhere he's been,” Battista added. “That makes me proud.”

Penn State is launching Division I men's and women's hockey programs thanks to an $88 million donation from alumnus Terry Pergola last year. A large part of the donation will be used to build a new ice arena on campus, but it will not be open until late 2013 at the soonest. The men's and women's programs will both begin Division I play in the PSU Ice Pavilion starting in the 2012-13 season.

In the meantime, Brandwene will focus on recruiting (he was scheduled to leave for a key youth hockey tournament in Toronto later Wednesday). He will coach Penn State's club hockey program this coming season, too. All of it is meant to get the school up to Division I speed as quickly as possible.

“It's comprehensive,” Brandwene said. “It's the culture, it's getting to know the young people in the program. Everything that's involved in making a program successful, on and off the ice, we're going to get started with right away.”

Participants in Wednesday's press conference could not help but think back to Brandwene's playing career with the PSU club program, the Icers, when discussing his new position. Described as an offensive-minded defenseman, he actually broke Battista's school record for career goals by a defenseman.

“We're not counting that as a great accomplishment,” Curley joked. “It would be an average accomplishment.”

Brandwene was a member of Penn State's 1990 national championship team, and was named program MVP and league MVP that year.

“He played the game a lot like I did,” Battista said. “I'd like to think that was good … I'm seeing a lot of people wincing. But he knew the game, understood the game, had leadership skills.”

Battista said Mo Stroemel, the previous head coach of Penn State's women's club team, will be part of the new Division I program in an as-yet-to-be-determined role.

Brandwene's wife, Leona, is also a Penn State graduate. The couple have a 7-year-old daughter named Sophie.

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