Sunday, January 31, 2010

Splitsville

It was a weekend of missed opportunities for six of the top seven teams in the ACHA Div. 1 ranking.

Top-ranked Lindenwood was upset Saturday, with Kent State beating the Lions 5-4 to split their weekend.

Number-3 Ohio and #4 Illinois split at the Big Pond, while #5 Liberty and #7 Oklahoma did the same in Lynchburg.

Sixth-ranked Iowa State gained a weekend sweep, taking two from Eastern Michigan, so expect the Cyclones to be moving up in next week's D-1 poll.

As for the Icers, the less said about the weekend in Delaware the better, especially when it comes to Saturday's 4-2 loss to the Blue Hens. Simply put, Delaware took the Icers to the woodshed.

The coaches knew the Hens' season was on the line and that they would come out flying -- and Mike DeAngelis' team did exactly that.

Meanwhile, the Icers had no answer for the Blue Hens attack and couldn't beat goalie Nick Casella. His robbery on Chris Cerutti's shorthanded breakaway was the turning point of the game.

Despite Cerutti's effort, as I said during the webcast, Saturday's second period was the worst by the Icers this season.

Bottom line is - play like that at Nationals and it will be another early exit.

It will be interesting to see how the team rebounds with Rhode Island coming to town on Alumni Weekend. The #10 Rams won both games at Navy over the weekend and have moved a point ahead of Penn State in the ESCHL standings.

The Rams wrap up their conference schedule next weekend, while the Icers have two games in hand, finishing up with a home-and-home series with Drexel in two weeks.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Newark Nailbiter

Quick early morning post from our hotel in Newark, DE after the Icers handed the Delaware Blue Hens a 1-0 defeat in front of a packed house at the Rust Arena.

The Icers played a disciplined game, Ted Hume stood on his head to notch his second shutout of the season, and Rich O'Brien's 2nd goal of the season (assists by Ryan Paradis and Paul Daley) at 6:06 of the second period stood as the game-winner as the Icers ran their ACHA winning streak to 19 games (24-2-1 overall).

With the win, the #2 Icers erased Delaware's chance of capturing the ESCHL regular season title and likely hurt the chances of the 14th ranked Blue Hens making it to the national tournament.

Thanks to all of the fans who hung in through the webcast, despite the game starting about a half-hour after the scheduled 9pm start and despite the buffering and wifi dropoffs throughout the night.

To add to the technical woes, I videotaped the post game interviews with the three stars, but the card reader on my laptop doesn't read the SDHC card from the camera!

Oh well, here's the audio portion of the interviews with Coach Balboni, Rich, Ted and Taylor Cera.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Conference Crunch Time

The winning streak against ACHA teams is at 18 games and they're ranked number 2 in Division 1, but that won't mean much as the Icers head to Delaware this weekend for the first of three weekends of ESCHL conference play.

The Blue Hens will be looking for revenge after getting swept by the Icers at the Greenberg in December.

Paul Daley was the hero in the 2-1 victory on December 5, scoring in the 7th round of the shootout.

On Saturday December 6, Marek Polidor notched 2 goals and an assist and Ted Hume recorded the 5th shutout of his career as the Icers blanked the Hens 6-0.

I caught up with Assistant Coach Bill Downey at Wednesday's optional practice. In addition to talking about this weekend's important series, Bill made official what the team learned on Monday -- he'll be leaving the team at the end of the season after his wife Amy accepted a prestigious job in Boston.


While we're obviously disappointed that Bill will be leaving, we're thrilled for this great opportunity for both Amy and Bill.

Now, back to the Blue Hens and the conference standings.

Rodney Martin has done the math -- the Icers need to take eight of the 12 points possible in their remaining conference games to capture their third consecutive conference title.

After Delaware, the Icers host Rhode Island on Alumni Weekend before wrapping up conference play with a home-and-home series with Drexel.

Penn State is one point up on URI and four ahead of the Blue Hens, with two games in hand on both.

The Rust Arena has been the site of mixed results over the years -- perhaps due in part to the Olympic-size ice surface, which is 15 feet wider than the standard NHL-size rinks such as at the Ice Pavilion.

As Carey Bell says, the extra width can cause problems for defensemen.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nailbiting Time

OK -- that was a little too close for comfort! The Icers needed a shootout on Saturday to complete the home-and-home sweep of ESCHL conference foe West Chester.

West Chester nearly pulled off a Saturday shocker, despite being outshot 60-21 through the overtime.

Taylor Cera, in his second game back from the ankle sprain, scored 5:47 into the third to give the Icers a 3-1 lead. But the Golden Rams battled back, scoring three times in under six and a half minutes.

With a minute-ten left in regulation and a faceoff in the West Chester zone, Tim O'Brien won the draw back to Steve Thurston. Steve's wrist shot looked like it changed directions before finding the back of the net.

Domenic Morrone notched the only goal in the shootout, giving the Icers the win and extending their ACHA win streak to 18 games.

The sweep sets up a huge matchup next weekend when the Icers head to Delaware. The Blue Hens took two from Navy over the weekend, and currently sit four points back of Penn State and two behind Rhode Island.


With Rhode Island heading to Navy next weekend, the logjam atop the conference could be even tighter by this time next week. The Icers will have to play much better than they did against West Chester to keep a lock on the top spot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Good News, Bad News

VIDEO UPDATE


Let's get the bad news out of the way -- there won't be video for this weekend's home and home series with West Chester.

We're still working the bugs out of the system and hope that we'll have everything ready for the two games at Delaware.

Now for some good news as far as the webcasts. Last night, Lady Icers coach Mo Stroemel told me that he was able to listen to the Penn State- OU webcast on his iPhone while the team was traveling last weekend.

I don't know if the webcasts can be heard on a Microsoft or Symbian-based smartphone. If anyone tries it, please let me know.

Speaking of the OU games, the sweep was sweet. However, just remember what happened back in October.

After splitting with the Bobcats in Athens the Icers thumped West Chester 7-1 at home the following Friday, and then dropped a 4-3 shootout loss to the Golden Rams at the Ice Line.

What is it about the main rink down there that causes the Icers fits? The Icers return to the scene on Friday before hosting West Chester on Saturday afternoon.

Ted Hume offers an explanation from a goalie's perspective.

I caught up with Ted and Assistant Coach Bill Downey at today's practice. Still figuring out the settings on the new video camera. Hopefully, it'll get better!


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rivalry Weekend

The Penn State Icers and Ohio Bobcats battled each other tooth and nail this past weekend, with the Icers coming out on top of both games at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

The old barn was rocking all weekend as the Icers came away with 3-1 and 3-2 victories to take three of the four season games between the long-time rivals.

Ted Hume backstopped the wins, his 16th and 17th of the season. Teddy was strongest in the second period of both games, when the Icers found themselves in a heap of penalty trouble.

Good penalty killing starts with good goaltending -- with a good dose of skating and forechecking thrown into the recipe. The mix worked, because the Icers PK was a perfect 11 for 11 on the weekend.

Tim O'Brien was the hero of Saturday's win, scoring with 3:13 left in regulation time and assisting on Joe Zitarelli's 1st period goal.

Joe was inserted into the lineup in place of Nick Seravalli, who came down with a bug after scoring in Friday's victory.

Due to a technical glitch we don't have the full post-game from Saturday (with apologies to the Hume family), but here's Tim and the coach talking about next weekend's home-and-home series with West Chester.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Icers Take Round One

The 'Executive Producer' hit the nail on the head last night when she said:

I feel like I just watched three different hockey games."

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the Icers and the Ohio Bobcats treated the packed house at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion to another thrilling battle in their long rivalry, with Penn State coming out on the upside of a 3-1 final score.

The Icers dominated play in the first period, getting goals from Nick Seravalli and Ryan Paradis (on the power play).

The second period belonged to OU. Zack Barbis silenced the Icers faithful when he beat Ted Hume just 16 seconds into the period.

The Icers got off their game and ran into penalty trouble, exactly what the coaches warned them against doing in the pregame meeting.

Fortunately, the penalty killing was outstanding. The Icers were a perfect 6-for-6 on the night, including killing a lengthy two-man OU advantage during the middle frame.

It was 'Kitty-bar-the-door' in the third as the coaches changed the game plan, going into dump and chase mode. The move worked, forcing the Bobcats to go 200 feet almost every time they had the puck.

The Icers finally got some breathing room at 16:44, when George Saad converted a pass from Michael Longo, beating Paul Marshall for the insurance marker.

Longo, the true freshman, centered the fourth line in place of the injured Chris Pronchik and had a strong game that earned him 2nd star honors.

Nick Servalli was the 3rd star, while big Ted Hume was the game's 1st star, stopping 33 shots for his 16th win of the season. The victory was even sweeter for Ted, because his mother was on hand to see him play for the first time this season.

Ted's performance came despite a bizarre start to the 3rd period. As play got underway, I took a quick glance toward the Icers' net and saw a goalie wearing a blue mask.

At first glance, I thought that John Jay was in net, but then realized that unless J-J had suddenly grown about 6 inches between periods, Ted was wearing John's mask.

As Ted explained in the post-game interview, a couple of screws had departed from his mask between periods -- insert joke about all goalies having a screw loose -- and he had to borrow John's mask.

Loose screws or not, all goalies are very particular about their equipment, especially their masks. Ted looked like he was having a tough time spotting the puck, which he later confirmed.

Teddy gave full credit to equipment manager Graham Pepperman for making some lightning-fast repairs. Just another example of the team effort that makes the Icers the premiere team in the ACHA.

With the Icers beating OU and #3 Illinois falling in overtime to Robert Morris College, a sweep of the Bobcats could should move the Icers into the top 2 or 3 in next week's coaches poll.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

You'll Wonder Where the Yellow Went...

Are you old enough to remember that slogan for Pepsodent toothpaste?

Well, that came to mind today when I put our new video camera to use at the Icers' last practice before this weekend's battles with the Ohio Bobcats.

The Canon Vixia camera is a beautiful piece of technology. It'll take me a while to figure out all of the bells and whistles. While its primary use will be for streaming video of the games, it will also let me get better quality videos when I interview the guys under the lights at the Greenberg.

No more will the Icers have a "jaundiced view."

Tim O'Brien and Paul Daley were my first tests.

Looks a little better than the older videos. More tweaking to come!

Hey, don't forget - it's a White Out night tomorrow. The Greenberg will be rockin'!


Monday, January 11, 2010

Going to Video in 5..4..3..2..

You've asked -- and we're finally answering. Yes, it is true. We will be adding video to the Penn State Icers webcasts in the very near future.

Thanks to a generous contribution of an alumni parent who shall remain nameless, I am waiting for the big brown truck to deliver a new video camera and related equipment.

Unfortunately, the delivery isn't scheduled until Wednesday. Obviously, as I said on Saturday, we would love to have everything running in time for this weekend's big series against the #2 Ohio Bobcats.

However, since we want to make sure that we bring you the best product right out of the gate - we're going to put that on hold and shoot for the home-and-home series with West Chester the following weekend.

We'll be working with Tom McLaughlin at Fight on State to run some tests next week before the Icers head to the Ice Line to battle the Golden Rams.

The video webcast will be free of charge for the rest of the season. Hopefully, if all goes as planned, we'll have both home and away games, including the ESCHL tournament.

The National Tournament webcasts again this year will be the property of the ACHA.

Now, on to the goings-on on the ice. To say the least, the opening weekend of the second semester wasn't exactly how Coach Balboni and the boys hoped it would begin.

Friday's trip to Pittsburgh for the College Hockey Showcase was a disappointment, all because of this cherry picker that broke down on the ice at the Mellon Arena.

Brian Stevens of RMU posted the photos on his Facebook album.

As I said on Friday, 30 minutes of hockey at the Mellon was better than 0 minutes of hockey at the Mellon.

A special thanks to Harry and Linda Cerrutti for opening their beautiful home to the team for a great pre-game meal. Even if Kurt had a tough time getting the bus to the front door!

I'd be remiss if I didn't give Kurt a tip of the hat for getting us home in the snow. Route 22 can be such fun in whiteout conditions.

I'm not sure if the Pittsburgh trip affected the guys on Saturday, as an undermanned but gutsy Washington & Jefferson squad gave the Icers all they could handle in the 5-3 victory.

We'll see how they rebound against Dan Morris' team this weekend.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Return to Action

A belated Happy New Year to everyone. Barbara and I hope you had a safe and happy holiday, but it's time to get back to business. The Icers returned to the ice this week, getting ready for Friday's second semester opener. They return on a grand stage, taking part in the 2010 Pittsburgh College Hockey Showcase.


The tournament hosted by the Penguins and Robert Morris University features the Icers as the "peanut butter" in the sandwich of three games.

The RMU women take on UConn in the opener at 2:00 pm, followed by the 5th-ranked Icers (18-2-1) and #17 Bobby Mo (16-6) in the 5:00 pm matinee, with the NCAA Div. 1 Colonials facing the nation's top team, the Miami Redhawks, in the nightcap at 8:00 pm.

It will be a homecoming of sorts for several players and assistant coach Bill Downey, and it will be my third time calling a game at the Mellon (2 with Penn State and 1 with Notre Dame).

Our webcast gets underway around 4:45, assuming the women's game does not run long. I'm hoping to have a couple of special interviews during the intermissions.


Now, it's time for congratulations to Team USA. Their 6-5 overtime win over Canada at the World Junior Championship in Saskatoon was well deserved.

The US victory came after they gave up a 2-goal lead late in the 3rd (shades of BU - Miami!).

John Carlson's game winner came at the end of a couple of furious end-to-end rushes as both teams poured it on in OT.


There was an interesting quote in the game article on TSN's website:

When asked the difference between this team and previous American teams that appeared to be stocked with more talent, Team USA head coach Dean Blais gave a tip of his hat to the hosts.

"We played Canadian hockey," Blais stated. "We played gritty."

'Nuff said!

As I posted on a hockey forum before the overtime started, I only hoped the game wasn't decided in a shootout. While I was hoping for another gold for my guys, I'm happy for USA Hockey and the boost the win might give to youth hockey in the country.

Analyst Dave Starman said in the NHL Network post-game that he hoped that would be the case, just as the Miracle on Ice boosted hockey's popularity in 1980. Unfortunately, you have to wonder how many impressionable young kids were actually watching the game.

While Canada's Jordan Eberle was named tournament MVP, my vote would have gone to US goalie Jack Campbell. The 17-year old shut the door on Canada after coming off the bench in the 2nd period.

As for the claims that the title tilt was an "instant classic", I'm not sure that a game in which both starting goalies were yanked after giving up soft goals qualifies as a "classic."

Let's just call it an exciting hockey game and leave it at that.