Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crucible

Webster's simply defines the word as "a severe test."  

Suffice to say, the Icers face their toughest test of the season this weekend when the #4 Fightin' Blue Hens make the trip north from Delaware.

Just how much of "a severe test" UD will be depends on which article you read, what online forum you frequent, or who you talk to.

The critics are out there, and I'm the first to admit that I've been critical of the team for not playing up to its potential in this first semester.  The periods of brilliant play at both ends of the rink have been overshadowed by mega-lapses that have left everyone, including the players, scratching their heads.

The key to success this weekend from my point of view is this - one shift at a time full out, then get ready for the next.  

First-year Bowling Green Falcons head coach Chris Bergeron talked about what it takes to be a successful college hockey player in an interview with USCHO.com's Dave Starman.  Bergeron, who came to BG from Miami of Ohio, told Starman:
It is not about playing the role of a star player; it is about developing the habits needed to become one.
Bergeron comes from a program where being great was part of the package. That was part of “the lifestyle.” The lifestyle is the commitment physically, mentally, and emotionally to becoming and staying a great player every shift of every game.
Coach Bergeron went on to tell Starman that the Falcons' underclassmen have to buy into the lifestyle:
"These kids, the young guys, they need to start to be able to look inward when it isn’t going well in games,” Bergeron said. “What we are doing is asking the younger guys, the freshmen and sophomores, to grow up pretty quickly. We are asking them to speed up the process so we can get to where we want to be.
The Icers know where they want to be.  As both Kevin Miller and Scott Balboni told me, this weekend is their chance to get there.
 



Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sad Saturday

The hockey world is a sadder place this morning following the news yesterday that Pat Burns lost his lengthy battle with cancer.  It was not a surprise, but Burns' death is a shock, nonetheless.

I suppose the news hit me hard on a number of levels.  He was 58, I'm 57 - we are both ex-cops who love hockey.  But selfishly, it was because of what he did as the coach of the Maple Leafs in the 90's.
Pat Burns lost his battle with cancer Friday. (Toronto Sun file photo)

The press reports all say Pat won a Stanley Cup with the Devils and coached the Bruins, but for long-suffering Leafs fans, Burns provided us with a two-year thrill ride in the midst of nearly a half-century of mediocrity.

I'll never forget the '93 cup run that, had Kerry Fraser had his eyes open, would likely have led to a Toronto - Montreal Stanley Cup final., rather than a King's - Habs meeting.  

The following season, the Leafs again made it to the Western Conference final, losing to Vancouver.

Burns is unique, in that he coach both the Canadiens and Maple Leafs.  It is a travesty that he was not inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame prior to his passing.  He is deserving of a place in the Hall alongside the great coaches of the game.

It seems fitting that Pat passed away the day before the two teams renew their rivalry tonight at the Bell Center.  I've got the DVR set and will be watching as soon as we get home from this afternoon's game.

Read Joe Warmington's column in today's Toronto Sun for tributes from former Leafs players.  
His death has fans of both teams mourning the loss and remembering the good times.

A Saturday night tilt between the Leafs and Habs has never been a place where hockey fans can find common ground.

But that will change tonight. It’s like it was written in a script.

Some things are bigger than a single game and Burns’ death will be on the minds of all fans at the Bell Centre tonight and watching on Hockey Night in Canada.

Rest in Peace, Patrick Burns.

Taming the Tigers

The Icers put a bakers dozen on the board on Friday night, thumping the Towson Tigers 13-0.  

Matthew Madrazo won his second game and notched his first career shutout.  Paul Daley had his first career hat-trick, while Tim O'Brien, Domenic Morrone and Michael Longo each scored twice.
For the sophomore Longo, his first goals as an Icer came 9 seconds apart in the third period.

I spoke with Michael after the game.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Perspective

The first half of this 2010-11 season has been a struggle for the Icers and a disappointment for their fans, but sometimes you just have to take a step back and realize that it's just a game.

Wednesday was one of those times.  Denver University forward Jesse Martin walked into a press conference at the Craig Hospital in Englewood, Colorado just two weeks after breaking his neck in a game at the University of North Dakota.

NoDak forward Brad Malone served a one game suspension for the hit, but Martin says he has no hard feelings about the play.

Jesse will head home to Edmonton for the DU holiday break.  Even though we Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, I think it's a given the Martin family will be giving thanks that Jesse is home and on the road to a full recovery.



Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gut Check Time

I caught up with junior forward Paul Daley before Tuesday's practice.  "Gunner" said it was a long, quiet bus ride back from Rhode Island, which should come as no surprise following the sweep by the Rams.

The Icers will head to Maryland Friday for the first half of a home and home series with the Towson Tigers.  Towson has won just twice this season, but the Icers have to be wary of what could be a "trap" game.

Rhody Romp

There's little in the way of positives to take from Rhode Island's sweep of the Icers at the Boss Arena.  Marek Polidor's goal at 10:32 of the third period on Saturday prevented the Rams from blanking the Icers in both games.

Sophomore Paul Kenny stopped 33 shots in Friday's 5-0 whitewash, while freshman Andrew Marks made 29 saves in Saturday's 4-1 victory.  

The turning point on Saturday came in the latter stages of the 2nd period.  With the Rams up 2-0, Marks stoned Nick Seravalli, Chris Pronchik and Chris Cerutti on breakaways.

Marks also got some help from the goalpost late in the 3rd period as the Rams iced the game with two empty-net goals.

Here's a recap of the weekend games. As you can see, we had our problems as well - with choppy video and a lack of lighting at our broadcast spot.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Arena Update

As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, Friday marked another big step in the progression to varsity hockey at Penn State, with the announcement that the university's Board of Trustees voted to appoint Crawford Architects of Kansas City, Mo., and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as architects for the design of the new arena

During the first intermission of Friday's game against West Chester Joe Battista provided the details of the vote and spoke about the next steps in the process.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Steamroller

Rodney Martin put it best in his press release following Saturday's Penn State - West Chester tilt:

The final minute of the first period belonged to West Chester as they netted two goals in that time span. However in the remaining 59 minutes, the Icers scored 10 and finished the weekend sweep of Golden Rams by a final score of 10-3 Saturday at the Ice Line Quad Rink in West Chester.

Tim O'Brien opened the scoring just 48 seconds into the game and the Icers never looked back. O'Brien finished the game with two goals, while Junior Kevin Miller, who transferred from Robert Morris, got his first goal as an Icer.

Other goals scorers for the Icers were Dominic Morrone with two, Chris Cerutti also with two, Taylor Cera, Mike McDonough, and Chris Pronchik.

Cerutti, who had five goals on the weekend, was named the first star of the game. Morrone, who was perfect in faceoffs and played a tremendous two-way game was awarded second star. The third star was Freshman Matt Madrazzo, who backstopped Penn State and got his first win in an Icers' uniform.

Rodney didn't mention that Matthew Madrazzo also picked up an assist on Domenic Morrone's second goal of the night.

Thanks to Steve Zodtner for joining me - it's always fun when we get together to call a game.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cerutti Sizzles

Someone in the Icers locker room needed to step up on Friday night.  Chris Cerutti was that someone.

The Icers once again looked lethargic through the first 40 minutes against a younger, less-experienced West Chester Golden Rams team.  The teams were tied 2-2 after 2 and it got worse just a minute into the 3rd period when Tim Margadonna put the Golden Rams back on top.  

However, just 33 seconds later Taylor Cera knotted it up, setting the stage for Cerutti.

The junior forward scored two more, including a power play tally, for his first hat trick of the season as the Icers skated to a 5-3 victory.

Game two of the home-and-home series is tonight at the Ice Line in West Chester.  Game time is scheduled for 7:30.

In off-ice news, the Penn State Board of Trustees voted Friday to appoint Crawford Architects of Kansas City, Mo., and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as architects for the design of the new arena.

Full details are on the Athletics Department website.  I interviewed Joe Battista in the first intermission on Friday.  I'll try to get the interview posted here after tonight's game.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Candid Comments

It should come as no surprise that the outcome of last week's series with Liberty doesn't sit well with anyone involved with the Penn State Icers.  Players, coaches, fans and - yes - even broadcasters are not happy with the split.

That was evident in my interviews after Tuesday's practice with both Tim O'Brien and head coach Scott Balboni.  Both made no bones that this team has to play better, and the answer has to come from within.

By within, I mean from the head and the heart.  The guys realize they have to play a full 60 minutes with passion and purpose.  To paraphrase the old nursery rhyme:
When they're good they're very, very good.  When they're bad, well that's a whole different story! 
Focus will be important as the Icers embark on two weeks of conference play.  This weekend it's a home and home series with West Chester.  The home stand wraps up Friday night before the two teams meet Saturday evening at the Ice Line in West Chester.

The Golden Rams are just 3 and 8 on the season, but they always find a way to bring it against the Icers, especially at home in a rink that's been a house of horrors for previous Icers teams.

It won't get any easier the following week as the team heads to Rhode Island and a battle with the resurgent Rams.  Rhody is 9-2-1 on the season and an impressive 7-0-1 at the Boss Arena.