Monday, March 28, 2011

The Pegula Love Affair Continues

In all of the years that I hung around Maple Leaf Gardens, I never saw fans sing "Happy Birthday" to Harold Ballard, and they sure as heck aren't going to sing it to the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund.

Just another example of how much Terry and Kim Pegula have impacted the Sabres and their fans.

For more proof, head on over to Die By the Blade and read why the singalong was so important to Sabre Nation.

As much as I respect the Pegulas and what they've done - it's all out the window tomorrow night when the Sabres battle my Maple Leafs. Toronto is seven back of Buffalo for the final playoff spot in the East (with Carolina wedged between them).
Simply put, lose at home on Tuesday and the Leafs can start booking their spring tee times -- for the sixth year in a row.

You Can't Handle the Truth!

Well, this is certainly turning into a fun Monday!

As you probably know, there is a lot of opposition to the formation of the B1g Ten hockey conference, which won't start play until 2013. A veritable plethora of the opposition comments can be found in this thread on the US College Hockey Online fan forum.

While browsing the thread this afternoon, I came upon this parody gem from someone named 'Sterling Cooper.' From reading some of the other posts, it appears that Mr. Cooper may be an Ohio State fan.

As in my previous post:

Son, we live in a world that has doesn't care about college hockey and that situation needs to be changed by men with a television network. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Bemidji State?

Jim Delaney has a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the CCHA and curse The Big Ten; you have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that the CCHA's death, while tragic, probably saves college hockey and that the Big Ten Network's existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves college hockey.

You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about in 3000 seat arenas you want the BTHC on that network,
you need it on that network.

We use words like market share, cable networks and conference brand. We use them as the backbone of a life trying to build the greatest collection of public universities in the country. You use them as a punchline.

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to men who rise and sleep under the blanket of nationwide hockey coverage that we will provide and then question the manner in which we will provide it.

I would rather you just said "thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest that you pick up a mouse and ignore my posts. Either way, I don't give a **** what you think Miami of Ohio is entitled to.

The Enemy Is Among Us!


We are about 18 months away from the opening game of the modern era of Penn State varsity hockey and already the fifth column is infiltrating Pennsylvania.

This interloper was spotted driving in State College last week. The cell phone photo makes it tough to spot, but a PA-based Maize 'n' Brew supporter is out there.

Perhaps spying on JoeBa? Or just a coincidence? You decide.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Newest Red Wing

The newest call-up by the Detroit Red Wings chirps the Canucks bench before Wednesday night's game at the Joe.

This is great stuff. Thanks to Jaime Zimmel for posting this on Facebook.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Didn't See That Coming

Joe Battista told Rodney Martin and I on Monday that Michigan State could announce it's new head hockey coach sometime this week.

Most pundits and Sparty fans expected former UAH coach Danton Cole was the front runner to succeed Rick Comley.
I certainly did not expect that the new coach would be Tom Anastos.

Reports out of East Lansing say Anastos has resigned as the Commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and will succeed Comley as the Spartans' head coach.

Anastos played at Michigan State from 1981 through 1985 and was an assistant coach for two seasons (1990-92).

A press conference is scheduled for 4:00 pm in East Lansing.  You can watch it here.

UPDATE: Michigan State has made it official:

EAST LANSING, Mich. - Tom Anastos, a Michigan State alumnus who has excelled in the sport of hockey as a player, coach, administrator, and visionary, has been appointed today (March 23) to the position of head coach of the Michigan State hockey program, according to an announcement made by Athletics Director Mark Hollis. Anastos, who has served as the commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association since 1998, becomes just the sixth Michigan State hockey coach in program history and the fourth in the modern era.

"I am extremely excited about returning to Michigan State to lead the Spartan Hockey program and once again be a part of the MSU Athletics Department family," said Anastos. "I have obviously maintained a relationship with MSU and been in close contact with the hockey program for the last 13 years in my role with the CCHA, but this opportunity is incredibly special.

"The expectations I have for our program will be to compete annually for conference and national championships. That was the expectation when I was here as a player and as an assistant coach, and I don't believe it should be any different in my role as head coach. In our locker room, we have quality young men who are good players, good students and good citizens, which are all hallmarks of this program. I am excited to get started, to hire a staff, and to get myself re-acclimated within the MSU community."

"Bringing Tom Anastos into the MSU Athletics Department to run our hockey program brings someone with energy and passion not only for the sport of hockey, but for our University and program as well," said Hollis. "He can attract high-caliber talent and develop those players into those who are attractive to the National Hockey League. He places a premium on education, and the drive and desire to compete for championships.

"Hockey is important in the state of Michigan, and it is also important to Michigan State. We will continue to provide the resources to appropriately support this program, and to best prepare our student-athletes for their personal future ... in the NHL and the business world."

"Tom Anastos is an incredibly accomplished individual, and the same characteristics which have made him such a successful leader since his graduation from Michigan State will pay dividends for our hockey program, our entire athletic department and University," added Michigan State president Lou Anna K. Simon. "Tom is a dynamic individual who will be an asset for Team MSU as we move forward. There is no doubt that he is passionate about developing young people, and we are excited for our next era to begin."

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Big News on the Big Ten

Lest anyone thinks that I'm a little late to the Big Ten Conference dance, I'll blame YouTube for the delay in getting this blog entry posted.

The timing of Monday's announcement was fortuitous, since I had already scheduled an afternoon meeting with Joe Battista. With video camera and Rodney Martin in tow, we sat down with Joe and got his thoughts on the conference and an update on the coach search, scheduling and other team-related news.

The inaugural varsity schedule will be a good one, including a trip to the Kohl Center in Madison and games against some familiar and not-so-familiar schools.

If it wasn't for the incredibly slow upload speed at You Tube I would have had this posted early this morning, but six-plus hours to upload this video was a teeny bit frustrating, to say the least.

Monday's news was really no surprise, even with the revelation that the conference will form a year earlier than initially planned. As a result, Penn State will play one season as an independent before joining Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota in college hockey's newest conference.

Naturally, there is a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth from observers who feel the BTHC is the end of college hockey. Just take a quick swing through this thread on College Hockey Online to see what I mean. Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez is as popular there as George W. Bush is on the Huffington Post!

Even Adam Woden of College Hockey News, admits that "I was on record as far back as four years ago saying that the Big Ten was inevitable, and that we should just all embrace it instead of resisting it."

Now that it's here, the "worry wart in me is concerned."

This announcement was made before any sort of scheduling deal was made — if there is, in fact, one ever coming. I've been told that the Big Ten may have expedited the announcement in order to give everyone else more time to figure out where the dust will settle. If so, OK, but it still would've be nice to take some time and figure out how to be the good soldier they've talked about.

I love the idea of Penn State hockey, and I feel great for a guy like Joe Battista, the former club coach and current associate AD at PSU, who had been determined for years to get it and had started to give up hope. And in many ways, adding Penn State to the hockey family is a great thing. But it's not going to be great if it comes at the expense of existing programs.

Of course, that's not all on Penn State, and nothing should stop them from forming a program. But Penn State talks about how great this is for college hockey, yet there's nothing being done by anyone in the Big Ten to prevent a possible catastrophe — i.e. seeing other programs disappear.

Fortunately, there are people who see the positive aspects of the Big Ten Conference. I'll leave it up to Lake Superior State coach Jim Roque to put it all in perspective.

Roque was quoted in a Detroit Free Press report by George Sipple.

Wise words, especially coming from the bench boss of one of the "small school" teams that will supposedly face the biggest impact from the Big Ten Conference:

"I think it's good for college hockey," Roque said. "I think the Big Ten moniker's going to, obviously, provide more exposure to college hockey. I look at it this way: I'm in the water with all these schools. As the water rises, my boat rises, too.

"We don't recruit against those schools. That's not going to affect us. We're not going to lose a kid to the Big Ten league. The negative for us is, obviously, not getting those schools in our building, and I understand that part of it."

But Roque said the home schedule won't be affected drastically.

"Ohio State's never been a big draw for us," he said. "We've never had Wisconsin or Minnesota here. So, really, we're talking about two schools -- and we usually get one of them a year. We never get Michigan and Michigan State (at home) the same year. ... So you're talking about two home games a year, basically."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Watching Behind the Scenes

We weren't able to get any of the college hockey conference finals on TV tonight, so I managed to do the next best thing to catch the end of the WCHA final between Denver and North Dakota.

The Pioneers and Fighting Sioux went to double overtime, before Matt Frattin won it for NoDak with a goal at 5:11.

This is a screen shot of the FSN North website. FSN streamed all of the camera angles as well as the behind-the-scenes commentary by the producer and director.

It wasn't easy to follow all the cameras, but you could see how they set up the replays and all of the different camera shots.

As a TV play-by-play man, you're hearing the director's calls in your ear while calling the game. Hmmm, maybe a one-camera broadcast isn't so bad after all!

Congrats to the conference champs: Air Force, Boston College, Miami, North Dakota and Yale. The final tournament brackets will be revealed Sunday morning.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Conference Update

In the midst of watching the Maple Leafs keeping their playoff chances alive by beating Boston, the Avalanche and Oilers playing a meaningless game in Alberta, keeping up to date with the NCAA conference finals via Twitter, and watching some of the ACHA All Star game from Adrian comes another source reporting that there could be big news about the Big Ten, perhaps as early as Monday.

Sources tell Inside College Hockey that on Monday the Big Ten will formally announce a six-team hockey conference, set to begin play in the 2013-14 season.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod would not confirm knowledge of the announcement, but said he anticipates the Big Ten will make it official early next week.

McLeod added that in preparation for a Big Ten conference, the WCHA has already spoken with athletic department officials from Minnesota and Wisconsin about some kind of schedule-sharing arrangement which would allow some of the league’s traditional rivalries with the Gophers and Badgers to continue. Nothing has been formally agreed upon yet.

“We’ve been proactive about it for quite a while now,” McLeod said, adding that he had a meeting with Gophers coach Don Lucia and Badgers coach Mike Eaves last September about an interlocking non-conference schedule between the Big Ten and WCHA.

A six-team Big Ten conference, made up of Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, would mean 20 conference games, leaving plenty of room for non-conference scheduling. At least one former college player INCH spoke to on Saturday was exceedingly positive on the idea.

“I’m excited. I’ve heard about it for some time now through the alumni at Michigan and I’m really, really excited about it,” said Minnesota Wild forward John Madden, who played for the Wolverines. “It’s going to be fun to see Michigan play Minnesota a lot, and Wisconsin, the teams up this way. It’s going to be really fun.”

John Madden is not the only former college hockey player that thinks the BTHC is a good idea - with some reservations.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Closer to a Conference?

USCHO's Todd Milewski reports today that "..the likely addition of hockey to the Big Ten Conference lineup has college hockey commissioners doing some advance planning."

It's been reported elsewhere that the Big Ten plan to begin conference play has been pushed up by at least a year. Initially, the thought was that a BTHC would not happen until 2014-15, if at all.

Now, Milewski is reporting that the leaders of the WCHA and CCHA are pushing ahead with plans based on the Big Ten starting conference play in 2013-14.

WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod said he has heard from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and representatives from Wisconsin and Penn State that the Big Ten will push forward with a plan to sponsor hockey beginning with the 2013–14 season.

The addition of another sport under the Big Ten umbrella has to be approved by the presidents of the member schools.

An announcement of the conference’s intention to go down that path could come as early as Monday, sources said.

“It’s never done until it’s done, but every indication from all of those sources is that this is what their intent is,” McLeod said. “So I take them at their word. I guess who knows what could derail it, but that’s the premise that we’ve been working on, that they’re going to start in ’13–14 and have a standalone conference and a standalone tournament.”

I've written and talked in the past about my thoughts on the Big Ten Hockey Conference. Having covered teams in the CCHA and WCHA in previous positions, I understand the concerns from many college hockey fans about a BTHC being the "death star" of college hockey.

I don't see it that way. Yes, moving Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State out of the CCHA and Wisconsin and Minnesota from the WCHA will obviously shake things up, but the two conferences will survive.

I suspect that the Big Ten will find a way to keep scheduling games against the traditional rivals in the two current conferences while allowing Penn State to build rivalries with some of those schools as well (ie: Notre Dame and Miami to name just two).

Ironically, Milewski's report comes just one day before the WCHA's "Frozen Five" gets underway in St. Paul, Minn. and two days before the the CCHA Championship Final kicks off at the Joe in Detroit.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Right Score, Wrong Team

I thought that it would be a track meet - turned out to be more of a chess match at times.

I called Lindenwood to win 3-2 over Davenport, but the Panthers turned the tables with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Lions in the first D-I championship game since the Icers' "Magic City Miracle" victory over Eastern Michigan in 2000, ironically by the same 3-2 margin.

Goaltending was the key to the win for Davenport - freshman Phil Graveline was simply sensational through regulation as Lindenwood outshot the Panthers 40-19. The Panthers went on the attack in the extra frame, outshooting the Lions 13-2, with the final shot coming off the stick of Jonathan Juliano.

The Panthers' leading scorer during the regular season opened the scoring in the second period with his first goal of the tournament. Juliano sure picked a good time to find his scoring touch.

Davenport's Bobby Collar was named tournament MVP. Too bad that the freshman goaltending tandem of Graveline and Joe D'Elia couldn't share the honor, not that Collar isn't deserving of the award.

So the Panthers take the Murdoch Cup home to Grand Rapids after taking three straight Division II titles. Expect them to be a power in D-I for the foreseeable future.

I've learned that over 800 computers were logged onto the webcast. Simply awesome!

I can't say enough about the work of producer Tony Sposit, the entire crew and my fellow broadcasters. I had a blast all week, perhaps with the exception of the funky red and gray numbers on the black Davenport sweaters. That red got darker and darker as they absorbed more and more sweat.

Home tomorrow, time to kick back a little - and figure out what the EP and I will do on our Fridays and Saturdays. Probably watch hockey.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I've Got to Get Me One of These!

This is the second year in a row that I've had the pleasure to work with Tony Sposit on the Fast Hockey tournament webcasts.

If you've been watching, you probably noticed that last night's webcasts included a few features that weren't there in the opening two rounds. That's because Tony arrived yesterday with this setup.

Do you think the Executive Producer would enjoy having this to play with? I know that I would!

I Knew It!

Before I go any further, I just want to say that what I'm about to post is in no way critical of the officials in Saturday's Penn State - Rhode Island tournament game. This is just my way of proving that what I saw actually happened.

To set the stage - Rhode Island led 1-0 late in the second period with the Icers down a man. Domenic Morrone chased the puck in the Rhody zone and spotted Paul Daley in the slot.

Daley spun and backhanded the puck past Rams goalie Paul Kenny. Andrew Gerbosi and I were to the right of the net at ice level. I clearly saw the puck go over the goal line against the white padding inside the far post and then bounce right back out.

It was a bang-bang play and right now it is obviously a moot point. However, had it been ruled a goal it could have been a turning point in a very close game.

With too much time on my hands between the semifinals and Wednesday's final between the top two teams - Lindenwood and Davenport - I had the chance to look at the video frame by frame.

I caught three screen captures, but the video quality is not HD like the NHL has in the war room in Toronto. However, I think the evidence is there.

Here's the video of the play at full speed.

It's not easy to see the puck after it passes Kenny. Here's the first screen grab with the arrow pointing at the puck. Trust me, if you look at the video frame by frame, that is the puck.

Now comes the money shot - the puck is well over the goal line, along the white lower padding inside the net.

And the final shot shows the puck behind Kenny on its way back out of the cage.

No sour grapes - no complaints or recriminations. This is just my way of proving that my eyes maybe aren't as bad as I think they are at times!

But you can ask the woulda-shoulda-coulda question -- what impact would that play have made if it had been ruled a goal? We'll never know, but I think you have a pretty good idea.

Now - as for the final between the two-time defending champion Lindenwood Lions and the upstart Davenport Panthers (seeking their first D-I title in their first year at the top level) - let me just say that it's going to be a track meet.

These are two very good teams that are very skilled and VERY fast. Davenport has won at the D-II level, but it says here that the Lions will come away with their third straight Murdoch Cup with a nail-biting 3-2 victory.

It's going to be a fun game to call - I hope that you enjoy it as much as we will.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

One Last Look

Thanks to the folks producing the Fast Hockey webcasts here at the National Tournament I have been able to put together highlights of the Icers' final game of the 2010-11 season.

It's a little longer than normal, but hey - you've got lots of time to watch it. For those that don't know, Barb was not on the camera.

The 3-1 victory over Robert Morris on Sunday helped the Icers, their families and fans ease the pain of losing the opening round game to Rhode Island.

Thanks to the senior class for four great years. Time goes by too quickly.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What to Say?

Trying to put words together this morning is not easy. I'm sitting in my hotel lobby in Newark, staring at a blank sheet of paper computer screen trying to figure out how to put the past two days in perspective.

Maybe it's the two days of lack of food, lousy coffee and running back and forth between two rinks that has my brain muddled. More likely, it's just an extension of the disappointing end to the Icers' season.

Let's face it - you all knew going in that it was not going to be easy getting past the opening round match up with Rhode Island. As I predicted, it turned out to be one of the best games of the tournament, with a full nod to last night's two overtime thriller between Delaware and Adrian (more on that later).

It was a classic Penn State - Rhody battle that came down to a couple of bad breaks and great goaltending at both ends of the ice. Paul Kenny and Mathew Madrazo were simply outstanding.

Midway through the second period, Kenny managed to get a piece of Mike Broccolo's shot after Mike undressed Rams defenseman Alan Dionne with an inside-out move (I hope Dionne found his cup before the Davenport game). But Kenny saved his best for the third period, robbing Chris Cerutti of the tying goal on a one-timer from Chris' traditional back door scoring location. The look of disbelief on Cerutti's face said it all.

For what it's worth, last night I finally got the chance to look at Paul Daley's shorthanded spinorama in the final seconds of the second period. Unfortunately, the video was inconclusive, but I still think the puck went in and out. Whether it did or not, the no-goal was a huge momentum changer.

Full credit to the boys, especially the seniors, for ending the season on a high note with a 3-1 win over a gritty Robert Morris Eagles squad, in what was essentially a meaningless game.

I couldn't be happier for Ted Hume. Big Teddy displayed the skills that had him finishing his four years at Penn State third on the all time win list for goalies with 60 W's.

I've been one of Ted's harshest critics at times, but it was a joy to watch him perform to near-perfection both last night and in his final game before the home fans.

Chris Pronchik and Marek Polidor worked their magic yesterday, using their speed and tenacity to open the scoring with another shorthanded goal. Marek's forechecking created the opportunity, his pinpoint pass found Chris in full flight and Pronny roofed it off the crossbar.

The duo almost repeated the feat with a role reversal later in the contest, but Chris' pass to a wide open Polidor was deflected by the Eagles defender.

As an old hockey player, I know full well that it's never easy when a season comes to an end. As I said on Sunday, perhaps it's the fact that Icers fans may have been spoiled by past successes and expect their team to make deep runs in the tournament.

But this is a different ACHA, with so much talent spread across so many teams. That's what makes the tournament so exciting. You need to look no further than the Delaware - Adrian thriller as an example of the level of competition in Division 1.

I missed most of the game while calling the Stony Brook - Canton finale, but I was there for the second overtime. Simply incredible watching two teams running on adrenaline before the Blue Hens fans blew the roof off the Rust Arena when Kevin Miller netted the game winner.

I'll leave it to my good friend Kyle Rossi to provide the details of the (pardon the cliche) instant classic. I honestly think that Kyle and his wife Jennifer spent as much time in the arenas over the past two days as Barb and I did.

Finally, Barb and I would like to thank everyone for your support and kind words throughout this season. As we have said both on the air and off, you all are the reason why we do what we do, and why we love what we do.

To the parents of the seniors, you will always be our friends, and we hope that we can keep in touch.

Even though I've got more hockey here in Delaware, I can't wait for the next season to begin.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

What It's All About

The Icers are heading to Newark, Delaware for the 20th Annual ACHA National Tournament, which begins on Saturday.

The Icers are the only ACHA team to appear in every one of those 20 tournaments, which is quite an accomplishment to say the least.

This time, the Icers are in the unfamiliar position of being in the bottom half of the 16-team bracket, ranked 10th and facing a familiar opening round foe in #7 Rhode Island.

Can the Icers win it all? Absolutely! Will it be easy? Absolutely not! They face a tough task getting past Rhode Island to the quarter-finals.

The Icers went 1-2-1 against the Rams this season. They were manhandled by Rhody in two losses (5-0 and 4-1) at the Boss Arena in November, then beat the Rams 4-3 at home before dropping a 5-4 shootout loss on Alumni Saturday at the Greenberg.

It's been an up and down season for Penn State hockey, starting in September with the news that we've been waiting to hear forever. A deep run in the tournament culminating with hoisting the Murdoch Cup would be a great bookend to the Pegula press conference back in the fall.

Naturally, I'm hoping that I will be calling four Icers games from Newark. By the way, for those of you not going to the tournament, you can watch them free of charge on Fast Hockey, thanks to the sponsorship of Miken Hockey.

Win or lose on Saturday, something that Paul Daley Sr. posted on Facebook today puts everything in perspective.

Thanks to Paul for letting me share it with you:

Paul received this e-mail from a Grandfather of one of Paul's favorite fans at Penn State. Ethan is a little guy (about 3) that Paul has really taken a liking to and vise versa. This is what its all about. Thanks to Ethan's Grandfather. (I do not want to put his name here without asking first).

Hi Paul,

You have never met me, but if you are the hockey player, you have met my son, his wife and most of all my Grandson, Ethan, who thinks you the BEST. I just want you to know what an impact you have had on my grandson. We 'play' hockey in the family room., and he does the whole introduction to the Icers, and he comes onto the ice as PAUL Daley.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to him and shake his hand. It means the world to him.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dynamic Duo

Hands up all of you who know what a "stay-at-home" defenseman is.

For those that don't, that's the type of blueliner that you rarely hear of, whether it's during a game or in the media.

Well, the Penn State Icers have a pair of solid defensive rearguards in sophomore Brian Dolan and senior Carey Bell.

Brian and Carey have become the shutdown duo since being paired early in the second semester. Brian has picked his spots in joining the offense from time to time, while Carey is the expert at using the glass to clear the puck out of the Icers zone .

Both scored this past weekend in the wins over Rutgers - Brian finishing off a sweet pass from Chris Pronchik on Friday night, while Carey scored on a wrist shot during Saturday's victory.

I caught up with both before Tuesday's practice and for the first time, I had to do a little editing. Some of the guys were giving it to Carey as they walked past during the interview -- at least they didn't give him the shaving cream in the towel treatment.

I also spoke with assistant coach Josh Hand about preparations for going against Rhode Island in the opening round of the tournament. In, addition Josh talked about the first two recruits who have verbally committed to Penn State for next season.

Rodney Martin has posted full details about Jake Friedman and Tim Carr on the Icers website.