Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Kurt Response

For the second week in a row the Penn State Icers' opponent rebounded from a Friday shellacking to give the Icers a much tougher test on Saturday.

Just like the Fighting Illini the week prior, the Ohio Bobcats fell behind early on Friday as Eric Steinour scored just 17 seconds after the opening faceoff as the Icers cruised to a 7-1 victory.

On Saturday, Bobcats coach Dan Morris adjusted his game plan and for the first time this season the Icers fell behind the opposition. Brett Agnew's first period power play goal and stifling defensive zone play kept OU on top until the 2:47 mark of the third period.

That's when Kurt Collins went to work.

Collins scored short-handed to tie it up, opening the door as the Icers rallied to win 5-3. Kurt added a power-play goal and another shortie with OU goalie Fedor Dushkin on the bench for the extra attacker, while Steven Edgeworth and Tommy Olczyk chipped in with singles.

It was a great weekend for the line of Collins (3 goals & 3 assists), Steinour (2 goals & 2 assists) and George Saad (1 goal & 2 assists).

This weekend, the Icers make their final visit to the Brad Boss Arena in South Kingston, Rhode Island. The tenth-ranked URI Rams return home after being swept by #5 Delaware, the first back-to-back losses for the Rams in 45 games.

Just like Dan Morris, URI coach Joe Augustine has an injury-riddled roster. Only nine of his players have played all ten games and Augustine was forced to dress nine freshmen in Friday's loss at the Rust Arena.

Freshman Tim Carr will get his first start in goal for the Icers in Friday's game, with Matt Madrazo scheduled to start on Saturday.

Speaking of coach Mo - Dan was kind enough to drop by during the first intermission of Saturday's game to talk about the OU-Icers rivalry from the Ohio perspective. We also talked about the friendships that have developed despite the fierce on-ice battles.

While I might not miss climbing up the scaffolding at the Bird Arena, I will miss those friendships in the upcoming years.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Stroke of a Pen

And with that, the end of varsity hockey in the Deep South.

Last month, I wrote about the grassroots effort to save the University of Alabama-Huntsville hockey program in the face of looming budget cuts across the UA system.

Despite the best efforts of the Save the Chargers group and local officials and business owners in Huntsville, Interim Chancellor Malcolm Portera today killed the only Division 1 hockey program south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

My thin involvement with the Chargers came in March of 2007, when I called the game for Notre Dame as UAH took the #2 Irish to double overtime in the NCAA Regional in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I saw the passion in the players and the passion in the Chargers fans. As few as they were, they were the seventh man for their beloved Chargers that night.

That passion came to the fore in the past few months as they tried to keep the program alive. Sadly, Dr. Portera would have none of it and just like that, the Chargers will join the likes of Wayne State, Findlay, Iona and Fairfield on the scrap heap of college hockey programs.

I am truly sad for the UAH faithful and truly disgusted with how this has happened. There are dozens upon dozens of blog posts and forum threads expressing the same sentiments.

Nashville Predators' blogger Paul McCann does not mask his contempt for Portera. assured, there is one person to blame for this, and that is Interim Chancellor Malcom Portera. Dr. Portera ignored the commitments to fund the program, he ignored the commitments to market the program, he ignored the community support that was overwhelming in its determination to maintain UAH Hockey as a Division I sport. He carried through with the agenda he brought into the position when he came to work in Huntsville earlier this year.

A new Chancellor takes over at the end of this week. As of Friday, Dr. Portera can slink back off to whatever part of Alabama he came from and pass off a university that, quite frankly, is worse than when he found it… a thirty year tradition of hockey gone with the stroke of a pen. Congratulations Doctor… I hope you are happy with the decision you made, I hope you are pleased you negatively impacted the lives of these fine student athletes. I hope you can rest well knowing that you ripped out a big piece of not just the UAH community, but the entire Huntsville area with one uninformed and ill-reasoned decision.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Grinding Out a Sweep

The final visit of the Ohio Bobcats to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion turned out to be as expected, and almost a carbon copy of the Icers' previous weekend's results at Illinois.

On Friday night, the Icers cruised to a 7-1 victory. However, the Bobcats used a stifling defensive scheme on Saturday, frustrating the Icers for 40 minutes before giving up five third period goals as the Icers kept the unbeaten streak going with a 5-3 decision.

This was a weekend for the grinders, especially the line of Eric Steinour, George Saad and Kurt Collins.

Steinour and Jake Freidman led the way on Friday, each netting two goals. Jake's both came on the power play, and a week after he was snake-bitten in Illinois.

It was Kurt Collins' turn on Saturday, as the senior from State College recorded the hat trick with two short-handed goals sandwiched around a power play tally - all coming in a wild third period after the Icers trailed 1-0 at the end of 40 minutes.

Steven Edgeworth recorded his second goal on Saturday, while Tim Acker and even P.J. Musico recorded their first assists.

Acker and Dan Meiselman both made their first starts in the blue and white, and both played well.

Forrest Dell was moved back to the blue line on Saturday after scoring Friday as a forward. I thought that he made a great defensive play on Brett Agnew with 59 seconds left, and must admit that I did not see referee Ryan Monahan call for the penalty shot that Agnew converted - following the scrum that got more than a little ugly.

All of the fun and games of the typical OU-Penn State weekend, performed in front of many of the parents of the players. Even my parents were on hand to enjoy the games and the player-parent dinner on Saturday night.

It was great to meet the new members of the Icers family. We hope we'll see you several times throughout the season ahead.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Big Pond to Big Rivalry

The Icers didn't look any worse for wear at Monday's practice. Ah, the benefit of being young! A little over 24 hours after a long overnight bus ride and they were right back at it on the ice.

The team headed home following Saturday's 5-2 victory over Illinois, giving Penn State a weekend sweep and a 3-0 record on the season. Illinois played a much better game in the finale after getting shellacked 11-0 on Friday night.

Both games highlighted the Icers' outstanding play in the defensive zone and a transition game that is built around team speed.

The line of Justin Kirchhevel, Taylor Holstrom and Tommy Olczyk continued their torrid start to the season, accounting for nine of the 16 goals scored in the two games.

Matt Madrazo and P.J. Musico split the weekend. P.J. stopped 18 shots to record his first Icers 'W' on Saturday, while Matt notched his 3rd career shutout by stopping all 19 shots on Friday night.

Speaking of Icers goalies, it was great to see Ted Hume on Saturday. Ted was enjoying the game and enjoying life in Chicago. As Rodney posted on Twitter:

Yep, it was fun chatting with Big Ted on Saturday and Eddie Olczyk on Friday night. And you thought Edzo would be a tough act to follow.

The fun is over for the team, because this weekend they face what could be their toughest test of the season. Dan Morris brings his third-ranked Ohio Bobcats to the Greenberg for the final time as an ACHA foe.

The rivalry is epic - two teams that have a grudging respect tempered by a good hate that has developed over the decades. Expect that the 'Berg will be packed and loud!

The Bobcats are 5-1 overall, with 3 wins over West Virginia and victories over Oklahoma and Pitt and a loss to Delaware.

Matt Madrazo knows what the atmosphere will be like this weekend. I spoke after practice with Matt and Coach Guy.

By the way, I want to give kudos to the folks that maintain the Illinois and Ohio websites. They're outstanding, on par with any pro hockey team and almost as good as the Icers website. (Hey, I've got to stay on Rodman's good side!)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ted Talk

Just time for a quick post before Barb and I hit the road for the long trip back following the Icers' sweep of the Illini.

The 5-2 victory featured more solid play by the team; however, as JoeBa said in the post game interview, there's still work to be done. Credit the Illini and goalie Nick Clarke for a much better effort Saturday night, rebounding from Friday's 11-0 whitewash.

Speaking of goalies, it was great to see Ted Hume on Saturday. As always, Big Ted was not at a loss for words. Ted is a man who enjoys life while marching to the beat of his own drummer.

Then again, it's said that most goalies are a unique breed!

So, it's farewell to the Big Pond for the last time. Bring on the Bobcats.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Win on the Big Pond

No one saw this coming.

No matter who I talked to last night, from JoeBa to Coach Guy to some of the parents, including Ed Olczyk, no one expected that the Icers would lay an 11-0 beating on the Fighting Illini at their own barn.

The first period certainly didn't give an indication that the score would be so lopsided. Illinois came out and challenged the Icers through the first half of the frame, testing Matt Madrazo early on. At the other end, Illini goalie Nick Clarke thwarted the Icers until Tommy Olczyk opened the scoring by converting a nifty drop pass from Justin Kirchhevel at 8:32.

Taylor Holstrom made it 2-0 with 2:10 left in the period, with Kirchhevel and Olczyk picking up the assists.

The trio poured it on in the second period as the Icers scored 6 more,including a Dan Loucks power play goal, to lead 8-0 after 40 minutes.

That would be the night for Kirchhevel, Holstrom and Olczyk as Coach Guy sat them for the final 20 minutes. However, the Icers added 3 more - Mike McDonagh on the power play, Paul Daley and Eric Steinour - to make it 11-0.

So, through their first 100 minutes in Penn State blue and white, Justin, Tommy O and Taylor have combined for 9 goals and 16 assists (Kirchhevel: 2-9=11, Olczyk: 4-4=8, Holstrom: 3-3=6).

It's just two games into the season, so is it too early to give the line a moniker? My old partner John Mulhern thinks they need one. He challenged the fans to come up with something that will top the "BUZZ Line" of Brandon Rubeo, Jaime Zimmel and Paul Zodtner. I'll take credit for coming up with that one.

Hmm, If Justin's name was Nate or Norm we could have the TNT line. If you've got an idea, email me at

Here's the first seven goals from Friday night, along with my interview with proud hockey dad Eddie Olczyk. Forgive the poor lighting and video quality, but that is Eddie with your humble reporter.

Edzo had the night off from his many TV duties and brought the whole O-clan down from Chicago. It was very gracious of him to stop by our "booth" for a chat.

Barb mentioned that during the first two periods, Eddie was like any other hockey dad, standing at the top of the balcony intently watching his son perform.

Just another example of what makes hockey families in general, and the Icers family to be specific, so special.

EDIT: Just wanted to take the opportunity to thank Kyle Rossi for his great live blogging during the game.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pond Hockey

I think that it is safe to say that the Penn State Icers' season begins in earnest this weekend with a road trip to Champaign, Illinois.

I mean no disrespect to the Lebanon Valley College Dutchmen, but let's face it, the outcome of last Friday's season opener at the Greenberg was pretty much a foregone conclusion.

This weekend's series against #16 Illinois is the first of three consecutive weekends against some of the ACHA's top teams. Next weekend, Dan Morris brings his third-ranked Ohio Bobcats to Hockey Valley and then it's back on the "Rhode" to face the #10 Rams.

As Bryce Johnson and Coach Gadowsky told me on Monday, the team is looking forward to bonding on the bus and playing before a hostile crowd at the Big Pond in Champaign. This is the first time the Icers will be on the campus of the Fighting Illini since the weekend of October 12-13, 2007.

It was a battle of the top two teams in the ACHA. The #1 Icers and #2 Illini both sported 4-0 records heading into the weekend. By the time the dust settled late on Saturday night the Illini had swept the weekend and would knock the Icers off the top step.

Friday's game was decided by Ricky Gomez's overtime goal, giving Illinois a 5-4 victory. Saturday, the Icers were flat and fell by a 3-1 margin.

I'm not sure what to make of head coach Chad Cassell's current squad. The Illini opened the season at home on the last weekend of September facing D-II Michigan State. After blanking the Spartans 4-0 on Friday the tables were turned the next night as the Illini fell 1-0.

Illinois fared better in last weekend's ACHA Showcase in Springfield, Illinois. After opening with a 2-0 loss to a very good #6 Delaware team, the Illini upset the defending champs #2 Davenport 4-2 before knocking off eleventh-ranked Oakland 5-2.

Even though the unusual dimensions and layout of the Big Pond should give the home side a decided advantage, the two teams are dead even at 3-3-1-1 in their contests at the venerable old building.

Built in 1931, the arena was designed by the same firm that gave Illinois fans Memorial Stadium and Soldier Field.

As you may know, a standard hockey rink is 200 feet by 80 feet. This place really is indoor "pond hockey," because it's (depending on who you talk to) about 200 feet by 115 feet!

That extra 35 feet is mostly outside of the faceoff circles. Joe Battista and Scott Balboni both said the key to winning was keeping the play inside of the circles and not getting out to the edges of the ice. I'm sure that Coach Guy will be saying the same this weekend.

Guy will have some backup, as JoeBa is making the trip with the guys. When I spoke with him on Monday, I wasn't sure how keen he is about the long bus trip.

In addition to the wide ice surface, the seating layout will present a unique challenge. As you can see from the seating map below, the benches sit right underneath the balcony that's occupied by the students. Players and coaches can literally reach up and touch the underside of the balcony. The noise from above can be deafening as well.

Barb and I will be up in a corner of the arena. Because the balcony edge is right over the boards, we may have some spots where you won't see the play. Another of the unique broadcast locations we've encountered over the years.

Remember, game time is 8:30 in the east.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Solid Start

Right off the bat, I'm going to apologize for not getting a post-game report together until today.

Frankly, with the whirlwind of getting together the plan to air Icers games on 95.3FM 3WZ and the issues we encountered with the webcast, I was spent after Friday's game. Add two days of work on Saturday and Sunday and today has been the first chance I've had to put 'pen to paper'.

All in all, Friday's home opener against Lebanon Valley College went according to the script. The 12-1 romp came against a team that was hampered by a short roster. All but one Icer skater got on the scoresheet as Dutchmen goalie Colin Catherman was blitzed by 64 shots.

Matt Madrazo and P.J. Musico had a much easier night than their LVC counterpart, as the Dutchmen could only muster seven shots on goal.

Freshman Josh Daley and senior Dan Loucks each scored a pair of goals.

I spoke in the pre-game show about the "speed line" of sophomores Justin Kirchhevel and Taylor Holstrom and freshman Tommy Olczyk.

They didn't disappoint, combining for 10 points. Holstrom and Olczyk each had a goal and two assists while Kirchhevel chipped in with four helpers.

The day off today gave me the opportunity to get to the Greenberg for today's practice, where I caught up with Bryce Johnson and Coach Guy.

Both spoke about the excitement of opening night, the appearance of Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, and the upcoming weekend series at the 'Big Pond' at the University of Illinois.

The first road trip of the season starts a three-weekend series of games against typically tough opponents. The battle against the Illini will be followed by the Ohio Bobcats' annual trip to the Greenberg and then it's back on the road to Rhode Island to close out October.

Lastly, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to Coach and his family, my family and all my Canadian friends and Happy Columbus Day to Barb's family and our U.S. friends.

Monday, October 3, 2011

First Star

The final Icers Blue - White game is in the history book, so now it's on to the real season. Friday's home opener against Lebanon Valley College marks the beginning of the 41st and final season of Icers hockey (unless the varsity maintains the moniker).

The Blue squad, coached by former Icer Rick O'Brien, rallied from a 3-1 first period deficit and scored four in the second to win the contest 5-3.

I dropped by practice this afternoon and caught up with the game's first star, sophomore Justin Kirchhevel.

Before we began, I got a hint of how the team is coming together. I won't say who, but one of the freshmen came out into the corridor and started chirping at Justin, all in good fun.

Don't forget that Friday's game will get underway at 7:00pm. We'll be online around 6:45pm, so we hope that you'll be able to join us.

Here's the video, minus the chirping. Wouldn't you know that You Tube put us behind bars!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Wake Up Call

I spent part of a rainy Saturday in Happy Valley mulling over whether or not I should post this blog entry.

I have decided to write this not as the play-by-play announcer for the Icers, but as a fan of the game that I have loved and played for more than fifty years.

By now, you may have heard about the incident in Friday night's NHL pre-season game between the Edmonton Oilers and Minnesota Wild involving Oilers rookie Taylor Fedun and the Wild's Eric Nystrom.

The pair were racing for the puck on a potential icing call. The video shows Nystrom trying to reach for the puck to negate the icing and his stick appears to get tangled in Fedun's skate.

As a result, Fedun crashed into the end boards, shattering the femur in his right leg.

The sickening incident involves two former NCAA players. The Edmonton-born Fedun played four outstanding seasons under Guy Gadowsky's tutelage at Princeton, and appeared to have a good chance of sticking with the Oilers.

More importantly perhaps, Taylor was an 'A' student studying mechanical and aerospace engineering.

Nystrom was captain of the Michigan Wolverines in his senior season in 2004-05. Drafted 10th overall by Calgary in the 2002 NHL Draft, he plays a gritty, hard-nosed style of hockey just like his dad Bob did during his career with the New York Islanders.

Today, Fedun's NHL dreams and his leg are shattered, while Nystrom is sick about the injury. He told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's Michaeal Russo after visiting Fedun in his hospital room on Saturday: matter how many times I say sorry, he'll still be in the spot that he is. It doesn't feel good to know that you're involved in something that hurt someone so seriously. But he really appreciated me stopping by, and I really appreciated him being so understanding.

The social media world erupted - especially Twitter - forcing Nystrom to defend himself against those trying to crucify him in the online world.

By most reports Nystrom will not be suspended by the NHL, which would be the right decision. However, the bottom line is that this entire incident could possibly have never happened if the NHL had previously instituted a no-touch icing rule.

I will admit right now that when the NCAA and ACHA adopted the hybrid icing rule I was not convinced that it was the right thing to do. I've seen the error of my thinking and now wholly support the rule. Why those in charge of the NHL don't see it that way is beyond me.

Fedun's career-threatening injury has reignited the debate. One of the most vocal proponents of the no-touch icing rule has been Don Cherry. "Grapes" has been railing against the current rule for years on his "Coach's Corner" segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

Ironically, this segment from March, 2008 has Cherry upset about a similar injury suffered by then-Wild defenseman Kurtis Foster.

In March, 2010, while commenting on a one-game suspension issued to Colorado forward Darcy Tucker when he tripped LA's Matt Greene, Grapes was at his blunt best:
That's sad when the [NHL] won't do anything about it. When somebody gets killed, they'll do something about it.

God forbid that it ever comes to that.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blue White Recap

Friday's Blue - White game at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion provided the fans in attendance and those watching online a mixed bag, both from the players and with our production. There were some flashes of what you'll see as the season progresses, along with some areas that are still a work in progress.

The Blue team rallied from a 3-1 first period deficit to skate to a 5-3 victory over Team White. Both squads suffered from short benches, including the Blues' coaching staff.

With Guy Gadowsky on a recruiting trip in Alberta, three former Icers players were selected as honorary coaches. However, former player and coach Mark Horgas was absent, leaving Rick O'Brien (Rich's dad) to go one-on-one against Cliff Graziano.

The game was played in two 30-minute periods (there's no halves in hockey) with 27 of the minutes in each period played in running time.

Josh Daley (Freshman - Pittsburgh, PA) staked the Whites to an early lead with a goalmouth goal, but Tim Acker (Freshman - Apex, NC) knotted the score just over two minutes later when he banged home a rebound at the other end of the ice.

Later in the period, Taylor Holstrom (Soph. - Yorba Linda, CA) rifled a wrist shot from the faceoff circle to make it 2-1 Whites.

Three Pennsylvania boys combined to give the Whites a 3-1 lead when Eric Steinour (Junior - Carlisle, PA) redirected a nifty pass from George Saad (Junior - Gibsonia, PA).

The play began when Dan Loucks (Senior - Collegeville, PA) fed Saad the puck in the Whites' end. George chipped the puck past the Blues defenseman at the White blue line, setting up a 2-on-1 break.

After the game Coach O'Brien wouldn't divulge what he told his players during the intermission. Whatever it was worked as the Blues scored four unanswered goals in the second period to secure the victory.

Defenseman Nate Jensen (Soph. - Shorewood, Minn.) joined the rush and knocked in a loose puck to narrow the gap to 3-2. Midway through the frame Nick Seravalli (Senior - Ivyland, PA) tied it up with a shot from the slot.

Justin Kirchhevel (Soph. Brookings, SD) put the game away for the Blues, scoring a pair of goals in a three minute span. The first came on a rebound, while the second was a nifty wraparound goal that had goalie Matt Madrazo (Soph. Sea Cliff, NY) going the wrong way.

On the production side, I updated our video software over the summer and tried out some new settings last night. Unfortunately, that led to the choppy video in the first period. The change of settings during the intermission helped and even let the viewers see the redesigned scoreboard/clock graphic. I appreciate the positive comments about the graphic from at least one of the online viewers.

The software update also gives us the option of having a replay module; however, the processor in my laptop apparently isn't fast enough to allow the replay to "record" at a speed that makes it usable.

The gremlins even hit PA announcer (and Icers webmaster) Rodney Martin. Someone changed a number of settings on the audio mixer in his "office" between the penalty boxes, resulting in a poor quality audio feed to our side of the ice.

We'll get to work during the upcoming week to correct the technical issues before next Friday's season opener against Lebanon Valley College.

Finally, thanks to Hockey Operations Director Bill Downey for joining me during the second period and providing his insight into the team and the upcoming season.

And congratulations to the Lady Icers, who followed the Icers last night with a 6-1 drubbing of Buffalo in their home opener.