Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Both Sides Now

With no games for the Icers this weekend, this is a chance for me on this day before Thanksgiving to look back at last weekend's home-and-home series with Delaware.

Friday's 4-3 loss at the Rust Arena was frustrating for the team, frustrating for Barb and I -- and certainly frustrating for you the fans. The technical gremlins that popped up again exacerbated the night as the team tried but was unable to maintain its unbeaten streak.

Saturday proved that the sun will come up again, as the guys wrapped up the lengthy rivalry with Delaware (barring a tournament showdown in March) with a solid 5-1 victory. Barb put it best from our viewpoint when she said "It's much nicer being at home", which allowed us to give everyone a flawless broadcast.

The highlight of my weekend (other than the problem-free Saturday) was the chance to talk with two guys who have been a part of most of the 101 meetings between the Icers and Blue Hens.

Former Icers John O'Connor and Josh Brandwene have been on both sides of the fence, giving each of them a unique perspective on what has made the rivalry so great. Of course, Josh is back in the fold as the coach of the Lady Icers and the man entrusted with building the varsity program to a national championship contender.

Now, if we could only get Jocko back onto our side of the fence!

Barb and I would like to wish you a safe and happy Thanksgiving. We will be spending a quiet day at home, but our thoughts will be with our families, our friends and co-workers, and all of you in the Icers family.

We have said it so many times, but it bears repeating ---- we value your friendship above all.

May your table be bountiful, but I hope that it doesn't include this "delicacy" delivered via email by JoeBa on Thanksgiving 2009.

Iron City, Isaly's chipped ham, and pierogi.
Yum, yum!

Pass the Pepto Bismol, please!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


That's more like it.
.....Icers hockey Dad

That was the sentiment as Icers fans filed out of the Greenberg Ice Pavilion following Saturday's bounce-back performance by the Icers.

The 5-1 victory over #2 Delaware erased the bad taste of Friday's 4-3 defeat by the Blue Hens at the Rust Arena. With the win, the Icers head into the Thanksgiving break at 11-1. Delaware lost in regulation time for the first time this season. The Blue Hens' record is now 15-1-1.

The Icers were motivated after getting outplayed on the Olympic ice surface in Newark. Kurt Collins' post-game comment said it best.

It stinks to lose, but you learn a lot and sometimes it takes a loss to wake you up.

The Icers dominated despite a slow start, outshooting the Blue Hens 47-25. P.J. Musico was solid in goal, recording his fifth win of the season.

S.J. Broadt was equally solid in the Delaware net, despite giving up five goals. Broadt made several sensational saves, including the highway robbery of Justin Kirchhevel in the first period that had the crowd on its feet, your humble game-caller screaming GOAL and Rodney Martin firing up the goal horn and Zombie Nation (albeit briefly).

As for the pucks that DID find the back of the net, freshman Tim Acker notched his first two as an Icer, Mike McDonagh recorded his second power play goal of the season, while Bryce Johnson and George Saad rounded out the scoring.

Whether or not the 101st meeting between the Icers and Fightin' Blue Hens turns out to be the final time they meet, it will be remembered as a classic. It was a battle between two well-coached and well-disciplined squads. The game featured everything you want to see and none of what you don't want to see.

There was the aforementioned goaltending, fast skating, quick passing, great end-to-end action, solid body checking.....and virtually no post-whistle scrums. The couple of gatherings that did occur quickly dissipated with none of the usual stuff that we see all too often in ACHA games.

I think that it's safe to say that the fans of both teams hope to see a rematch in Cleveland on March 7, 2012.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Showdown Weekend

Right off the top, let's put aside all the hype about a potential national championship game preview. I know I brought it up, but I also said there is a lot of hockey to be played before the national tournament.

Having said that, this weekend's home and home series between the Icers and the Delaware Blue Hens is going to be a classic.

It is a shame that these two rivals will only meet twice in this final season in the long history between the two programs. Earlier in the season, I rated the Icers - Ohio rivalry as the best in ACHA history. I'd have to rank the Icers and Hens right up there as well.

These games will be the 100th and 101st between the two programs. Since 1990, the two teams have met 71 times in regular season and tournament action. While the Icers have dominated the series with a record of 80-16-3-0, the Hens in the past few seasons have given the Icers more than they can handle.

Since the 2007-08 season the record stands at 12-7 for the Icers, including two ESCHL conference championship victories (2008 and 2009) and last season's conference semi-final loss. The teams went 2-2 in the regular season in 2010-11, with splits in each team's barn.

The Hens have won eleven straight, and their only loss was a 4-3 overtime decision against Arizona State a the ACHA Showcase. Last weekend, they traveled to Lynchburg, VA and took two from Liberty by scores of 3-0 and 4-2.

Delaware is a veteran and well balanced team. Head coach M. F. Schurman has eight players with double-digits in points, led by monster sophomore Christian Tasker. The 6'2" 225-pound Tasker has 8 goals and 11 assists in 14 games, and can be an immovable object in front of the opponent's net.

At the other end, junior S. J. Broadt has seen the bulk of the action between the pipes for Delaware. He is 11-1 with a 1.97 goals against average and a 93% save percentage.

As I said earlier, this weekend should be a dandy, and a real palate cleanser after last Friday's ugliness.

On Monday I talked with Mike McDonagh, Brandon Russo and Coach Guy. Some of Mike's comments were drowned out by the guys as they headed to the locker room.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Imperfect Ten

It wasn't pretty, but the Penn State Icers maintained their unbeaten record (10-0) with Friday's 7-0 whitewash of the West Chester Golden Rams.

Unfortunately, this one deteriorated into an old-style, penalty filled ACHA game. It's been a few years since the penalty side of my scorebook came close to being filled.

After just three minors called in the first period, it went steadily downhill in the final forty minutes. A total of twenty-two penalties were called in the final two periods.

The Icers went 4 for 9 on the power play, while holding West Chester off the board in their three power play opportunities. To top it off, Mike McDonagh scored a highlight reel short-handed goal.

Brandon Russo made his first appearance as an Icer and made quite an impression.

Russo sprang Taylor Holstrom on a breakaway for his sixth of the season to make it 2-0. Brandon made it 6-0 in the third with a blast from just inside the blue line.

With West Chester in the rear view mirror, the Icers now have to focus on this weekend's home-and-home series with the fourth-ranked Delaware Blue Hens (14-1). M. F. Schurman's team has won eleven in a row since dropping a 4-3 decision to Arizona State at the ACHA Showcase on October 8.

A new ranking will be released on Friday, so it's not inconceivable that by the time the puck is dropped at the Rust Arena this could be a series between the top two teams in the ACHA.

There are some out there that think this weekend could be a preview of the national championship game. That may be a possibility, but there is a lot of hockey to be played between now and March.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

West Chester Up Next

The Penn State Icers enjoyed a well deserved day off on Monday after winning both weekend games with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory over NCAA D-III Fredonia State on Saturday night and a 5-1 decision over Pitt on Sunday afternoon.

However, there's no resting on their laurels for the undefeated and top-ranked Icers. They will host West Chester on Friday night in their only game this weekend. The Golden Rams make their final visit to Hockey Valley fresh off a sweep of the injury-riddled Rhode Island Rams.

The #23 Golden Rams improved their record to 9 wins and 3 losses by fleecing the 13th-ranked Rams 3-2 and 3-1. It's the first time West Chester has swept Rhody at the Ice Line since October of 2008. That season, both West Chester and Penn State were eliminated in the semifinals of the National Tournament at the Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, Ohio.

As reported in the West Chester student paper, Steve Meade scored his team-leading 11th goal in the Friday win, while senior captain Tom Scocozza scored both nights, just his second and third of the season.

Head coach Shawn Dorsey knows what his team is going to have to do on Friday if they hope to hand the Icers their first loss of the season:
They very well may be the best ACHA team ever. If we're going to play with them, we have to play hard and smart and stick to the game plan.

That game plan will include clogging up the shooting lanes and trying to frustrate the Icers with some physical play, especially away from the puck.

I spoke with freshman Jake Friedman and Coach Guy following Tuesday's practice.

During the Illinois weekend, I said Jake was "snakebit" after several missed scoring opportunities. Since the games on the Big Pond he's put three in the net, including the big second period tally on Saturday that keyed the three-goal comeback against Fredonia State.

Jake also chipped in a with assists on Bryce Johnson's two first period goals on Sunday, giving him 8 points on the season.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Winning Weekend

This past weekend had the potential to be a difficult weekend for the Icers.

The opponents in the rare Saturday - Sunday games could have derailed the winning streak - for two different reasons. On Saturday, the Icers faced what could be their toughest opponent of the fall semester in NCAA Div. III Fredonia State. On Sunday, they could have faced one of those so-called "trap" games against the Pitt Panthers.

Saturday's battle against the Blue Devils was just that - a battle. The Icers rallied from a two goal deficit, scoring three straight to win by a 5-4 margin.

Justin Kirchhevel led the way with a pair of goals, while Jake Friedman, Steve Edgeworth and George Saad brought the Icers the victory.

Matt Madrazo overcame a shaky start and was outstanding in the final period. Matt stopped 28 shots to record his fourth win in four starts.

Bryce Johnson on Sunday matched Kirchhevel's performance with two first period goals as the Icers avoided an emotional letdown against the Panthers.

Kurt Collins, Dom Morrone and Forrest Dell added singles as the Icers outshot Pitt 55-17 enroute to a 5-1 victory.

P. J. Musico picked up the win, but was denied his shutout bid when Brandon Pratt scored at 8:12 of the third period.

Dell had a strong weekend, playing Saturday alongside Brian Dolan on the blue line and then moving on Sunday to center a line with Dan Meiselman and Michael Longo.

Next up for the Icers is the West Chester Golden Rams, Friday night at 7pm. West Chester makes its final visit to Hockey Valley fresh off a sweep of the injury-riddled Rhode Island Rams.

The highlight video from Saturday omits the first period goals due to a corrupt recording file.

As Rodney Martin put it - better late than never!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Columbus & College Hockey

This weekend's Friday - Saturday game schedule for the Icers has given me the chance to hit the road once again.

This time, it's Columbus, Ohio and tonight's game between my Toronto Maple Leafs and the Columbus Blue Jackets. Icers dad Greg Kirstein was kind to arrange media credentials that gave me the opportunity to attend the morning skates for both clubs.

Most of the Leafs skipped the morning session after Wednesday night's wild 5-3 win in New Jersey. However, I was able to speak with rookie and former Wisconsin Badger Jake Gardiner.

Jake talked about Penn State, the Big Ten Conference, what fans can expect when the Nittany Lions play at Wisconsin, and his high school playing days with Nate Jensen.

Pittsburgh native R.J. Umberger and former RPI goalie Allen York were in the Blue Jackets locker room. R.J. talked about how Penn State will influence the growth of hockey in Pennsylvania and Ohio, while York talked about the big school/small school issue as well as his path from his home in Alberta to college hockey in Troy, NY.

Allen's comment about being able to mature physically while at RPI matches what Ryan Miller said to me when I spoke with him in Buffalo on the day that Terry Pegula was introduced as the new owner of the Sabres.

In what can best be called a "target rich environment", I was able to get additional comments from a couple of hockey experts.

Former NHLer, Notre Dame player and coach and current Leafs VP of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin and Blue Jackets TV analyst, Ohio State player and Miami of Ohio head coach Bill Davidge also gave me a few minutes and their thoughts on Penn State joining the varsity and what it means to the future of college hockey.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Long Weekend

A long weekend for most people is welcome. For the Penn State Icers - not so much.

The team enjoyed a successful weekend on the ice, sweeping a pair of games in their last trip to the Boss Arena at the University of Rhode Island. Then Mother Nature turned a 7-hour bus ride into a nearly 24-hour marathon.

First to the positives - a 6-2 victory on Friday, followed by a 4-2 nailbiter on Saturday.

As Coach Guy says, he's more satisfied with Saturday's play than what he saw on Friday night. I was impressed by the penalty killing both nights.

The team gave up one power play goal on a dozen chances. That included a perfect 7-for-7 on Saturday, when the Icers had to deal with a pair of two-man advantages for the Rams, along with Nate Jensen's 5-minute major for a check from behind.

Chris Cerutti returned to the lineup, and notched his first goal of the season and the game-winner on Friday with a power-play marker in the 2nd period.

After skating as the extra forward on Friday, Chris slid into Tommy Olcyzk's spot on Saturday and did not look out of place alongside Taylor Holstrom and Justin Kirchhevel.

The wins were the upside of the weekend - the bus ride home surely was the downside - right into the teeth of the wicked Nor'easter that pounded New England and much of eastern and central Pennsylvania.

The combination of impassable roads and mechanical problems meant that the guys didn't get back to State College until late on Sunday afternoon.

Paul Daley put it best with this tweet:

By all accounts, everyone tried to make lemonade out of lemons. Having said that, Barb and I were thankful we weren't with them!

With another road trip in the book the Icers are preparing for what might be their toughest test of the first semester. The Fredonia State Blue Devils, a perennial NCAA Div. III powerhouse, will be at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion on Saturday night.

Head coach Jeff Meredith, in his 24th year at the helm, brings a big, veteran team to Hockey Valley. Last season, the Blue Devils advanced to the SUNYAC championship game.

Game time Saturday is 7:00pm. The Icers will wrap up the weekend with a rare Sunday matinee as the Pitt Panthers come in for a 1:00pm faceoff.