Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Game in 6

Here are the highlights from Saturday's thrilling 3-2 Penn State victory over Delaware.

I'll say it again - with the split at Delaware, the Icers at least should stay in the 11th spot when the new ranking is released on Friday.

"Man, We Battled"

Short and sweet, as most text messages are. The words of interim head coach Josh Hand in a text to me after the Icers' team bus had departed the Rust Arena following Saturday's thrilling 3-2 win over Delware.

The Icers, knowing full well that their post-season aspirations were on the line, played with heart, played with passion, played with guts, played with desperation and most importantly, they played as a team.

To make the win and the series split even sweeter, they won in front of a partisan crowd on the Blue Hens' alumni day. They won after the gameday staff threw a slight their way, turning off the arena lights and introducing the Icers starters in the dark before spotlighting the home side. Don't think that didn't fire up the guys wearing blue and white!

Speaking of sweet, how sweet was it for Dan Petrick to play the game he played less than 24 hours after having Delaware's game-winning goal bounce into the net off his body.

Dan's second star night started when he slammed a shot off the goal post less than two minutes into the contest during an Icers power play. Then, karma went to work with just over 8 minutes left in the opening frame.

Delaware was pressing for the equalizer after freshman and game third star Mike McDonagh opened the scoring by doing what he does best - going hard to the net.

A shot eluded Mathew Madrazo and slid toward the goal line, only to have Petrick sweep it away before it crossed the line.

Madrazo was spectacular in his fifth consecutive start, gaining first star honors by stopping 43 shots for the 8th win of his freshman season.

As I said earlier, this was a total team effort, and the guys needed that team effort after a late second period collapse that allowed the Hens to tie the game with two goals in the final two minutes.

Brian Dolan was penalized for tripping as the tying goal was scored. I haven't checked the game tape yet, so I'm not sure if Dolan was the guilty party on the delayed penalty that occurred before the Delaware goal.

The Icers killed off the final 1:52 of Dolan's minor in the third period, then battled back and forth with the Hens throughout the final 20 minutes.

My biggest praise goes to the grinders, the muckers, the lunch bucket guys who rarely get the headlines.

Just take a look at the score sheet.

Mike Longo made it 2-0 in the second by doing what he does best - going to the net and throwing shots on goal.

Mike Broccolo, inserted onto the fourth line this weekend, picked the perfect time to notch his first goal of the season, which turned out to be the game winner. In true mucker fashion, Mike banged home Nick Seravalli's rebound, again someone going to the net. See a pattern developing here folks?

The grind line of Servalli, Broccolo and Joe Zitarelli had an outstanding weekend. Not only did they execute the checking role, but they provided some offensive punch, as exhibited by Mike's game winner.

The hard earned split at Delaware should keep the Icers at least in the 11th spot in the next ranking which will be released on Friday. However, the road back to Newark and the national tournament doesn't get any easier next weekend.

The 7th-ranked Rhode Island Rams come to the Greenberg for two games that will be just as hard fought as this past weekend's contests. That even though Rhody is missing a half-dozen players who are in Turkey with Team USA.

Don't forget that Saturday's game is scheduled to start at 2:00 pm, not the usual 3:30 pm puck drop.

I'll post the highlights of Saturday's game later today, but right now it's off to work.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dropped in Delaware

The Penn State Icers dug themselves into a deeper hole on Friday night, dropping a 4-2 decision to the #4 Delaware Blue Hens.

The Icers stumbled out of the gate and were thoroughly outplayed by the Blue Hens in the opening 20 minutes. Despite the decided edge held by Delaware and despite apparently being outshot by a 12-1 margin, the Icers escaped the period giving up just one goal by Chris Volonnino.

I say apparently because the game crew at the Rust Arena did not announce the shots at the end of each period. The numbers were provided after the game by a Penn State parent who had to ask the students for the shots on goal.

Paul Daley drew the Icers even mid-way through the second period, but just 20 seconds later the Blue Hens went back on top when Mark Zeszut beat Mathew Madrazo. Apologies to Zeszut - due to a roster mixup I had him identified as Kyle Drury.

Peter Crampton gave the Hens a 3-1 lead just 2:18 into the third, when he banked a shot into the Icers net off the leg of Dan Petrick. It stayed that way until George Saad scored on the power play to get the Icers to within one, but that was as close as they could get.

Delaware goalie S. J. Broadt shut the door and impressive freshman Christian Tasker finished the scoring at 16:36 of the third. The Icers tried to rally, but they ran out of time, dropping their 8th game of the season.

Unofficially, the Icers were outshot 40-27, went 1 for 5 on the power play and 5 for 5 on the penalty kill.

The game was rather tame, considering all of the electronic chirping going back and forth all week. The Icers showed some flashes of strong play, but the slow start in the first put them behind the 8-ball and they weren't able to recover.

They'll need a strong effort in this evening's wrap-up of the series. As I said during the broadcast, I expect they'll need at least two wins against Delaware and Rhode Island (next weekend) if they hope to stay around the 11th spot in the next rankings.

Anything less, and their tournament hopes could be dashed.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Comley Creates Coaching Conundrum


The news out of East Lansing on Tuesday will likely have a ripple effect that will be felt right here in Hockey Valley.

Michigan State Spartans head coach Rick Comley announced that he will retire at the end of the season, bringing to a close an outstanding career as a college hockey coach.
Rick Comley

Coach Comley is in his ninth season with the Spartans after spending twenty-six years as the head coach at Northern Michigan. At NMU, he became one of just twelve coaches to win 450 games at one school and one of ten to post 500 victories at the same institution.

In 1991, Comley's Wildcats won the NCAA title with a thrilling 8-7 come-from-behind victory over Boston University in triple overtime in the National Championship game in St. Paul, Minn.

I had the pleasure of meeting Coach Comley prior to the 2007 NCAA Midwest Regional Championship game in Grand Rapids. His Spartans knocked off top-seed Notre Dame to advance to the Frozen Four in St. Louis, where he would win his second NCAA championship trophy.

Michigan State Athletic Director Mark Hollis said Tuesday, "A thorough national search will begin immediately to identify Coach Comley's successor as the head coach of the Michigan State hockey program."

That thorough national search will likely include several candidates who are already on the radar of Joe Battista and others who will make the decision on who will be the inaugural coach of the Nittany Lions.

As of this writing, I haven't been able to get in touch with the always busy JoeBa for a comment.

Among those who may have second thoughts could be Wisconsin women's coach Mark Johnson, the latest in Kyle Rossi's series of potential candidates.

Now, we return you to our regularly scheduled programming, and a chat with Icers assistant coach Josh Hand.

Last weekend, Josh did a great job of guiding the Icers to a sweep of West Chester. This weekend, it's another must win series on the road at #4 Delaware.


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Contributions

The roster depth of the Penn State Icers was on full view this past weekend as the Icers swept both ends of the home-and-home series with West Chester, despite the absence of Tim O'Brien and Eric Steinour and injuries to Taylor Cera and Kevin Miller.

Assistant coach Josh Hand got solid efforts from everyone in the lineup in Friday's 7-1 win at West Chester and Saturday's 4-2 victory at home.

Leading the way were a pair of freshmen. Michael McDonagh recorded his first hat trick as an Icer on Friday, while playing a physical game at both ends of the rink.

Mathew Madrazo backstopped the team to the two wins, allowing 3 goals (1 even strength) on 61 shots to extend his record to 7 wins and 4 losses.

The Icers are masters of their own destiny, starting with this weekend's road trip to take on the #4 Delaware Blue Hens. Needless to say, the top to bottom effort has to continue on the Olympic ice surface at the Rust Arena.

The Icers have shown they can beat their long-time rival, skating to a 4-0 victory at the Greenberg on Dec. 3. Madrazo recorded the shutout, but the Hens turned the tables of Saturday, sending Mathew to the bench after giving up 5 goals on 20 shots.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Bubble Busting

If you have been a long-time listener/viewer of our Icers webcasts, you've probably heard me talking from time to time about "our crack research team."

In the past, I've usually referred to Jerome Shell, who does a great job of feeding me scores from around the ACHA.

Today, I'm talking about Rodney Martin and fellow blogger Kyle Rossi. They've done a great job of breaking down the permutations and combinations that could or could not impact the Penn State Icers and their quest to reach another National Tournament.

In fact, the efforts of Rodney and Kyle are so good, that all I have to do is reiterate what I wrote on Sunday:

With four straight wins and some momentum behind them, the Icers enter THE most critical stretch of the season. Next weekend, it's two games at #4 Delaware. That's followed by a visit to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion by the 6th-ranked Rhode Island Rams.

With Penn State currently ranked 11th, they'll need at least a pair of splits against their conference foes. Anything less could drop the Icers into a hole that they may not be able to climb out of.

I'll have to remember to add a bonus to their next pay checks!

Now, on to another hockey related item.

A tip of the cap to the NCAA Niagara Purple Eagles. Last Friday night, the team remembered their "honorary" captain, 15-year old Meghan Redenbach, who lost her battle with ovarian cancer.

As the report says, Purple Eagles players 'Dan Weiss and Danny Baco will often think about Meghan's will to live and beat her cancer. And no one here will ever forget her famous phrase: "man up."

(NU Director of Hockey Operations) Jeff Weber said, "The doctor gave her what her diagnosis was, ovarian cancer, and her father started crying. So Meg turned to her father and gave him an elbow and said,"Man up, dad."
'

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Two in the Hand

The Penn State Icers didn't miss a beat this past weekend, despite missing leading scorer Tim O'Brien, energy forward Eric Steinour and head coach Scott Balboni.

The Icers got solid top-to-bottom performances from the entire lineup, taking both ends of the home-and-home series with West Chester.  The Icers thumped the Golden Rams 7-1 on Friday night at the Ice Box Line in West Chester and then returned to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion on Saturday, where they posted a 4-2 decision.

There was a lot of speculation leading up to the weekend series about the impact  several new Golden Rams players would have on the outcome of the games.  One word answer - NONE.

Not only were the forwards mostly invisible, goaltender Randy Japchen was his own worst enemy.  Japchen battled rebound control in both games, and the Icers capitalized by scoring a number of goals off those rebounds.

Credit the Icers forwards for getting to the dirty zone in front of the net, sniffing out the loose pucks and burying them.  

Credit to the entire team for a solid effort in their end of the rink, the penalty killers for holding WCU to 2 power play goals on 10 chances (0 for 7 on Friday, 2 of 3 on Saturday).

Finally, credit to assistant coach Josh Hand for seamlessly taking over behind the bench.  

With four straight wins and some momentum behind them, the Icers enter THE most critical stretch of the season.  Next weekend, it's two games at #4 Delaware.  That's followed by a visit to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion by the 6th-ranked Rhode Island Rams.

With Penn State currently ranked 11th, they'll need at least a pair of splits against their conference foes.  Anything less could drop the Icers into a hole that they may not be able to climb out of.

Friday, January 21, 2011

We Have a Name

And, frankly, it comes as no surprise.  Joe Battista will have more about today's news during tonight's webcast from the Ice Line in West Chester.

University Park, Pa — Penn State's Board of Trustees today (Jan. 21) approved the name of the University’s future state-of-the-art, multi-purpose arena – “Pegula Ice Arena”– after donors Terrence M. and Kim Pegula. In mid-September, the University announced the Pegulas’ $88 million gift, the largest private gift in Penn State’s history, which was intended to fund the arena as well as help to establish an NCAA Division I men’s hockey program.

“We remain involved as Penn State moves through the planning process for the ice arena. We can’t wait for the puck to drop on opening night in the new arena,” said Terry Pegula. “Kim and I will take great pride in the arena bearing our family’s name, and are happy that our gift is enabling Athletics to bring Division I hockey to Penn State, and producing a venue that will allow hockey to grow further in the central Pennsylvania region.”

The arena is slated to open in late 2013. Crawford Architects of Kansas City, Mo., and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., were appointed as architects for the design of the new 200,000-square-foot, multi-purpose ice arena to be constructed on the University Park campus.

“We are extremely thankful for the Pegulas’ gift. The fact the arena will now bear their name will ensure that generations to come will know of their generosity to Penn State University,” said Penn State Director of Athletics Tim Curley. “Pegula Ice Arena will offer numerous competitive and recreational opportunities to the University and local communities. The impact of the Pegulas’ remarkable gift will be felt far beyond ice hockey and for many years to come.” 

Pegula Ice Arena will be the only major rink within an 80-mile radius and will be on par with the best collegiate facilities in the country. The facility will be built on the corner of Curtin Road and University Drive, directly west of the Bryce Jordan Center. It will include two ice sheets and other features that will allow it to be used for a broad range of campus and community activities, from commencement ceremonies to kinesiology classes to public skating sessions and camps for youth.

The facility will provide new training and performance opportunities for Penn State's figure skating club and for the University's women's ice hockey team, which will transition from club to varsity status. The arena also will offer ice time to recreational and high school hockey programs, as well as intramural and local speed skating and broomball clubs. The arena will be able to host events such as professional ice shows and National Hockey League and American Hockey League exhibition games, generating tourism and other economic impacts in the region

In conjunction with the largest private gift in the history of the University that funds this arena, Penn State will establish NCAA Division I men's and women's ice hockey programs. The two teams are slated to begin competition in the 2012-13 season.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

For the Record

It seems entirely appropriate with the Penn State Board of Governors expected to vote on Friday to officially put a name on the new arena that the Athletics Department has posted this video of Joe Battista.

Joe appeared with my good friend Jed Donahue on WHVL-TV's "For the Record" show which aired in December.  As usual, Joe was passionate in outlining for the uninitiated just what Kim and Terry Pegula's gift means to the community as a whole.

Speaking of JoeBa, he plans to be at the Ice Line in West Chester tomorrow night and I'll be talking to him during one of the intermissions. Joe won't be our only guest on Friday. Good buddy Steve Zodtner, father of former Icer Paul Zodtner, joins me in the booth as guest. analyst. It's always fun to have another old hockey player adding his two-cents worth!

Game time is set for 9:15.  In addition to the video webcast on UStream.tv, the game will be aired on AM970, WBLF in the Centre County region.

And finally, congratulations to my long-time analyst John Mulhern and his wife Cindy on the arrival of the newest member of the Icers family. As John posted on Facebook, Ella Mulhern was "Born at 6:06 on Jan. 16 Weight was 6lbs 6oz. and 19.25 inches"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Taking the Reins

There's no doubt that the Icers are in the stretch run to the National Tournament, and it's important that they maintain the momentum developed during last weekend's sweep of the Robert Morris Colonials.

As has been mentioned before, the Icers are in the unfamiliar spot of being on the bubble - currently ranked 10th with Oakland while awaiting the new rankings that will be released on Friday.

It's going to be a tough battle to the wire, with the Icers facing all ESCHL opponents until the final ranking is released. 

It starts with a home and home series with West Chester this weekend, followed by a road trip to the Rust Arena at the University of Delaware (site of the 2011 National Tournament) and then back home for alumni weekend against Rhode Island.

So - in a nutshell - it's two games against a Golden Rams team (with 9 new players) that has in the past given the Icers fits, and four games against two of the top teams in the ACHA.

To make the stretch drive even tougher, those next six games will take place without the Icers' leading scorer (Tim O'Brien), one of the leading sandpaper guys (Eric Steinour) and the head coach (Scott Balboni).

As we all know, they're all heading to Chicago this weekend before jetting to Turkey for the World University Games.

As Chris Cerutti told me, there are guys that will be able to step up in the absence of Tim and Eric, as well as Taylor Cera (out with a separated shoulder).

As for the coach, assistant coach Josh Hand will take over behind the bench.  The first-year assistant says he's ready for the challenge.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday Talk

My weekly visit to the Icers' practice saw an unbeat but focused squad as they hit the ice in preparation for this weekend's home-and-home series with West Chester.

I caught up with one of the Pittsburghers on the team - Chris Cerutti - who notched a goal and three assists in the weekend sweep of the Robert Morris Colonials.

Chris recorded his 100th career point and fellow Burgher Tim O'Brien scored his 100th goal in an Icers uniform.

As Chris told me, they know they have to keep the intensity level up this weekend, especially Friday night at the Ice Line.  It's been a rough spot for the Icers over the years, but they exorcised the demons with a 10-3 victory back in November.  However, this is a new Golden Rams team, with nine new players on the roster.

Assistant coach Josh Hand will take over for the next three weeks as Scott Balboni, Tim O'Brien and Eric Steinour leave for the World University Games in Turkey.

With Taylor Cera out with a shoulder separation, some guys are going to have to step up and provide a little sandpaper and some scoring.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Colonials Crushed

That was certainly a much better weekend for the Penn State Icers than the previous weekend at Ohio.

The Icers took both games from the Robert Morris Colonials on the Olympic ice at the Island Sports Complex, with a 9-4 romp on Friday night and a 7-2 victory on Saturday afternoon.

Full credit to the Colonials for hanging tough through the first two periods of each game, but the Icers scored four times in both third periods to win going away.

There were a lot of positives and a couple of negatives from the weekend.  On the plus side:
  • Shorthanded goals by Eric Steinour on Friday and Domenic Morrone on Saturday
  • The revamped power play went 5 for 11 for the weekend, compared to 1 for 13 against Ohio
  • Holding Bobby Mo to 3 power play goals on 17 chances in both games
  • Solid goaltending from Dan Ivanir and Matthew Madrazo
  • Hometown boys Tim O'Brien reaching 100 career goals and Chris Cerutti notching his 100th career point in Friday's win
Now, the negative side of the ledger:
  • 17 power play opportunities for the Colonials in the two games.  I'll put some of the blame on some questionable calls, while Marek Polidor's 5-minute majors (his 2nd and 3rd in the past 5 games) added to the numbers
  • Taylor Cera's separated shoulder suffered on his first shift on Friday night.  With Eric Steinour, along with Tim O'Brien and coach Scott Balboni, gone for the next three weeks with the World University Games team, Taylor's absence will be a huge void to fill.

As I said in Saturday's wrap up, I think the sweep should keep the Icers at or near the 10th spot in the next rankings, which will come out on Friday as the Icers take on West Chester in a home-and-home series.

By all accounts, the revamped Golden Rams squad is a much different team than the one the Icers swept 5-3 and 10-3 in the first meetings of the teams in November.

According to the ACHA Twitter page, West Chester on Friday needed overtime  to beat Drexel 4-3 before thumping Towson 10-1 on Saturday.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Coach Speak

I'm not sure if Kyle Rossi planned this, but he happened to have Robert Morris Colonials NCAA Div. I head coach Derek Schooley featured this week in his series of unofficial potential coaches of the future Penn State varsity hockey program.

What a coincidence!  The Icers this weekend just happen to be in Pittsburgh playing the Dave Fryer-led ACHA Colonials, while Schooley's squad plays UConn on the main ice surface at the Island Sports Complex.

Coach Schooley started the RMU varsity program from scratch seven years ago. Today, the team and its fans are enjoying success in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. 

Shortly after the Colonials knocked off the Huskies 3-1 before a large and enthusiastic crowd, Schooley joined me during the first intermission of the Icers' 9-4 win over RMU.


Icers 9 - Colonials 4

It's early on Saturday morning so I'm going to keep it brief.

Here's a look at the highlights of Penn State's 9-4 win over the Robert Morris Colonials at the Island Sports Complex in Pittsburgh.


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Oops!

The NHL Network last year ran a series called "Voices", which featured profiles of the NHL's broadcasters.  There was a moment in the episode featuring Toronto Maple Leafs play-by-player Joe Bowen that rings true with yours truly.

Joe likened calling a game to a high school physics exam.  To paraphrase, he said, "An hour after the game I've forgotten everything about it."  I know exactly what he means.

Back on Monday, I wrote this about a turning point in the game:
Sometimes, the "hockey gods" just don't smile on you.  Had Michael's (McDonagh) wrister found the back of the net instead of the pipe. the score would have been 4-3 OU and the outcome of the game and the weekend might have been different.

Physics was not one of my favorite classes back at Agincourt High. After getting a chance to take a look at the game video on UStream, I need to set the record straight.

Michael's shot off the pipe occurred 1:20 into the third period, with Ohio on top 2-1.

Needless to say, had his shot been about two inches to the right, the outcome of the game and the weekend could have been different.

At least I was right when I wrote that sometimes the hockey gods don't smile on you!



For those of you who didn't not see Saturday's game, I put up a photo of our "broadcast booth" at the Bird Arena.

It's not easy to get to and it's a little shaky, but I still maintain it's the best view in the place!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Rocky Road Ahead

"There's no room for error."

That is the blunt assessment of Icers assistant captain Paul Daley following last weekend's sweep at the hands of the #4 Ohio Bobcats.

The Icers have now dropped 6 of 8 games to teams ranked above them (home splits with OU and Delaware and road sweeps by Ohio and Rhode Island). Penn State is now 5-4 on the road, but the road wins have come against Pittsburgh, Towson and West Chester.

The road to Newark and the national tournament is not going to be easy. There are two games each against Delaware and Rhody over the horizon, while this weekend the road trip heads back to Pittsburgh for the first two of four with the Robert Morris Colonials.

The Colonials, under head coach Dave Fryer, come into the weekend after taking two from Washington & Jefferson. Their record is now 11 wins against 10 losses.

On paper, this should be a weekend the Icers can bounce back; however, as Daley says, the Icers simply have to look at winning every game from now until the end of the regular schedule.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What's In a Name?

We'll know the answer to that question eleven days from now.  Tony Barton of The Daily Collegian reports:
Penn State Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena Operations Joe Battista said in an e-mail Monday the Penn State's ice arena will be named at the next Penn State Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for Jan. 21.

He would not specify whether the name would be corporate sponsored or not, saying the decision, "is in the hands of the Board of Trustees." 
Penn State's Office of Physical Plant lists the arena name as "East Resources Arena: in it's project list released back in September.

I'll go along with Kyle Rossi's idea that it should be called "The Pegula Center."

Hmmm.. maybe Rodney Martin needs to put a poll up on the website.

Not a Good Weekend

The opening weekend of 2011 was an unhappy one on a number of levels, for the Penn State Icers, your correspondent, and most importantly - to the Icers family.

We are saddened to learn today of the passing on Sunday of Lois Boller, wife of long-time Icers sponsor, Hall of Fame member and fan Don "Mr. Dairy Queen" Boller. Mrs. Boller is at peace after a lengthy battle with cancer.

The funeral service for Mrs. Boller is scheduled for Thursday at 11 am at Mt. Nittany United Methodist Church in State College. Our thoughts and prayers go out Don and his family.

It goes without saying that the results from Athens, Ohio were disappointing. The Ohio Bobcats swept the series with well-earned 4-1 and 5-2 victories at a raucous Bird Arena.

The Icers were outshot 86-42 over the weekend and they had no answer for Ohio's top trio of Michael Schultz, Tyler Pilmore and Nick Rostek. Schultz led the way with two goals on Friday and a natural hat trick in Saturday's win. Pilmore had a goal and assist on Friday and set up all three Schultz goals on Saturday, while Rostek had two assists in Friday's victory.

The Icers' power play struggled on Saturday, going 1 for 8. On Saturday, penalty trouble cost the Icers as Schultz scored two of his three on the man advantage.

One bright spot for Penn State was the play of freshman Matthew Madrazo. Matthew stopped all 19 shots he faced on Friday after replacing Ted Hume. On Saturday, Matthew made 38 saves, including several highlight-reel stops.

Speaking of highlights, the weekend wasn't a highlight of my broadcast career. Computer and internet issues on Friday night scrubbed the video webcast. Fortunately (I guess) I was able to get the audio working for the second and third period.

The problems were resolved on Saturday; however, there were problems recording the game video. I've managed to cobble together video of some of the plays from Saturday's contest.  Missing are Schultz's final two goals, the second by Tim O'Brien and Michael McDonagh's shot that rang off the post.

Sometimes, the "hockey gods" just don't smile on you.  Had Michael's wrister found the back of the net instead of the pipe. the score would have been 4-3 OU and the outcome of the game and the weekend might have been different.

Thanks to all the fans who hung in on Friday, and thanks for all your kind words.

Thanks to Vince Chandler for manning the camera over the weekend, while the Executive Producer worked behind the scenes.

We'll have more fun this coming weekend as the Icers head to Pittsburgh to take on Robert Morris. The games will be on the Olympic-size secondary rink at the Island Sports Complex. Right now, it looks like we'll be broadcasting from ice level.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hockey Is a 60 Minute Game

If a hockey team, be it the Icers or any other team, needs a lesson about hockey being a 60-minute game, all they need to do is fire up a replay of what happened last night in Buffalo.

I was working the (YAWN) bouncy-ball game at the BJC last night, but was keeping up on the score of the World Junior Championship gold medal game.  I got in my car with Canada up 3-0 after two, called Barb and said I'd be home in time for the medal ceremony.

Little did I know I'd be watching the Russians celebrate an unfathomable come-from-behind victory while my home country was left in a state of disbelief.

 As Team Canada captain Ryan Ellis put it, they just stopped skating in the third.  Two goals 13 seconds apart put the Russians on a path to gold and gave a huge boost to hockey in Russia.

It's a tough pill to swallow for Team Canada, especially those boys that were on last year's team that lost the gold to Team USA in overtime. It's a feeling that some Icers teams and Penn State fans can relate to.

I'd be remiss if I failed to congratulate the US for bouncing back from its loss to Canada by taking the bronze from pre-tournament favorite Sweden.

Now, on to something that I've never seen in over 50 years of playing and watching hockey.  This is from Tuesday's USHL game between Sioux City and Sioux Falls.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rarin' to Go

The campus of Penn State University is pretty quiet this week, unless you walk through the doors of the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

The boys are back in town - the Icers returning early to prepare for this weekend's road trip to Athens, Ohio and a two-game series with the OU Bobcats.  

No need to talk about the rivalry, other than to say that at the level of the ACHA it perhaps rivals Canada and the U.S. on the world stage.

OK, with the exception of last night in Buffalo, 
not that I'm rubbing it in!

No need to talk about the difficulty playing in the band box that is the Bird. The small ice surface (15 feet shorter than a regulation NHL ice surface), the location of the benches and the penalty box (advantage OU) or the fact that the hostile crowd, led by Gang Green, is right on top of the action (again, advantage home side) can cause nightmares for the visiting team.

In short, it's a great place for a hockey game! 


The Icers over the years have had some success at the Bird - from the 5-0 shutout of the Bobcats in the 2003 National Championship game to October 10, 2009.  Who can forget Steve Thurston's game-winner with 1 second left in overtime, giving the Icers a split of the weekend series.

It is going to be doubly important for the Icers to start the second semester off on the right foot.  Seven of the eight games on the schedule this month are on the road.  Two series (OU and Delaware) are against teams ranked higher than the Icers.

Penn State finds itself entering January play tied with Oakland in 10th spot in the rankings and in the unfamiliar position of being a bubble team starting the stretch run to the National Tournament.  

However, I wrote following the 8-1 romp over Niagara on December 10 that "(i)f the team plays in January and February like they played last night, they'll be on their way to another National Tournament in March."

Kyle Rossi backs me up in his "Thank You Terry" blog, as the takes an in-depth look at the schedules of the other "bubble" teams.  You might also want to read his take on the bulletin board material from the OU student newspaper! 

As team captain Marek Polidor and assistant coach Josh Hand told me today, they're confident the rust will be gone and the team will be ready to battle the Bobcats in the hostile environment that is the Bird Arena.