Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tournament Thoughts

It's been a busy few days since the Icers wrapped up an undefeated regular season and the end of the Icers era, but I finally have some time to put some thoughts on "paper" about what has transpired and what lies ahead in Strongsville, Ohio.

Friday's one-sided 13-1 win over Kent State propelled the Icers to become just the fourth team in the 40-year history of the program to go undefeated at home.

The last to accomplish the feat was the 2003-04 squad, one season removed from a fourth-in-a-row National Championship win over Ohio. Unfortunately, the Bobcats turned the tables that spring, beating the Icers in Ames, Iowa.

And so the Icers close out their history at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion with a record of 466 wins, 65 losses, 18 ties and 13 overtime/shootout losses. That works out to an unbelievable 85% winning percentage at home.

The home ice advantage is due in great measure to you -- the fans of the Icers. Your support over the years has bolstered teams through tough times as much as you have helped to celebrate the good times.

Everyone wants the Pegula Ice Arena to be the most intimidating college hockey arena in the nation. The old barn known as "The Berg" has been a hostile environment for the visitors for more than 30 years. I think that it's safe to say that PIA will be even more so!

Now on to the National Tournament. The Icers head to Strongsville riding a 13-game win streak in which they have outscored their opponents 82 to 16.

They've given up 3 goals twice (a 9-3 win over URI and the come-from-behind 4-3 overtime thriller against Oklahoma) while recording two shutouts (3-0 at Oklahoma and 8-0 over West Virginia at home). Don't forget - they also held Ohio to a goal in each of the two wins at the Bird Arena.

Clearly, Penn State has to be the odds-on favorite to capture one last Murdoch Cup. However, everyone knows that they can not take any opponent lightly.

Case in point - the 2008 tournament in Rochester, NY. The Icers went in with a record of 31-3-4, and as regular season and conference playoff champions of the ESCHL. However, they did not play well in a 2-0 opening round win over West Virginia. The next night they were smoked 4-1 by Liberty.

I do not expect that to happen this year. Ironically, West Virginia could be the opening round matchup. The Mountaineers face Rutgers in the Friday play-in game, with the winner facing Penn State at 5pm on Saturday.

If the Icers win the opener the road to Wednesday gets tougher on Sunday, when they'll face either the Sooners or Iowa State.

From a personal perspective, I had the pleasure of calling the last championship win at the Bird Arena in 2003. Ten seasons later, I hope to call the final seconds of the last championship victory for the Penn State Icers program.

Barb and I hope to see many of you at the Hoover Arena. Shouldn't be a problem, since we will be there all week!

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