"I felt we made a mistake in building a baseball field. I thought that should have been the ice skating rink, because I think hockey in this state right now, not just hockey, but ice skating, if you come up to our office building at 6:00 in the morning, some mornings you can't get a parking spot because parents have taken their kids up here to skate...I think hockey will be a great addition to our intercollegiate program. [The Pegula gift] is a great, great gift. And I think very far-sighted and I'm really pleased with it." - Joe Paterno

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Second Hockey Team?

The internet (well, the parts I look at, anyway) exploded over the weekend with wild speculation (and yeah, that's pretty much what it is at this point) that Buffalo Sabres owner Tom Golisano is looking to sell, and that one name in the mix of potential buyers is none other than Terry Pegula, whose days of spending large amounts of money on hockey may not be over. Here's a quick roundup of the commentary, starting with the Boston Globe:
Getting vibes once again that Sabres owner Tom Golisano is poking around for a prospective buyer for his Lake Erie stick carriers. Over the summer, Golisano had the locals all aflutter when he noted on local talk radio, “Nothing is written in concrete, but at this point I would say I’m probably going to be the owner of the Buffalo Sabres in five years, maybe 10 years.’’ The name that comes up in all NHL club sales talk is RIMM guru/hockey lover Jim Balsillie, who made himself no friends among NHL owners when he tried to pirate the Phoenix Coyotes away to Toronto’s outer suburbs. But the key name to keep in mind if this heats up: Terry Pegula. He’s the guy who forked over the $88 million gift for Penn State to build a rink and fund scholarships for Division 1 hockey. Pegula’s wife, Kim, is from suburban Buffalo, a good sign for the locals. No one ever wants to leave the Buff.
Pro Hockey Talk had this comment on the Boston Globe story:
Seeing Terry Pegula’s name getting dropped in this is interesting. Pegula dropped a lot of money to essentially found Penn State University’s Division I varsity hockey program. Just tossing around $80 million to build two on-campus hockey rinks including a main building meant to watch college hockey in, and ensure that a major university can start their own program is no small amount of change. The Pegulas are big hockey fans and they’ve worked to get the Penn State deal done for almost five years. It’d be fascinating to see them potentially get involved in the Sabres and we’re sure that Paul Kelly of College Hockey Inc. would love to have such a big supporter of U.S. college hockey end up on the Board of Governors.
It seems like all of the reaction out there is to the Globe piece, but I actually saw it first in the Edmonton Journal:
If Sabres’ owner Tom Golisano decides to sell and he’s made noises of that, Jim Balsillie and his kazillions from BlackBerry might be in the picture but there’s also a fellow named Terry Pegula who just gave $88 million to Penn State to build a rink for NCAA Division 1 play and fund scholarships there. His wife Kim is from suburban Buffalo. Pegula’s made his money in natural gas business.
Balsillie's name always comes up when a team is for sale, but if the Penguins, Predators and Coyotes situations gave any indication, the NHL will use any and all measures available to stop Balsillie from buying the Sabres just so he can move them 70 miles up the road to Hamilton, or maybe 30 miles past that to the Greater Toronto Area. Which leaves Pegula as the only viable candidate being name-dropped for the sale that has yet to be made public, if it even happens.

I'm hopeful it plays out, if only because it would give this nomadic fan who has yet to pick a long-lasting new favorite NHL team since the demise of the Whalers a solid reason to jump on Buffalo.

UPDATE 1, 9:14 a.m. 11/30: The Buffalo News finally jumped on this train. I wouldn't go through the trouble of editing my post just to copy/paste a similar-sounding comment - but the News makes it sound like things are heating up:
Sources confirmed Monday that his interest picked up in recent weeks, although an agreement did not appear imminent. Any sale could take several months, assuming he doesn't lose interest or have negotiations fall apart.
UPDATE 2, 10:07 a.m. 11/30: Pegula has signed a letter of intent to buy the Sabres for $150 million, according to Ken Campbell of The Hockey News.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How Good, How Soon? (Part II)


Second of two parts taking a look at Penn State's prospects for success in NCAA hockey. Part I here.

I believe that history, used in the right context, can give us a glimpse into the future, and in Part I, we saw that start-up programs can be a mixed bag. Although almost all new programs enjoy some kind of notable success within the first 10-15 years, it's not lasting success in some cases. At the same time, two of the five we looked at won national championships within 16 years, and a third, although it took longer, is now a perennial contender. Here's what I have yet to see: a well-thought-out reason why a well-funded, well-supported, well-coached Penn State won't be towards the top of that scale. Because Pennsylvania isn't a hockey state?

Well, if you're one of the "only Minnesota, Massachusetts and Michigan are allowed to be hockey states" crowd, then no, obviously Pennsylvania isn't a hockey state. And while it's true that Pennsylvania trails seven other states in the production of major-conference NCAA hockey players, that's not the whole story to me. Here are the top 15, in terms of the raw numbers (Source: Me, I tallied from every team's roster, hence no link, and hence this apology if you double-check me and I missed by one or two somewhere.):
  1. Minnesota - 155
  2. Michigan - 105
  3. Massachusetts - 100
  4. New York - 70
  5. Illinois - 51
  6. California - 39
  7. Wisconsin - 37
  8. Pennsylvania - 29
  9. Connecticut - 26
  10. Colorado - 23
  11. Ohio - 22
  12. New Jersey - 16
  13. Alaska - 15
  14. Missouri - 14
  15. New Hampshire and Texas - 13
Amazing how Wisconsin, Denver, Miami and New Hampshire manage to put together generally well-regarded teams when their home states produce fairly comparably to Pennsylvania, or worse. Wisconsin's next to Minnesota and UNH is at least in New England, I suppose, but PA also borders #4 New York which offers only schools from ECAC Hockey, the weakest of the major conferences, as competition. Ohio and New Jersey aren't complete write-offs either.

Also, Pennsylvania doesn't have five or seven major-conference programs in the state, PSU will be the first. Do some quick division, and you'll find that of the states with programs on the list above, only Minnesota (barely) and Wisconsin produce more major college players per major college program. Is PA the best market out there? No, but it is a drastically underserved one. Supply and demand. ECON 002.

While in-state recruiting is generally less important in hockey than, say, football (you still have to hit Canada and the Big Three states hard, and even Europe now as well), Penn State will hardly be hurting at home base. And with two of the most popular US-based NHL franchises around, it'll only get better. After all, the pros are generally what draw people to the game in the first place.

So what will Penn State be offering these recruits? A highly-respected education? The best facilities in the country? Phenomenal television coverage by college hockey standards? Sure, but perhaps most importantly, Penn State will be offering the chance to be in on the ground floor of something special. Do you want to be just another of Jack Parker or Jerry York's Hobey finalists, or do you want to be remembered well beyond that for being an original building block of a great program? The right type of personality, the guys we want, will love that recruiting pitch, and it has credibility because it's not coming from a perennial doormat, it's coming from a high-profile start-up with tons of positive momentum.

Like I said in Part I, the coach who delivers that pitch is of the utmost importance to me. The right guy can get you pretty close to where you want to go pretty quickly. The wrong guy can set you back a decade, maybe even more once that recruiting pitch in the last paragraph is coming from a losing program. To that end, I'm hoping to see a guy with a proven track record of success, but who's still hungry for more and believes wholeheartedly in what we're trying to do. Our Shawn Walsh, if you will. Yeah, okay, big stretch there, I know, who doesn't want that coach? But that guy's out there, and he's going to help drive this bus forward. We just have to find him, which admittedly is the hard part.

So again, why not us? Anonymous universities living in the shadows of others went from zero to national champions in 15 years. Branch campuses in non-traditional hockey areas are capable of going 4-2-0 against big, bad Minnesota, Michigan and North Dakota in their 14th year. Yet Penn State supposedly can't because...feel free to fill in that blank yourself, because I'm at a loss. Just please offer something better-researched than "we're new and not in a hockey state."

********************

I guess this is a good time to mention that next week, I'm beginning a series of posts looking at potential bus drivers. I don't have any inside information (please re-read my masthead if you thought otherwise), just a bunch of names that have been kicked around rumor mills or that just seem like good fits to me. I'll start with our own Scott Balboni, go through popular rumor subject Mark Johnson, and include a few others that are completely out of nowhere.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How Good, How Soon? (Part I)


With the weekend off for the Icers, I figured it would be a good time for this post and the one that follows tomorrow.

In case you didn't hear, I had my first spat with a fellow college hockey blogger a couple weeks ago. This is a guy whose gears are clearly being grinded by Penn State's very existence in his little bubble...in fact, he had this to say in comment to an article on a different blog.
"I can't wait to watch PSU get their asses handed to them in college hockey week after week. I think it's funny how some in the PSU fan base seem to think that they are just going to start a hockey program and start competing with the big boys of the college hockey, these are the same in the sport that have had programs for a very long time. PSU is going to be hard pressed to beat RMU."
Oh noes, not the BIG BOYS! I'm quaking. Just like Nebraska-Omaha (established 1997) was clearly quaking against the Sioux last weekend. I mean how could they ever expect to compete against that 1980 national championship banner...but more on that in a minute. Also, I guess he wasn't one of the 555 in attendance when the Icers knocked off Robert Morris' NCAA team in 2005. Exhibition? Yes. But still evidence that he's delusional about our prospects.

So much irrational hate, and all because we have the audacity to be excited about current events instead of worrying about whether we can hang with Bobby Mo in our lifetimes (and forget about staying within 5 of anyone outside Atlantic Hockey). It's a shame, because I have tremendous respect for his North Dakota program, in my opinion the envy of every other, thanks to their remarkable consistency that transcends players and even coaches.

This post isn't really meant as a direct response to that or his uninformed take on my opinion in his blog. I'm all for some verbal jousting when it comes to my favorite sport and my alma mater, but at the same time, I'm an adult who understands that there are some fundamental differences in opinion that will prevent us from ever seeing eye to eye on this one. So rather than go point for point with him and make it completely personal (that portion of the post is over, I promise), this is more about addressing one of the issues behind that disagreement, specifically, how good will Penn State's NCAA team be, and how quickly can we expect to get there? Inspiration for posts comes from unexpected places sometimes, to say the least.

As an added bonus, this is my first two-part post ever. You're witnessing history in the making.

First, a clarification: I frequently say that I believe PSU will compete at the highest levels of college hockey because, well, that's what I believe. I believe in the people who made this a reality and will be building the program. I believe in the potential energy that exists at the school and within the state. What I do NOT believe is that this will all be evident from puck drop in 2012. We're still going to be playing in the same tiny, dumpy rink we play in right now, and we're probably going to have something less than a full complement of scholarship players, with the possibility of a few Icers making the transition. In short, we're probably going to get stomped out of the gate. It may take 5 to 10 or even 15 years to get going, but once we do, I feel like we'll be there to stay.

I'm a data guy at heart, so hey, let's look at some data on this. We're not the first school to start a Division I hockey program, so here are the last five to do so. Not included: programs playing in minor conferences, programs that spent years or even decades at a lower NCAA division (hi, Bemidji State), or the pretty unusual Notre Dame situation. Those aren't analogous to me, we want zero to major DI conference. Please don't take this to mean that I'm calling the Icers "zero," it's just that the category of "highly successful ACHA to major NCAA Division I" doesn't really exist.

Nebraska-Omaha
First season: 1997-1998
Joined major conference: 1999-2000 (year 3)
First-season record: 12-18-3
First winning record: 2000-2001 (year 4)
First conference championship: None (now in year 14)
First NCAA tournament appearance: 2005-2006 (year 9)
First national championship: None

UNO stands out to me for a few reasons. First off, they're the only truly recent addition, with the restrictions I put in place. They're a school with which few would be familiar without their hockey team. They're in a decidedly non-traditional hockey area (yes, I'm aware of the USHL's footprint). While I wouldn't call the program wildly successful by any stretch of the imagination, given their situation they've had some relative successes, and second-year coach Dean Blais has them poised to explode on the national scene, as evidenced by their current No. 4 ranking. Alumni include NHLers Dan Ellis, Scott Parse and Greg Zanon.

Alaska-Anchorage
First season: 1979-1980
Joined major conference: 1993-1994 (year 15)
First-season record: 17-14-0
First winning record: 1979-1980 (year 1)
First conference championship: None (now in year 31)
First NCAA tournament appearance: 1989-1990 (year 11)
First national championship: None

Miami
First season: 1978-1979
Joined major conference: 1980-1981 (year 3)
First-season record: 22-14-1
First winning record: 1978-1979 (year 1)
First conference championship: 2005-2006 (year 28)
First NCAA tournament appearance: 1992-1993 (year 15)
First national championship: None (now in year 33)

Maine
First season: 1977-1978
Joined major conference: 1984-1985 (year 8)
First-season record: 15-12-0
First winning record: 1977-1978 (year 1)
First conference championship: 1987-1988 (year 11)
First NCAA tournament appearance: 1986-1987 (year 10)
First national championship: 1992-1993 (year 16)

Northern Michigan
First season: 1976-1977
Joined major conference: 1977-1978 (year 2)
First-season record: 19-13-1
First winning record: 1976-1977 (year 1)
First conference championship: 1979-1980 (year 4)
First NCAA tournament appearance: 1979-1980 (year 4)
First national championship: 1990-1991 (year 15)

I decided to cut it off here, because the next batch of applicable programs started in the 1960s, and it seems a little ridiculous to go back that far. Yet at the same time, if you keep moving backwards, one can't help but wonder how Denver has managed seven national championships despite starting their program 50 years after some. Or even Minnesota and Michigan - they're neophytes compared to the Ivies - however did they manage?

Getting off that tangent, what universal truths exist with the five newest?
  • First off, and maybe most significantly, every single one of these programs made the NCAA tournament in the first 15 years.
  • Surprisingly, four of the five were able to put up a winning record in the first year - with an asterisk for the fact that each was playing an independent schedule that probably didn't include Michigan and Minnesota.
  • Two of the five won national championships within 16 years. Miami came insanely close to one in 2009.
  • Go a little deeper and you'll see that the coaching hire is crucial. NMU had relatively quick success with now-legendary Rick Comley behind the bench from day one. Miami took longer, largely because of the Bill Davidge hire in between program-builder Steve Cady and corner-turner George Gwozdecky. Maine with Shawn Walsh and UNO with Dean Blais (possibly) hit it big on coach number two.
Generally speaking, and sliding away from a fact-based argument for a second, Maine and Miami are accepted as national powers, although Miami's definitely a newcomer to that club. Northern Michigan is a generally solid program. UNO doesn't have a tremendous history but looks to be on an upward trajectory. Alaska-Anchorage is the only one that stands out as a bad program.

So where does Penn State fit on this scale? Feel free to decide for yourself. My answer's coming in part II.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Like Brother, Like Brother


A couple weeks ago, I checked in on the brother of a current Icer, George Saad. On Wednesday evening, I happened upon another news item related to the sibling of an Icer, this time former center Alon Eizenman (1997-2001). Alon still sits third on the Icers' all-time assists chart with 165 and for my money, the 2000 Bob Johnson Award winner and ACHA Player of the Year was the best player I've seen wear the blue and white, although I believe it's human nature to be partial to your first group of players, so I'm going to have to disclose some bias in that department. Also, I have a smart guy bias, and Alon certainly is one of those.

Alon's brother Oren is also a tremendous player and a smart guy. After coming through the same Wexford Raiders organization as Alon (except at the Junior A level, as opposed to Alon's Midget AAA/cup of coffee with the Junior A team), he completed a stellar four-year career at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) from 2003 through 2007. Among other highlights, he led the Engineers in goals his junior year with 16 and made the ECAC All-Academic Team twice, no mean feat in a conference that includes the hockey-playing Ivy League schools.

Significantly, Oren also competed in international tournaments for Israel while at RPI. Without a doubt, one of his career highlights was winning the gold medal at the 2005 IIHF Division II Group B world championships - along with linemates Alon and Erez, a third brother.

I chose a picture of Oren in his RPI jersey for the top of this post because, well...I think I need HockeyDB.com to tell the story since 2007.

Season   Team                     Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
---------------------------------------------------------------
2007-08  Fresno Falcons           ECHL   53   27   39   66   28
2007-08  Milwaukee Admirals       AHL     1    0    0    0    0 
2007-08  Worcester Sharks         AHL     7    0    1    1    4
2008-09  Manitoba Moose           AHL     6    0    0    0    2
2008-09  Fresno Falcons           ECHL   12    3   10   13   10
2008-09  San Antonio Rampage      AHL     5    0    2    2    2
2008-09  Stockton Thunder         ECHL    2    0    1    1    4
2008-09  Milwaukee Admirals       AHL    20    2    3    5    0
2009-10  Stockton Thunder         ECHL   61   21   38   59   61
2009-10  Milwaukee Admirals       AHL     7    0    1    1    2
2010-11  Syracuse Crunch          AHL     3    0    0    0    0
2010-11  Elmira Jackals           ECHL   12    5   12   17    4


Got all that? Good. Because you'll now need to add the piece of news that inspired this post on top of it: the Crunch traded him to the soon-to-be Connecticut Whale for future considerations on Wednesday. Hopefully, it's a move that will allow him a consistent look at the AHL level, because that's something that he has yet to receive, as you can see. For his part though, Eizenman said last season that he's willing to work hard and continue to grow regardless of whether he's at the AAA or AA level of minor league hockey.
"If it doesn't make you stronger for this season, it will make you stronger for anything to come. You can learn something from wherever you are."
Incidentally, the article with that quote is a great read (I just wish I could have figured out a way to shoehorn more of it into this post), and if you still need more, here's another good one. Both make it clear that Oren is one of those guys who will be successful inside or outside of a hockey rink. Much like his brother.

Best of luck to Oren Eizenman as he continues to pursue his hockey dreams.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Payday Memorabilia: 1983-1984 Schedule


For the third edition of this feature, I did what I said I was unlikely to do in the first edition: use something I bought on eBay. Sue me for turning four while this season was happening. Also, sue me for getting excited when something popped up searching "penn state hockey" other than the usual assortment of those awful Colosseum jerseys and a bunch of smashed The Game bar hats.

One of my favorite things about this schedule is the fact that one of the opponents doesn't exist anymore. And when I say that, I'm not just referring to the hockey team, but the entire school. Seriously. Upsala College, which notably also helped Penn State christen the Ice Pavilion three seasons prior, closed in 1995.

The other opponents provide an interesting mix as well. Notre Dame had dropped their NCAA Division I program after 1982-83 and spent a year as a non-varsity program before rejoining D-I in 1984-85. Kent State was a few seasons away from their own ill-fated D-I experiment. The Navy Crab Pot is one of the ACHA's great traditions. The rest of the schedule is a cross-section of the familiar (Ohio, Delaware, Arizona) and the not-so-familiar (Alabama, St. John's, Ramapo).

Notably the Icers, coached by Jon Shellington, captained by Art McQuillian and featuring all-time leading scorer Lynn Sipe, navigated this schedule with a 24-15-1 record (a TON of games for back then) and went on to win the program's first club national championship.

You know what's crazy to me? How little the schedule cards have changed in the last 27 years. Here's this year's:


Same font, same stylized "Hockey" with a puck for an O, same Fightin' Blue Hens and Bobcats. I just wish we still put road games on the schedules, something we haven't done since (I think) 1998-1999.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Blue and White...and Green

I found a bit of Pegula Center news attempting to inject life into this slow news week, specifically that form field studio (deliberate lower case, e.e. cummings-style) will be assisting architects Crawford and BCJ with their sustainability efforts.
"We are thrilled that our friends over at Crawford Architects have been awarded the new 200,000sf Ice Hockey Arena at Penn State.

"form field studio will be assisting Crawford in their sustainability goals of making this a LEED-rated feature facility. Crawford's team also includes Bohlin Cywinski Jackson out of Wilkes-Barre."
What does it mean to be an LEED-rated feature facility? Glad you asked, I certainly did. Let's head over to the U.S. Green Building Council's website, on a page explaining it.
LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system,  providing third-party verification that a building or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across all the metrics that matter most: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Developed by the
U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED provides building owners and operators a concise framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations and maintenance solutions.

LEED is flexible enough to apply to all building types – commercial as well as residential. It works throughout the building lifecycle – design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fitout, and significant retrofit. And LEED for Neighborhood Development extends the benefits of LEED beyond the building footprint into the neighborhood it serves.
There's some good info around that website in terms even liberal arts majors can understand, in case you're curious about one of the ways we plan on making good on Joe Battista's claim that the building will last 75 years - and not destroy the planet before that time is up.

Welcome to the team, form field studio!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Weekend Observations: Towson


Collegian Friday recap, Collegian Saturday recap, Friday box score, Saturday box score

Old school opponent, old school stomping. There's your one-line recap for the two games.

I'm struggling, because I want to say something bad about Friday's game, if for no reason other than to be balanced. I guess if I have to pick something, it would be the early penalties. Taking two in the first 10 minutes of a game can be a nice way to get behind the 8-ball against a quality team, but in a mismatch of epic proportions like this one? Quite the opposite.

On the second penalty, a slow start sped up in a hurry. Dominic Morrone and Chris Cerutti were relentless on the forecheck. Morrone created a turnover that Cerutti pounced on and gave back to Morrone, who would've had a goal had he not tried to force an extra pass. No matter. Moments later, Towson's Brian Furlong tripped over the neutral zone chasing an errant pass, Morrone hustled to the loose puck, swooped in alone, and scored. Tim O'Brien got in on the shorthanded fun when Towson goalie Stephen Kelly's pass took a funny bounce off the boards and found his stick.

I always try and talk a little bit more about what I considered the key goals in the game, and for Friday, I'm going with the first two, unless someone can name a time a team has scored twice on the same PK and lost. I'm sure now that I said that, someone will tell me that Mike Richards did that at some point in a game the Flyers lost.

On Saturday, you can probably go right back to the beginning of the game. O'Brien in the first minute of the game off a turnover, Cerutti to Morrone on a phenomenal pass just two minutes later, then O'Brien with another goal off another Tigers turnover. We're just 7:56 into the game at this point, but we've clearly seen this movie before, and it doesn't end well for Towson.

Obviously there were a staggering 20 goals scored besides the ones I've already mentioned, and of those, it's worth congratulating Michael Longo on his first Icers goal Friday. And his second. He was in no mood to wait as long for that one as he did for his first, picking Brandon Stroup's pocket right off the draw and scoring nine seconds later (Steve Penstone talked to Longo afterwards here). Also good to see Nick Seravalli on the scoresheet as he continues to get back up to speed. Paul Daley had a hat trick Friday but doesn't get a mention until now - those things happen when there's enough credit to go around. Same goes for Dan Petrick and his hat trick Saturday, or Brian Dolan, who joined Longo in scoring his first Icers goal on Saturday.

Incidentally, rough go for Kelly, as Towson coach Mario Tremblay...errr...Ed Slusher left him in the game for all 25 Penn State goals. I genuinely feel bad for the kid, he deserved better, especially on Saturday when he played better than his stats.

Morrone and Cerutti were reunited on a line, with Kurt Collins on the other wing. I said before that I like the Morrone-Cerutti combo, so I'm hoping it sticks this time. Collins certainly wasn't out of place there either. Exhibits A, B and C in my argument might be goals 2, 7 and 9 on Saturday, all of which were beautiful passing plays involving at least two of them. It wasn't just the goals though, it was the way they carried the play between the goals as well.

I think going with that and Eric Steinour-O'Brien-Daley as your top two is really more like a 1A and 1B (or 1B and 1A, tough to tell), as opposed to the first line/fourth line/who knows what in the middle setup we've been seeing. I think you have to keep Mark Polidor and Chris Pronchik together, and Longo obviously worked well with them - Polidor created the turnover that led to Longo's first.

Yeah, more of these lines, please. Easy for me to say over a weekend in which pretty much everyone who dressed ended up with points I realize, but hey, it's not like I didn't already have pieces of this opinion before these games.

It's always kind of tough to evaluate what you saw in a 13-0 game (or a 12-3 one), and goaltending might be the best example of that. At some point during the third period Friday, Matt Madrazo made two nice saves in a row. I tweeted that he just faced his two toughest challenges of the night, and got this in reply. Yeah, that too. Back in my undergrad days, in a similar type of game, I remember someone from Section E asking Mark Scally if he wanted to borrow his Game Boy. Still ranks as one of the funniest things I've heard. I think Scally cracked up too.

I think the fair assessment is this: Madrazo was barely tested in the first two periods. He saw more action in the third (yes, beyond those two saves I just referenced) and played well. His aggressive style does take him out of position on second chances sometimes, and he needed a great save from Petrick to preserve the shutout on one of those - but all in all, a great game from the freshman. And a great weekend for Petrick - saving shutouts, bagging a hatty, playing up front late on Saturday. Not too shabby.

Teddy Hume, on the other hand, still looks off. He got the start Saturday, and while the stats say three goals in 25 shots, it goes beyond that for me. He still looks like his confidence is shot, playing a little tentatively and giving up juicy rebounds. The first goal was particularly brutal, as it deflected in off his blocker. He was even perforated for four goals by the peewees during the second intermission! Just kidding, he was letting them score. I think.

Possibly the most unfortunate thing in all of this - the motivation of the Icers' record-low No. 11 ranking had to be wasted on Towson. With next weekend off, another ranking will be in the books by the time Penn State takes on Delaware, and I have to think we'll move up a spot or two on the back of these games. However, Kevin Miller is one guy who understands the situation too well to need rankings for motivation, or so he said during the second intermission of Saturday's game (1:24:05 in):
"[We were] a little bit down, and we just had to come out here and work hard and get two wins before the break, kind of get our season back on track...we just want to get some confidence going, we come back after the Thanksgiving break, have a week of practice, and then we have Delaware here. It's going to be a big weekend for us because we dropped two to Rhode Island last weekend, so we gotta get some ESCHL wins here."
My thoughts exactly. No wonder you're a personal favorite of mine.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tiger by the Tail?

Rejected post title: "Tiger by the Motion Lines Emanating From its Decapitated Head?"

Friday's here - time to shake off whatever's left of the hangover from the pounding the Icers took last weekend (if you haven't already) and get back after it. Five games until winter break, and Penn State needs to get some positive momentum in a hurry, starting with tonight's game at Towson and tomorrow's game with the Tigers back at the Ice Pavilion. The good news: If Rhode Island is the best team the Icers play this year, which I believe can be argued, then TU just might be the exact opposite of that. And I haven't forgotten about West Chester or Drexel when I say that.

Back around the time I said "wait, Penn State has a hockey team?" to my now-wife, Towson State was a very respectable second-tier program, with a run of eight ACHA national championship tournament appearances in nine seasons from 1996 through 2004. Those from the old school might remember star forward Mike Rivells and his grandmother, who would always greet the team as they stepped on the ice. Or the tremendous job they did hosting nationals in 2002, complete with an ACHA video game (seriously - ask former Icers goalie Jordan Synkowski about it) in the lobby. I remember reporting on the 2000 final of the Nittany Lion Invitational, a game in which the Icers blitzed Towson goalie and tournament MVP Derek Rabold with more than 60 shots but were only able to manage two goals before an empty-netter.

There's little doubt, however, that the Tigers were one of the casualties of the "new" ACHA and the rise of programs like Oklahoma, Lindenwood, Liberty and others, club programs essentially running varsity programs sans scholarships, much like at Penn State. Suddenly, the first tier became much larger, the second tier became the third tier, and the former kings of the ECHA have missed out on nationals each of the last six seasons, with this year and its current 2-9-3 record not looking very promising either. Towson's 0-4-1 ECHA record places them only ahead of Penn State-Berks and its train wreck of a season in the conference standings.

Positives? Well, Towson did finally notch their first win against an ACHA Division 1 opponent last Saturday, by a 3-2 margin over West Virginia, behind two goals from leading scorer Tyler Reddy. Reddy, Kevin Carter and Steven Alfano make up a capable but possibly overworked top line, with undersized (5'7", 155 pounds) Tim Schlagenhauf serving as the lead defenseman. Depth appears to be a major concern for TU with exactly six defensemen listed on the roster (one of which, Brandon Stroup, is injured), and extremely sparse secondary scoring. It's a dangerous situation that can lead to games like the last one the two teams played, where Towson showed well early and even tied the game at three early in the second - until the Icers ran off 12 straight goals.

Stephen Kelly gets the lion's (tiger's?) share of the minutes in net and, considering the season his team is having, actually holds his own quite well with a save percentage of 0.886 facing 40 shots per 60 minutes. Kelly, along with Reddy, Carter and freshman forward Drew Zucker are all Pennsylvanians trying to knock off the home state flagship, a disproportionately large segment of Towson's best players.

One of the more interesting dichotomies I've seen since I started TYT: Towson's website looks like my high school HTML project and hasn't been updated since last season. But they have a weekly coach's show Wednesday nights on an internet station called HerbFM, not something you often see from an ACHA team. Tigers coach Ed Slusher seemed pretty confident on that show this week, in spite of his team's record.
"We'll give them a surprising game, we have guys that grow to the opponent we play."
Following a break for an interview with Steve "Pengrove," during which the Icers broadcaster clarified that we aren't starting the NCAA team next year and that we are in fact building a new arena (seriously HerbFM, two minutes of research would've helped your interview immensely), Slusher continued.
"We'll play a defensive game first, limit offensive chances, focus on getting the puck out of our end...it is nice right now, because they're not winning. If we can pull it together and play our best game, we'll be right there."
Can Towson actually make a game out of either of these? Absolutely. If you're new here, it took some terrible officiating for the Icers to win last season's opener against the Tigers, in a game that would have otherwise been remembered for the way Penn State allowed Towson to stay in the game by taking nine penalties, which accounted for all three Tigers goals. I certainly don't expect that the coaches have let the team forget that in practices this week.

That said, and assuming PSU's anything resembling on its game, it's hard to see a repeat of that debacle in the works - since eliminating Towson from its last ACHA championship appearance in 2004, and even including the close call, the Icers have scored 51 goals in six games against TU (8.5 per game), while giving up only 16 (2.7 per game).

Ideally, that's what we'll see play out - a pair of games in which Penn State can roll and get things back on track, from Teddy Hume (if he even gets the chance), to the offense that got shut down last weekend. Because Delaware, white hot at 14-0-1, rolls into town next weekend, and the Hens won't be the least bit interested in letting the Icers figure everything out. They'll be trying to bury PSU in the bottom half of the ESCHL standings going into the winter break.

Outside Reading

Several Icers tell the Collegian that they need to convert chances better and that they can't underestimate Towson. Nice work on Rich O'Brien and Matt Madrazo ("Matt" and "Madrazo" are separate links) came earlier in the week.

Steve Pengrove...errr...Penstone raises the possibility of these games being traps. And he's not the only one.



Had to. Sorry.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Palpable Concern

This season is definitely at a crossroads, and while I'm not going to do a Chicken Little post just yet, we're entering an absolutely crucial set of games from now through the end of the semester. Yes, it's only mid-November, and no the sky isn't falling. But it's cracked and looking kind of wonky, and could go at any time if things don't get righted quickly. Look at what we have laid out in front of us:
  • Two with Towson this weekend, one with Niagara to close out the semester on December 10th. It would be an unmitigated disaster if we didn't sweep these games...
  • ...sandwiched around a home weekend with No. 7 Delaware, which hasn't lost in regulation this season. This is very quickly becoming a series that might determine the way in which the season turns.
  • PSU opens the spring semester at Bird Arena, which has been pretty inhospitable to the Icers over the years. Ohio has already split at the Ice Pavilion.
  • Two more games each against Delaware and Rhode Island, which of course just outscored Penn State 9-1 for the weekend. Notably, both of these series happen during the World University Games, and Team USA hit Rhody hard - they'll be down their two best defensemen and two of their better forwards. The Icers will be without Tim O'Brien, Eric Steinour and possibly alternates Kevin Miller and Dan Petrick. Delaware doesn't lose anyone.
  • Two more with West Chester and four with Keystone Bobby Mo. All games we should win, but then again, the Colonials had more success against URI than did the Icers.
That's it - the games that are ultimately going to be our resume to a) make the final 16 (I'm not at all suggesting the unthinkable might happen just yet) and b) hopefully not have to play Lindenwood or someone equally imposing in the first round. It almost - almost - seems like given the 2011 portion of the schedule, the Icers need to close out 2010 with at least four wins, which of course means at least a split with Delaware.

For what it's worth, many Icers players and coaches seem to agree on the problem. Start with Tim O'Brien:
"If we’re going to come together as a team this is the perfect time to do so.”
Nick Seravalli:
“Right now we’re not playing well as a team together, and some of the older guys are trying to take too much responsibility when we should be playing as a team. We can’t have that. We have to want to play for each other.”
Paul Daley:
“We need to come together and play as a team every game and we know that going in, it’s just the matter of executing it.”
Josh Hand:
“They need to be a team in every sense of the word. They need to be friends on and off the ice. They need to be working for each other on and off the ice. We need to be a hardworking team that supports each other, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Okay then. Now that we're on the same page, let's get after a solution, eh? Yes, it's gotten that bad, a guy who's spent his entire life in Ohio and Pennsylvania is dropping "ehs" on you. As I mentioned in the wrap-up for the URI games last weekend, I think some consistency with the forward lines might be one place to start, particularly the middle two - it's hard to develop chemistry and play together when the deck's being shuffled seemingly every game. Hand's quote is a little worrisome, as it seems to imply some personality clashes within the team. Ultimately though, it has to be a matter of taking the advice of one famous Pennsylvanian:
"We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately."

Pegula Center Speculation: TD Bank Sports Center


Fifth and final post in a series taking a look at rinks visited by Joe Battista, Terry Pegula and Tim Curley during their whirlwind tour over the summer and fall of 2010. The others: Boston University's Agganis Arena, Miami University's Steve Cady Arena, Notre Dame's Lefty Smith Rink and Minnesota-Duluth's AMSOIL Arena.

Opened: January 27, 2007
Cost: $52 million
Capacity: 3,386
Ice Surface: 200' x 85'
Official Site

Before we go any further, I want to sneak in an exterior shot of the home of the Quinnipiac Bobcats, even though it has absolutely nothing to do with Penn State.


Basketball on the left, hockey on the right, fans of the two sports forced to co-exist in the middle. Sorry, I just thought that was cool. I'm sure many heated exchanges about the relative merits of "bouncyball" (as many hockey fans derisively call it - last post) have taken place in that lobby. Or maybe both sides just let the other be when both teams are playing at the same time in there, which probably doesn't happen that often anyway. Yeah, that one's more likely.

First thing to point out: go back to the interior shot at the top. You'll notice that you may need spiked shoes and a rope to get from the bottom to the top of the seating. That steep slope in the seating bowl is something that appealed to Battista:
We want a steep rise and run so that it’s a great venue for spectators. We saw that at Boston U. and Minnesota and Quinnipiac. All of those places remind you of Hersheypark Arena. Not a bad seat in the house because it’s built for hockey.
If the infamous sketch is any indication, the Pegula Center will share this feature.

Wall o'fans.

Beyond the seating bowl (which is set up in the way I prefer as well, although AMSOIL started to get me to come around on that, as I said yesterday), it's tough to see what Battista got out of the visit, because TD Bank Sports Center doesn't really offer many of the things Penn State would seek to include in the Pegula Center. It's a nice facility, but it looks to be pretty spartan. A great place to watch a game, no doubt, but not towards the top of the facility rankings. But hey, don't take my word for it, go back to Quinnipiac's page about the place:
The TD Bank Sports Center is a 185,000-square-foot facility with basketball and hockey arenas joined by a common lobby area and university club. The new athletic center also includes: offices, locker rooms, club and premium seating, conference and meeting rooms, storage and weight-training facilities.
I'm certainly guilty of overanalysis from time to time, but that doesn't sound to me like much beyond the essentials. If you had a hydrotherapy room like Minnesota-Duluth or a puck-shooting range like Notre Dame, you'd probably toss it in that sentence.

But you know what? If the seating bowl slope was indeed our main takeaway from Quinnipiac, it was worth the trip in my opinion.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pegula Center Speculation: AMSOIL Arena



Fourth post in a series taking a look at rinks visited by Joe Battista, Terry Pegula and Tim Curley during their whirlwind tour over the summer and fall of 2010. The first three covered Boston University's Agganis Arena, Miami University's Steve Cady Arena and Notre Dame's Lefty Smith Rink.

Like I said about a week ago, I'm going to bring this series to a close today and tomorrow since things are moving along quite nicely with the Pegula Center. The architects have been named, the construction team is coming shortly, and we even have a preliminary sketch to obsess over. In other words, it's quickly becoming pointless to jump around to different NCAA hockey venues, nitpick about suite locations and "feel" (both of which I do in this post as well, you won't be disappointed), and take uninformed guesses about what we should borrow from each. It's time to focus on our own rink, which I'm sure will be the best of all. With that out of the way...

Opening: December 30, 2010
Cost: $80 million
Capacity: 6,732
Ice Surface: 200' x 85'
Official Site

What makes AMSOIL Arena unique? Well, for starters, how about the fact that Battista has said more about the new home of the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs in the media than any other venue on the tour? Yeah, okay, he was asked about it by a Duluth newspaper, so that doesn't really mean anything. Still:
“I liked everything I saw here – all of the amenities, the suites, the press box, the site lines. It’s the perfect size for us. I’m going to make it a point to get our (hockey) donor here to look at the building.”
It sounds like a return trip involving the guy who writes large checks was in order. While lip service to the Duluth newspaper about the Duluth rink is one thing, that's pretty telling.

Honestly, I came into writing this post with the idea of ripping AMSOIL to shreds, based on what I knew about it. Which, in fairness to myself, was mostly just the hideous seat-coloring pattern and the name. However, once I managed to get past those two things (it took a while), AMSOIL really started to grow on me. I highly recommend spending some quality time with the photo galleries on the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (which includes AMSOIL Arena) site. The word "Galleries" just off the top right corner of the default picture is actually a menu, just to spare you my frustration.

What I like about AMSOIL Arena: A lot. My favorite part of all is the open concourse. Seriously. Get up, be able to watch the game while you walk, get your nachos, get back to your seat quickly because you no longer have to make your concession runs during intermission with everyone else. Brilliant. Hey, I like nachos, and sometimes these things can't wait until the scoreboard clock says it's time.

Actually, according to Battista, there are two concourses. But he does agree with me on the awesomeness of it all:
At Minnesota-Duluth, they have two concourses inside the building, one in the bowl itself about halfway up that goes all the way around. And then an outer concourse that goes all the way around, too, where you have restrooms and concessions and stores. You can get everywhere you want very quickly. It’s very user-friendly.
I also like the arrangement of the suites - I've been in the camp (assuming there are "camps" on this issue, I'm pretty sure there aren't, at least outside of the decision makers) that favors a ring of suites around the top of a single-tier seating bowl, but AMSOIL pulls off a different idea quite nicely. Looking specifically at Gallery 9 at the link above, it appears that they're all on one side above a press box, with possibly a few more in the corners.

The amenities are plentiful and top-notch. And while I don't see much there that wouldn't be in any other state-of-the-art hockey facility, AMSOIL is one of the few offering an in-depth look at things like the hydrotherapy room (seriously, go to the photo galleries). Plus, this look is accomplished without actually having to go to Duluth, as Battista did. Bonus points.

What I don't: Not a whole lot. My biggest issue is the presence of a true upper level which, as I've said before, seems unnecessary in a venue of this size. Maybe you need the upper level to have an open concourse, which I suppose makes sense. If necessary, I'm more than willing to make that trade - I'll have nice seats either way, not my problem. Also, AMSOIL just doesn't throw off a "classic, intimate hockey barn" vibe to me like some (well, two) of the other venues we've examined - it actually says "small version of a multi-purpose arena." Why? Well, for starters, it's because that's what it is. So says the official site:
We have greatly expanded opportunities to enjoy our UMD men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as major entertainers, more conventions, larger trade shows, and other events.
"Major entertainers, more conventions, larger trade shows" is not likely to be much of a consideration for the Pegula Center, not with the Bryce Jordan Center right across the street. Hopefully this means some design differences that give the place more of a Steve Cady feel.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Hitting the Big Time


So, in case you haven't been on the official site in the last hour (and why not?), I'm legit now. A headline, even. In a little section next to Steve Penstone and the Collegian writers. Seriously. Penstone. Collegian. Me. I'm flipping out.

The product of a burst of inspiration I had while eating a calzone in State College for the Central Oklahoma games just one month ago was never supposed to be read, really by anyone. Well, except my wife, who I obnoxiously ask to read all of my posts to "make sure I don't sound stupid," and for that, she has my sincerest thanks. But other than that, it was really just about me having fun, following the Icers, and being wordy. Basically, things I do anyway, so hey, why not put it on the internet, and who cares if anyone ever sees it?

I'm extremely honored to be recognized by Rodney Martin and the site, which has long been the standard of excellence in college hockey (the numerous links to it here vouch for that). Just goes to show the power of the Icers family, even if I'm that weird-looking second cousin who lives out of state and doesn't make it in for Christmas every year.

If you're new to this, and you are, hope you enjoy it! Feel free to hit up the Twitter, my personal Facebook, or the comments here anytime!

Weekend Observations: Rhode Island


Collegian weekend recap
Friday box score
Saturday box score

First off, tip of the hat and a hearty thank you to Steve and Barb Penstone for the work they do on the UStream broadcasts, something that I hope nobody who follows the team from afar takes for granted.

A little bit of a confession: I knew that Rhode Island broadcasts their home games on FastHockey.com. Partially from curiosity, partially from wanting a opposing perspective on things, I watched that broadcast when I sat down to review the games. That lasted exactly 11:18 of game time, until I tried to analyze the first Rhode Island goal, and what I wanted to see was out of frame. I viewed that as pretty much the last straw for the bouncing, blurry video narrated by a kid who occasionally interjected to say "icing Penn State" and similar. I'm spoiled, I guess. Unfortunately, some technical issues forced me to stick with the URI broadcast through most of Friday's game, but rest assured, I jumped to UStream as soon as I was able.

It looks like "history" is the word of the day, and not in a good context. I'm struggling to find a worse weekend for the Icers - one goal scored, two losses by a total of eight goals (okay, two empty net goals on Saturday, but they still count). Sweeps happen occasionally, sure, some games tighter than others, but my best guess for the last time anything quite this bad has happened? October 1996, 15-0 and 3-1 losses to Alabama-Huntsville, then the defending NCAA Division II national champions. I believe that to be the last time we've been held to one goal for the weekend or lost by eight goals combined. Your guess is as good as mine as far as whether an ACHA team has ever done that to us.

The other little bit of history: the Icers, at 2-2-0 since dropping to No. 8, are poised to possibly leave the top 10 altogether when the next ACHA rankings come out Friday. I sincerely wonder if that's ever happened since the formation of the ACHA in 1991.

Maybe the most frustrating thing about it was the fact that the Icers weren't playing their worst since 1996. PSU was dominant for stretches on Friday, especially early on.

However, the tone of Friday's game, to me, was set by the first two power plays, one each way. Penn State's came first and led to about three tremendous scoring chances on the first wave, but Rams goalie Paul Kenny was up to each, and after changing the power play unit midway through the advantage, the Icers were unable to get established in the URI zone.

About five minutes after that penalty ended, Kevin Miller tripped Kyle Krannich, who had position while driving the slot (in other words, not the worst penalty to take), and Penn State went to the kill.  Shortly after, Dan Petrick and Carey Bell lost a 2-on-1 battle in the corner and the Rams' Dan Lassik made it 1-0. And shortly after that, 30 seconds to be exact, David Macalino finished a beautiful pass from Sean O'Neal to make it 2-0, a play that started with a great one-on-one E.J. Astarita denial of Chris Cerutti on the other end. It's foolish to declare a game, let alone a weekend, over at 2-0, but I dare anyone to tell me that sequence wasn't a microcosm of the whole two games.

Special teams reared its ugly head again when the Icers turned in a putrid two minutes on the advantage bridging the first and second periods with a chance to get back in the game. As an aside, I always hate having power plays broken up by intermission, because to me, any advantage gained from clean ice is negated by a break in momentum, the chance for the PK to catch their wind, and even the faceoff outside of the zone. On the other side, the Rams continued to punish Penn State for taking penalties, with a second powerplay goal and a converted penalty shot polishing off the win in the third period.

On Friday morning, I compared Penn State's goaltending situation to Rhode Island's. On Friday night, I learned that I was dead wrong - there really is no situation at URI, just a pair of great goalies splitting the minutes. The Icers' situation, on the other hand, went from muddled to murky - assuming murky is worse than muddled - when Teddy Hume gave up five goals on 24 shots Friday night and Matt Madrazo turned in what's quickly turning into a trademark solid performance Saturday. In fact, "solid" doesn't really do it justice, Madrazo was tremendous and kept PSU in a game we probably deserved to be in less than the game on Friday. I love the kid's moxie, he has a little of that Patrick Roy swagger in him, and his puckhandling abilities are capable of jump-starting the offense, something one can appreciate in the middle of a one-goal weekend.

I hate doing the thing where you examine each goal to assign blame - goalie, defenseman, backchecker - something that's usually done to irrationally exonerate a goalie, so I'm not going to do that with Hume. I'll just restate my belief that Hume can get his game together and be the guy come March. In a sense, I think he needs to be that guy. But at the same time, it's becoming more and more evident that he's not going to have eternity to piece things together, not with how Madrazo (along with Ivanir and Jay when they're in) has been playing.

Along with the goalie switch, Saturday brought new linemates for Dominic Morrone, yet again. Even though it's not an obvious culprit, I can't help but think that our inability to piece together a consistent second line behind Paul Daley-Tim O'Brien-Cerutti has been part of our struggles. In my opinion, Morrone is the clear anchor to that line, he just needs to develop chemistry with someone. There are certainly candidates - Marek Polidor was the Icers' offense on the weekend, on a goal that showed off his wheels as he blew by the Rams' defense. George Saad whenever he comes back. Nick Seravalli has looked better each game back. Michael Longo adds a two-way presence.

I might as well close with a positive (sort of): the URI white out boarding the failboat. Guess that FastHockey feed was good for something after all.

Try blue next time, to match the bleachers.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Ramchargers

What happens when you try to club a ram over the head with a composite stick.

So last weekend was nice. Against West Chester, we got to see the Icers firing on all cylinders for maybe the first time all season. Then again, let's be honest, that wasn't exactly the 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens on the opposite bench. What if we upgrade the competition to, say, the ACHA's No. 11 team, one who took points from both regular season weekends against Penn State last year and who was one ridiculous Chris Cerutti outburst from stealing the ESCHL tournament title? And let's play the games in their building, just for good measure.

One way or another, we're going to find out something about the Icers tonight and tomorrow night at Rhode Island's Bradford R. Boss Ice Arena, and that's an exciting prospect. Penn State seeks to improve their worst-that-I-can-remember No. 8 ranking, while URI looks to continue down the road to redemption after missing the ACHA championship tournament last season. These games are not only important nationally, but within the ESCHL as the two contenders jockey for early position.

Oh, and in case you're planning on making the road trip to Kingston, you should know that URI has declared whiteouts for both Friday's and Saturday's games:
WHITE OUT Weekend vs. Penn State Nov. 12-13, 6:45 Game Time. Wear your WHITE. Student Tickets on sale all week (Nov. 8-12) at HOPE from 11-1PM lunch time. Meet the players, get your weekend game tickets. 2 GAME URI Student Package $3.00
Such is the ugly, ugly flip side of being from a school known for that sort of thing, I guess - people try to take it and use it against you. The least you guys could've done is change up the color or something. But anyway, wear blue to the games.

On to the team itself. For the second time in the last month, the Icers are facing a transfer from an NCAA Division I program. First, it was Ohio goalie Blake MacNicol (from Alabama-Huntsville), now it's leading scorer (11 goals, 14 assists) Shawn Tingley, formerly of Providence College. Tingley doesn't have nearly the DI resume MacNicol did, as he only played two games for Tim Army's Friars in 2008-09 before becoming one of many players to leave the program in 2009. Still, with 25 points in his first 14 ACHA games, it's easy to see why he ended up at a DI program in the first place.

Tingley isn't the only former NCAA player on Rhody's roster. Second-leading scorer (7 goals, 12 assists) Alan Dionne, a defenseman, started his college career at Division III Wentworth Institute of Technology. At Wentworth, Dionne scored 42 points in 42 games over two seasons, and actually led the Leopards in scoring among blueliners in 2008-2009.

While those two newcomers lead the way for the Rams, the team also has a very solid group of returning secondary scorers, including every single one of the 10 players who scored a goal against the Icers last season. URI has diminutive, yet productive, forwards in waves, as Mike Tait, David Macalino, Jay Dupras, Evan Dietz, Kyle Krannich and Jaryd Coleman all stand 5'9" or less, but all know where to locate the net. That group has combined for 26 goals this season, and 10 of the 14 scored against Penn State last season. Dionne isn't the only offensively-active defenseman on the roster, as Dan Lassik and Jeff Lace also pull their weight on the scoresheet.

Faceoff stats aren't generally easy to come by in the ACHA, but it's no wonder the Rams show theirs off - as a team, they're winning two-thirds of their draws. Yikes. Like the old saying goes, you can't score if you don't have the puck. Krannich, the top center, is coming out on top 70 percent of the time.

What's between the pipes? Good question. Let's just say that Penn State's not the only team in these games with some tough decisions in that department. Paul Kenny (3.24 goals against average, 0.913 save percentage) has the majority of the minutes this season, however in each of the last four weekends, Kenny started on Friday but has given way to Andrew Marks (1.78 goals against average, 0.929 save percentage) on Saturday. What's more is that the Rams seem to perform better in front of Marks, coming back to earn splits with Delaware and Arizona State after Friday losses. It will be interesting to see if coach Joe Augustine taps Marks for both games, or if he sticks with the rotation. For his part, Augustine doesn't seem to see an issue, or at least he doesn't want to air the laundry in the school paper. Here's what he said after that Delaware series:
"I thought [Kenny] played very, very well and he should have got a lot more out of that than getting a loss."
********************
"Kenny and Marks played very well. All the goals scored this weekend I don't think they could've done anything about, that's on the whole team playing in front of them."
By the way, Rhody's paper is called The Good 5 Cent Cigar. I don't even need the backstory to appreciate that, athough reading its articles (as well as the West Chester Quad last week) makes me appreciate having a top-shelf paper at Penn State.

Outside Reading

The official site mentions that Penn State and Rhode Island played to the only scoreless tie in Icers history, back in 2004-2005. I had forgotten that somewhere around 2005-2006.

Per the Collegian, the Icers' goalie situation is still up in the air. Also, this is PSU's longest road trip of the season. Well, until the ESCHL playoffs, which are also at Rhode Island.

Finally...

No game updates tonight, sorry. I'm planning on tweeting tomorrow's game, but it depends on the staff at the Starbucks in Selinsgrove, PA - I need their WiFi and their calorie bombs for two and a half hours.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The Best in the Country"

As a general rule, I try not to insult the intelligence of the readership with a single-source post - simply sharing a relevant story is Twitter territory in my opinion - and I try to be more thoughtful than bloggers who go "oooh, an article within my area of interest," then basically do a copy/paste with maybe a couple sentences of their own stuff in between paragraphs.

Yeah, that's right, NCAA hockey establishment blogs. Both barrels, until you stop this useless sniping/taking out your frustrations re: Big Ten hockey on us. We have about as much control over it as you do. We're not all pro-Big Ten. We're sorry that Joe Battista didn't abandon his life's work and tell the guy with $88 million to stick it so you could keep playing Michigan Tech and St. Cloud State. Or not. We love Penn State, we love hockey, and for many of us, September 17th was the culmination of a lot of wishing. We're here, we're not going anywhere, deal with it.

What was this post about? Oh right, this article from the Collegian's Tony Barton, which does a tremendous job somehow covering new ground with respect to the Pegula Center, and is therefore worth breaking the rule. If you wondered why there are two architecture firms (Crawford Architects and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson) on the job, this would be the place for the answer. If you thought that Dan Craig was the only ice guru out there, now you know that Penn State has Tim Moore on the design team. Here's the part where I copy/paste the Collegian to tell you that I like the cut of Moore's jib.
“Large sports facilities are very near and dear to my heart,” Moore said. “I’ve been kind of hoping we could be affiliated with this project since it first became public.”

Moore is no stranger to Penn State, as Battista recruited his son, Brian, to play with the university’s club team, the Icers. While his son ended up playing at Division I Bowling Green, the ties to Penn State were made.

The refrigeration technician said his work began with ice arenas 25 years ago, and he and his partner Joel Anderson have worked on more than 200 ice sheets.

As for the championship ice, Moore said its creation is his passion.

“We’ve learned how to do it properly, and we’ve learned what’s important about it,” Moore said. “We know what effects the conditions of the ice and whether it’s fast or slow.”

Moore said the ice system will consist of more than 100 moving parts. He will work to create the most efficient refrigeration units possible that will also be functional year-round.

“We recognize that Penn State wants the best ice in the country,” Moore said. “We think we can bring that.”
There's been some discussion in the Penn State community about how successful our men's hockey team will ultimately be. Some (myself) feel like we're going to have everything in place to be a top program, while others point to the men's basketball program as evidence of Penn State's ability to run a high-profile program that isn't football.

Here's what I feel like I know: Basketball doesn't have a Joe Battista overseeing it, a guy who's been a winner in everything he's done and who has devoted a pretty big chunk of his life to Penn State hockey. He's not doing this to fail. Basketball doesn't have a Terry Pegula, a similarly-wired winner, to keep everyone accountable. Basketball hasn't made a full-on commitment to being the best in the country in every aspect of the program - even the architects and the ice guy, who are less than a week into this, know where the bar is located.

One other note tucked in at the end of the article:
Once a decision is made, the architects, construction team and members from the university will have a kickoff meeting on Nov. 30. It will be the first time the three components come together and begin working on the design.
Sounds like we have a hard date on the construction team's selection, as opposed to the "soon after the architect" line we've heard a couple times.

UPDATE: Barton tweeted to tell me that the construction interviews are next Wednesday.

Payday Memorabilia: 2009 ACHA National Tournament Sign


This is pretty much exactly what it looks like - a yard sign directing those attending the 2009 ACHA National Tournament to the available parking. You're welcome for the excellent shot of my faux wood closet door. Probably should've used a regular-wall background there. Oh well, lesson learned.

Here's how I acquired it: during the first intermission of the Lindenwood-Illinois championship game, I exited the rink, got in my car, and pulled up to the sign. I then opened my trunk and threw the sign in. Right about then, as I started to fancy myself Danny Ocean 3.0...THUD! My trunk won't close. THUD! THUD! THUD! Read that 17 more times, and you start to get the idea of how many times I tried to slam it shut before playing with the lever inside and finally getting it. I was extremely fortunate that it was dark and rainy out, minimizing witnesses. Back in the day, when the championship games were held on Sunday afternoons, I would've been busted.

Pretty sure I'm not going to be prosecuted for it. Is there any way yard sign theft has a statute of limitations longer than about 12 hours?

The 2009 tournament, of course, took place between March 14th and 18th and was co-hosted by John Carroll and the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission at the Gilmour Academy rink in Gates Mills, OH. Lindenwood won it - the Icers fell to Illinois in the semifinals, but not before beating Ohio in a thrilling overtime quarterfinal - but it will probably be best remembered for a carbon monoxide scare on the opening night of the tournament. Two first round games were pushed to the next day, which forced the cancellation of a couple of consolation games, and also caused a couple quarterfinals to be played on Monday the 16th, originally scheduled as an off day. Here's a convenient PDF visual aid for everything I just said.

I do really like the logo for this tournament, although that's probably a relative "like." They comply with that unwritten rule stating that an event taking place in Cleveland must use a guitar in the logo. Toss in Drew Carey and LeBron James and you'd pretty much have the only three two things anyone knows about Cleveland. At the very least, it's less bad than other ACHA National Tournament logos. Like the 2003 Division 2 logo for example:

People without faces freak me out.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Quick TYT Update

With a slow last couple days in the world of Penn State hockey, I took some time to grind out a couple things that will probably be of use to me when I go to write posts, and hey, if by some miracle they're of use to you, that's great too. Specifically:
  • A list of games played by the Icers since 1995-1996, sorted by opponent. I'm big on head-to-head records, trends, and things like that if you hadn't noticed. Hopefully it leads to some really great insight in a post down the road, because it's going to take a few days to catch up on the sleep I didn't get last night.
  • A list of each player who has worn each sweater number, dating back to 1996-1997. Yeah, that's right, I said "sweater."
Links to these are located on the right side of the page, just underneath the Twitter stuff. If I think of more things to add to that, I'll add them, if I don't, I won't.

My intent was to avoid duplication of the official site's history section, which has season-by-season rundowns, program statistical records and a list of all the Icers captains. Why do an uglier version of what's already been done?

I'm still working out the kinks, especially on the head-to-head list, where I can't quite get the total number of games to match up with what I think it's supposed to be. But if you see a glaring mistake on either, especially after I inevitably give up trying to get that total games played number to match in a couple days, please let me know.

By the way, those seemingly arbitrary cutoffs were chosen due to the fact that my collection of Icers programs goes back to the 1996-1997 edition (which of course includes 1995-1996 results). So there you go, mystery solved.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Icers Third Jersey Auction Details

Image: PennStateHockey.com

Per the official website:
On Saturday, December 4th, the Icers are bringing back Penn State's original school colors - Pink and Black (if you don't believe us, check out GoPSUSports.com).
 
The Icers "Pink In The Rink" will coincide with our annual, Third Jersey Auction. All of the game-worn jerseys that day will be up for auction during the Icers' game against Delaware. Auction winners will have the opportunity to meet players after the game to autograph their game-worn jerseys.
 
A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the Relay for Life Cancer Walk which will take place on April 8th and 9th, 2011 at the Penn State AG Fields.

Auction bids may be made by cash or check only and winners must be at the game to claim their jersey.
I'm a jersey geek (yes, in addition to being an arena geek and a geek for many other things as well), and I'm salty that I never seem to be able to make it in for the 3rd jersey auction games (especially last year's, my favorites), so hopefully I'll be able to get to the Ice Pavilion to grab one of these. Obviously, it's for a great cause, so I'm willing to forgive the gigantic ribbon going across the entire jersey...but seriously, couldn't we have gone with something slightly more low-key, like what's being modeled by Mr. Scrivens here?

Photo: Flickr user mhaithaca

Can I say something nice about it? Sure. Change the black to blue and get rid of the pink, and that should be the jersey come 2012. Anybody listening?