Thursday, July 14, 2011

Helllllo, Neumann!

Dominick Dawes, the head coach of Neumann University's NCAA Division III team, confirmed to the Delaware County Times that his squad is working on an agreement to battle Penn State in an outdoor game at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park on January 4. This, of course, is just two days after the Flyers are supposed to take on the Rangers in the 2012 Winter Classic.
Although the deal is “definitely not a slam dunk,” there is a plan for Neumann, that once-small Catholic school in Aston that is growing its programs at hyperspeed, to host Penn State in a Jan. 4 ballpark non-brawl on ice.

According to Dawes, who as a fresh Neumann face blended holdovers and carefully chosen Canadian transfers into Division III national champions in 2009,  the idea is a thrilling one for his team.

“We’re looking at it as a big opportunity,” Dawes said Wednesday, “if not for anything else to get Neumann in the newspapers."
From PSU's perspective, it appears that at minimum, the outdoor game would replace contests scheduled at Central Oklahoma on January 4th and at Oklahoma on January 5th. The game with Neumann was originally slated for November 4th.

While the game, should it happen, would be Penn State's first go at an outdoor game since it became chic, college hockey has played a huge role in - and in fact started - the trend. Notable previous events include the Cold War, a 2001 3-3 tie between Michigan and Michigan State at Spartan Stadium and a 2006 4-2 Wisconsin win over Ohio State at Lambeau Field. Wisconsin again hosted an outdoor event, the Camp Randall Hockey Classic, in 2010 - this time involving the women in a doubleheader. And of course, Michigan set every hockey attendance record in the book last season in their win over Michigan State at Michigan Stadium. A Michigan-Ohio State game at Cleveland's Progressive Field is tentatively scheduled for January as well.

Four different Big Ten teams have played in outdoor games eight times, with Wisconsin being the only team to host two of them.

The Icers would join a growing number of teams taking advantage of outdoor ice initially set up for other games. Perhaps the best-known example is the Frozen Fenway doubleheader at Fenway Park one week after the 2010 Winter Classic, where Boston University beat Boston College 3-2 in the main event. Three college hockey games served as a prelude to last year's inaugural Whale Bowl between the AHL's Connecticut Whale and Providence Bruins, and ACHA teams like the Michigan and Michigan State women as well as former Icers rivals Michigan-Dearborn and Eastern Michigan warmed up for last year's Big Chill at the Big House. Also in the ACHA, perennial PSU opponent Niagara has made a tradition of an outdoor game, with a third annual event coming January 21st.

For Penn State history buffs, outdoor hockey might be a reminder of the original varsity hockey team and their untimely demise, partially at the fickle hands of the weather. However, I'm informed that they have ways of keeping the ice frozen in this day and age, which hopefully means the game goes on as planned.

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