|Joe Baldinelli (right), a senior last year, ended his Niagara career with more than 100 points in just two seasons. Photo: Gordon Anderson / NUACHAHockey.com|
Sources have confirmed to TYT that this season's Niagara at Penn State game, which had tentatively been scheduled for December 16th, will not be played due to scheduling conflicts involving finals week.
Normally, something that in the grand scheme of things is a minor tweak to a not-yet-finalized schedule isn't newsworthy. This instance, however, deserves to be treated as an exception. Because barring some kind of resolution or a meeting at the ACHA National Tournament, it marks the end of the Penn State-Niagara ACHA series, and that deserves to be eulogized for a few minutes.
Leading up to what now stands as the final game between the teams last December 10th, I wrote about Niagara's appearance on PSU's schedule in 2003 and in place of originally-scheduled Eastern Michigan. Those games took place literally 22 days after Eagles program was suspended for hazing, and saved the Icers from having to go more than 40 days between games.
The Purple Eagles, or Purps if you're on a first-name basis, later became an annual Friday-only arrangement to close the fall semester. It was a setup that worked well for the two academically-conscious teams preparing for finals. While Penn State won all five of those games, that didn't happen without going through a hard-working, well-coached team capable of pushing the Icers beyond their comfort zone on multiple occasions.
The series was always on the friendliest of terms off the ice, although on the ice was sometimes a different story - which occasionally led to the bizarre, as in the 2009 game.
The main melee started after Penn State forward Paul Daley went to the ice and was hit by a Niagara player. [Niagara goalie Patrick] Janokowski once again was involved as players on both sides got into altercations.
As referees rushed in to break up the main brawl, Icers forward Tim O'Brien took a Niagara player and tossed him to the ice and skated to the bench.
"There was a little scrum in front of the net and it kind of dragged out towards the red line," O'Brien said. "He had my stick and I just kept pushing him in the head until he let go of it and he never did. It was nothing big."
Janokowski was ejected from the game following the incident and Niagara was left without a backup goaltender. A 30 minute delay ensued as the Purple Eagles sent defensemen Patrick Martin to the locker room to suit up and get in net.All things considered and in case you're wondering, Martin did okay for himself, stopping 27 of 34 over roughly half of the game.
TYT extends its best to Niagara, both this season and in the future. The Purps are definitely one of the ACHA programs we'll continue to keep an eye on, even after this season.
My advice to PSU fans to close this post: savor this season. Many of the things familiar to most of us will soon be gone for good, and you'll miss them more than you think. One of them now already is.