First, a confession: I have a bias against non-championship seasons. No matter how great the moment, it's always poisoned in my head with "yeah, but."
For example, most hockey fans are undoubtedly familiar with Steve Yzerman's game seven, double OT bomb to knock out the Blues in 1996. Most probably consider it a defining play of Yzerman's career and worthy of every highlight reel documenting the Detroit Red Wings' storied history. Me? Kind of, but not really. I can't think of that goal without also thinking of the trucking the Wings received courtesy of Colorado in the next round. Unless the story ends with a Cup, either Stanley or Murdoch, the memory is at least a little bit sour.
So it's with a warning to disregard a shutout loss to Illinois in the semifinals two days later that we go back (but not too far back) to one of the great games in the storied Penn State-Ohio rivalry, a second-round matchup at the 2009 ACHA National Tournament. The Icers, one of the tournament favorites as a No. 2 seed, were coming off of a ho-hum 5-2 win over Duquesne. OU, on the other hand, was an uncharacteristically low No. 10 seed and upset Rhode Island 4-3 in the first round's only overtime game.
What followed was a tilt great enough for me to purchase a DVD within an hour after it ended despite being in attendance, then spend a ridiculous amount of time over the last two weeks pulling out each goal scored in the game and uploading it to YouTube (there are about 12 long stories in there). Apologies for the video quality - I promise that it's pretty much how it looks on the DVD. Also, I'm a little bit limited with respect to video size by TYT's layout, so by all means, go here to see it in its original glory.
Here's what the Collegian said about it:
[Frank] Berry, who sustained a knee injury against Drexel in mid-February, scored his third goal of the season in overtime of Sunday's 3-2 ACHA Division I national quarterfinal win. The goal propelled No. 2 Penn State past No. 10 Ohio and into the national semifinals, which will be held Tuesday in Gates Mills, Ohio.
"I took a draw and took off with it. I put my head down and skated as hard as I could to the net," Berry said. "It felt good. I was relieved -- I just wanted anyone to score so we could win the game."
Penn State goalie Nick Signet said the team knew Ohio was looking to atone for its performance in the season series.
"We knew going into it, it was gonna be tough because every time we play them it's tough," Signet said. "We knew they were coming out for revenge and wanted to beat us real bad."
The Icers (32-7-1) jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Jaime Zimmel and Taylor Cera. However, Ohio tied the game at two late in the game to push the contest into overtime, setting up Berry's heroics.
"I thought we played a great, great hockey game and I didn't want us to lose in overtime after playing a great game all night long," Penn State coach Scott Balboni said. "Frank's a gritty player -- Jaime [Zimmel] made a nice feed to him and he buried it."
A major factor in the Icers' win over Ohio was the play of Signet, who notched his 55th career win. Balboni said Signet made several saves down the stretch to keep Penn State alive.
"I think Nick played phenomenal," Balboni said. "He made some key saves all night long. He probably had one of his best games all season today."
|Signet earned the praises of his coach.|
Of course, goal number three doesn't happen if not for goals one and two, so Ryan Paradis deserves a mention for his seeing-eye pass on the first goal (and sticking with the puck) that found Cera, which doesn't happen without the several keep-ins of defensemen Carey Bell and Steve Thurston during the sequence. Zimmel's blast for the second goal was a lot more straightforward, but Bell obviously played an important role - that of Bobby Orr - there as well.
One thing didn't occur to me until I was writing this - the Icers have won just one meaningful game at nationals since then. As mentioned, PSU lost to Illinois in the following game in 2009. The win was a tougher-than-the-score 7-3 decision over Canton the next year, but that was followed by the overtime stunner against Central Oklahoma. And of course last year, for the first time ever, the Icers lost the first game at nationals (before winning a consolation game). It's time to drop the puck and get to work on changing that.