|Matt Kisiday, a senior from Massachusetts, has scored a hat trick against Penn State...Berks.|
I realize that sometimes when I do these posts, I have a tendency to talk up an overmatched opponent, like I'm trying to sell tickets to the game or something. This will not be one of those times, as the Icers open their final schedule against the Lebanon Valley College Dutchmen Friday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Ice Pavilion.
LVC's hockey program, and indeed the university as well, is more or less a direct antithesis of Penn State's. One is a research behemoth with roughly 45,000 students at its main campus, one has roughly as many enrolled as my high school. One is moving up to the ranks of NCAA programs, one just slid backwards from that group. One is building a brand-new state-of-the-art facility, one plays in an ancient hand-me-down from a previous tenant that no longer found it useful - ten years ago (don't get me wrong, I love Hersheypark Arena, but I had to play up the contrast). One prides itself on winning and coaching stability, one recently went two seasons without winning a game (2008-2010), went a combined 12-135-2 in their last six years of NCAA Division III play (2004-2010) and has had four coaches in the last two years.
Both schools wear blue and white uniforms, but that's about it.
The Dutchmen, now in their second ACHA season after last year's 21-6-0 mark against a weak schedule, carry a roster of 18 skaters and three goalies. There aren't really many advantages to having so little depth, but one is that every single player can get a mention in a tidy season preview from the team's official site.
Offensively, the Dutchmen bring back four of their top five point-scorers from a year ago, led by Nick Schultz (26 g, 12 a) and Matt Conroy (21 g, 10 a), along with Matt Kisiday (16 g, 14 a) and Kyle Stewardson (16 g, 14 a). Also back is Shaun Stamm, who had 12 goals and 11 assists last year, Alex Sweeney added an assist.Got all that? Good. While it's the season-opener for the Icers, this group already has three games under its belt. On September 25th, they fell to Indiana (PA) 4-3 in a shootout before being drilled twice by No. 19 Canton last weekend by a combined 16-1 count. Of the newcomers Bell, a transfer from NCAA Division III Becker, has proven a solid addition, and Catherman started LVC's last game and played pretty well despite the score (45 saves in 53 shots, including stopping all 21 in the first period). Otherwise, it seems as if their top players from last year remain their top players this year.
Schultz led LVC in goals, including six power-play tallies, while Conroy's 21 goals was second on the team and he led the Dutchmen, along with Stewardson, with eight man-advantage scores. Overall, LVC returns 75% of its power-play scoring.
Three freshmen will join LVC up front, including Benjamin Hoerner, Dylan Kapp, and Cody Lloyd, along with junior Wesley Landsem.
LVC brings back almost its entire defense, led by blueliner Tyler Skroski, who led LVC defensemen with six goals and 13 assists as a freshman. Nick Averona also held down the defense with 10 goals and eight assists. Chris Asroff (1 g, 3 a), Keith Lear (5 a), Eric Martin (1 a), and Timothy Bodenheimer (1 a) also made contributions on defense last year. Freshman Daniel Willey and junior Cole Bell will join the Dutchmen on defense as well.
Goaltending will be the main question mark for LVC, with experienced back-ups Matt Turner and Daniel Ramirez returning the spot of Rich Drazin '11, who started 22 games last year. Turner had a 4-0 record last year, posting a 1.91 GAA and .940 save percentage, while Ramirez made three appearances, going 1-0 with a 1.36 GAA and .940 save percentage. A freshman, Colin Catherman, will also be in the goaltending mix.
Coaching-wise, the LVC program has seen plenty of turmoil, as mentioned at the top. Ted Russell resigned in February 2010, when the varsity program was on its last legs. Since then, Tony Horacek and Brandon Herr passed through (as did, notably, alumnus and former assistant coach Spiros Anastas, now with NCAA Western Michigan) on the way to current coach Don Parsons who, to his credit, seems to want to get the ship righted. The former UMass-Lowell player and minor-league hockey's all-time leading goal scorer (682, 50 of which were with the Johnstown Chiefs) recently spoke to the ACHA's website.
"I live here full time and would love to coach this program for many years.Almost as interesting as the coaching carousel: the saga of LVC on the Icers schedule. Initially, they were a home-and-home on February 17th and 18th. Then they were dropped. Then they were added back on, but as this Friday-only engagement, and in place of Washington & Jefferson, an even bigger mess than LVC right now.
"I don’t think my goal-scoring record will help me build a successful program as much as my hockey experience will. I played 17 years of pro hockey, four years of NCAA Division I hockey, and grew up with the sport in my veins. I have always wanted to be a coach. I took bits and pieces from each and every coach I ever played for, good and bad.
"No matter how good you are or how good your record is, there is always something to improve. Michael Jordan didn’t stop going to practice because he was the best player in the NBA. He was the best player in the NBA because he worked the hardest to get there and continued to learn the game and work on skills to stay on top of the game."
|It could fill in...the game doesn't start for 13:06.|
Gone in that whole transaction? A chance to play in one of the truly historic barns in all of hockey. That's not something lost on Penn State history buffs either - the then-Hershey Sports Arena was the centerpiece of the Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Hockey League, which PSU called home in 1939-1940. In all, Hershey was home to at least 16 games played by the original varsity squad.
What's left is your standard Ice Pavilion trouncing - likely one of several this year, but possibly the most decisive of the bunch.