"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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Payday Memorabilia: 1999-2000 Findlay Schedule


Findlay? What's that? Well, other than being a pretty inconsequential university of about 5,000 students in northwest Ohio, for a brief time it was also a big-time hockey program. Really. I mean it.

The school started at the Division II level in 1996 and had some success, going 23-5-0 in 1998-1999. But when the NCAA decided to discontinue the DII championship following that season due to the small number of schools at that level, it forced the ones that did exist to make an important choice: play up or play down.

Former DII schools Findlay, Alabama-Huntsville and Bemidji State went with the first answer. They joined with Division I independents Air Force, Army and Niagara and new program Wayne State to form College Hockey America, a Division I conference, for the 1999-2000 season (WSU officially joined in 2000-2001).

So you're the Findlay Oilers, and you decide to host a tournament Thanksgiving weekend of your first DI season. Who do you bring in to move the needle and generate some interest in your fledgling program? Surely not a future conference opponent, one from the other mid-major DI conference and an ACHA team, right?


Oh, okay.

Now that you've figured out why I'm talking about Findlay, I guess I should point out that the Icers acquitted themselves quite well in the AEP Classic, losing 6-2 to Findlay in the opener before defeating Wayne State 5-2 in the third-place game.
"It was an emotional locker room after the game," [Joe] Battista said [following the Wayne State tilt]. "This ranks among the top three or four wins this program has had since I've been here."
[Mark] Scally, who had 34 saves Friday, made 46 saves Saturday. [Rob] Shaner, who had two goals in each game, made the All-Tournament team.
Hey, don't laugh. The Warriors had Michael Peca's brother David. True story.

We know where Penn State's saga goes from there, but what of Findlay and Wayne State? Well, in sort of a crazy twist, PSU's the only one of the three with a Division I program in 2011, as the former measuring sticks dropped men's hockey in 2004 and 2008, respectively (Wayne State still has a women's program). Findlay departed having never won more than 11 games in DI and faded back into obscurity just as quickly as they had burst onto the scene, making a sudden announcement over halfway through their final season.

Wayne State had a little more success, winning four CHA regular season or tournament titles, and even making an NCAA tournament appearance in 2003, the first year the conference had an autobid. In their first season, about a month before the loss to the Icers, the Warriors lost a tight 3-2 decision to St. Lawrence - who ended that season in the Frozen Four. Still, they ultimately suffered the same fate as Findlay, for the same financial reasons.

The CHA itself is also gone, a victim of its large geographic footprint and the budgetary issues that resulted. Army jumped to what is now Atlantic Hockey after just one season. The other NCAA hockey-playing service academy, Air Force, joined them in 2006, just after Derek Schooley and his new Robert Morris program stepped in to replace Findlay in 2004. However, following Wayne State's departure from the scene (to go with the pending loss of the conference autobid due to having fewer than six teams), the remaining programs wisely sensed the end for the CHA and decided to find other conference arrangements. Niagara and RMU joined Air Force and Army in Atlantic Hockey while Bemidji State got into the WCHA. The CHA folded after last season, leaving Alabama-Huntsville in the pretty tough spot of having to make do as the only DI independent after they were rejected by the CCHA.

Want to full-circle this puppy? Check out what USCHO had to say when the CHA's foundation started to crack, circa 2006:
The loss of the CHA could accelerate the possibility of a Big Ten hockey conference. Depending on your allegiances and regional affiliation, this is either an exciting development or a terrible omen. If CHA teams were to be absorbed into existing leagues, college hockey ends up with as many as 59 Division I teams packed into five conferences, some of which would have as many as 14 members.

Cozy, no?

That gridlock could stoke the fire beneath the always-bubbling pot of a Big Ten league, which would potentially be composed of Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin and a sixth team like North Dakota, Penn State (which would have to move up to varsity from club status) or Notre Dame.

Since most of those schools are consistent NCAA tournament contenders (with Notre Dame back on the rise under new head coach Jeff Jackson, and Penn State potentially able to bring muscle to a new varsity program), the move would create a superconference that would wield extra power at the highest levels of the NCAA management structure. That’s because the Big Ten, unlike current Division I hockey leagues, is a multisport conference with a strong national profile.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Head Coach Candidate: Paul Pooley

I know Pooley's at Notre Dame now, but I love this logo. It's a crime that PC doesn't use it much anymore.

Tenth in a series taking uninformed, uneducated guesses at the candidates to become the first head coach of Penn State's NCAA men's team. Previously: Icers coach Scott Balboni, Denver coach George Gwozdecky, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Tony Granato, Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley, Wisconsin women's coach Mark Johnson, Nebraska-Omaha hockey czar and former coach Mike Kemp, Ottawa Senators assistant Greg Carvel, Minnesota coach Don Lucia, Miami assistant Brent Brekke.

Due to unforeseen events, I'm going to accelerate this series, much like I did with Pegula Center Speculation towards the end of its brief run. I'm thinking every Wednesday at the moment - I have roughly six more people I want to hit (including the guy in this post), and six more of these would take us to May 4th, a reasonable approximation of the hire date. If a hire's not made by then, I'll keep throwing coaches against the wall. Sound good?

Continuing my Notre Dame love-in this week, let's talk about associate coach Paul Pooley, an Exeter, ON native who arrived in South Bend along with head coach Jeff Jackson in 2005.

I had always planned this piece based on Pooley's current status as a top assistant at a top program, as well as the fact that he has prior DI head coaching experience (not to mention one of the players he coached during that time), but the urgency was bumped up some by Mark Horgas last night:
After The Frozen Four, I believe Penn State will also interview Paul Pooley of Notre Dame.
Pooley is an Ohio State grad (wonder when they're going to start a DI program), class of 1984. He was pretty good too - let's go right to the playing stats, which include his junior and pro careers.

Season   Team                     Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
---------------------------------------------------------------
1977-78  Kingston Canadians       OHA     4    0    0    0    2
1978-79  Kingston Canadians       OHA    60   14   20   34   21
1979-80  Kingston Canadians       OHA    22    8   18   26    8
1979-80  Kitchener Rangers        OHA    43   20   16   36   35
1980-81  Ohio State University    CCHA   38   28   31   59   41
1981-82  Ohio State University    CCHA   34   21   24   45   34
1982-83  Ohio State University    CCHA   36   33   36   69   50
1983-84  Ohio State University    CCHA   41   32   64   96   38
1984-85  Sherbrooke Canadiens     AHL    57   18   17   35   16
1984-85  Winnipeg Jets            NHL    12    0    2    2    0
1985-86  Sherbrooke Canadiens     AHL    70   20   21   41   31
1985-86  Winnipeg Jets            NHL     3    0    1    1    0
1986-87  Fort Wayne Komets        IHL    77   28   44   72   47

The Winnipeg freaking Jets. Much respect from this Whalers fan. HockeyDB.com doesn't have stats for his senior year, but luckily I was able to fill them in courtesy of OSU's media guide (warning: giant PDF, click at your own risk). Pooley has his own page in it, 27 years after graduation. You tend to get those things when you're the program's all-time scoring leader, the program's only conference player-of-the-year and the program's first player with a retired number.

Let's transition from player Pooley to coach Pooley.

Ouch, sorry about your 80s flow.

After his career, he went into business with his twin brother, who also happened to be an All-American hockey player at Ohio State. Twin brother? I just had a flashback to Jerry and Terry Dunn. Give yourself a few PSU basketball fan points for having survived the Dunn era if you got that. His first coaching job as at the alma mater with his former coach Jerry Welsh from 1988-1991. Not much to write about there with a 31-75-14 record, although it might be worth pointing out that the program got even worse after he left.

"Left" in this case means "coached under Jackson at Lake Superior State from 1991-1994." Which wasn't a horrible time to be a Laker. Here's something that puts it much more succinctly than I would.
Pooley served three seasons as Jackson's top assistant at Lake Superior State. In those three years, the Lakers were a combined 93-27-13, won CCHA tournament titles in 1992 and 1993 and advanced to the NCAA Championship game all three years. In 1992, the Lakers defeated Wisconsin, 5-3, for the NCAA title; in 1993, they lost 5-4 to Maine in the championship game and then they defeated Boston University in 1994, 9-1.
That's the sort of thing that earns a young assistant a "future head coach" label, no? Providence thought so and hired him - and there was a pretty quick payoff in his second season leading the Friars.
In 1995-96, the Friars were one of the biggest surprises in college hockey. Picked to finish seventh in the Preseason Hockey East Coaches' Poll, the Friars registered a 12-9-3 mark in league play and earned a fourth-place finish. Again Pooley led the underdog Friars on a late-season run as they swept Boston College in a Hockey East Quarterfinal series, upset top-ranked Boston University in the Semifinals and defeated Maine in the Finals to earn their first Hockey East title since 1985. With the win, Pooley, the 10th head coach in the history of Providence College, became only the second Friar head coach to lead PC to a Hockey East title and the first to guide the team to two consecutive Hockey East Championship Game appearances. In addition to winning the 1996 Hockey East Championship, Pooley's amazing Friars made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991. Although the Friars were defeated, 5-1, in the West Regionals by Minnesota, Pooley's squad finished the year with a 21-15-3 mark.
If you didn't click on the link, that's from Pooley's PC bio page, which still exists in the far reaches of the internet. Could you tell? Also, there's this: Scott Balboni played for that team. It's always a small world when it comes to hockey.

Unfortunately, that was the high water mark of Pooley's 11 seasons leading the Friars. PC was pretty respectable, but never great. There was a 2001 NCAA appearance, but usually the record was within a couple games of .500. That changed for the worse with 2004-2005's 12-21-4 - out goes Pooley, in comes Tim Army. Things only got worse from there, so some credit might be due Pooley's way in sort of a backhanded way. Since Pooley's departure, Providence has gone 0-6 in Hockey East tournament play, and have been outscored 26-3. And they haven't even made the playoffs since 2008 (only the top 8 of the 10 teams get to participate).

My sense is that anyone associated with that program has to fight an uphill battle, both against some of the wealthier programs in Hockey East, and against an administration, student body and alumni base that considers basketball the winter sport of choice. Pooley did a pretty decent job of it, all in all.

Some of the notables to pass through PC under Pooley include Interference Hal Gill, Pro Hockey Player Fernando Pisani and Fomer Cleveland Baron Nolan Schaefer.

This stellar outfit didn't hire me when HMA was still in my recent past. They deserved every drop of that red ink.

Pooley, of course, resurfaced at Notre Dame, and has been pretty successful. I observed ND's distinct lack of hockey tradition on Monday - which included dropping to club status in the 1980s and not a single NCAA appearance or conference championship until 2004. Jackson, with Pooley's help, turned that on its ear. Basically, the Irish have done one of two things in four of six seasons: swept the CCHA regular season and tournament championships (2007 and 2009) or made the Frozen Four (2008 and 2011). Short of adding a national title to that (they'll have a chance next week), resumes really don't get better. Pooley's specific charge is the defense.
At Notre Dame, he has been instrumental in five defensemen - Noah Babin (Carolina), Wes O'Neill (Colorado), Ian Cole (St. Louis), Kyle Lawson (Carolina) and Teddy Ruth (Columbus) - signing NHL contracts while 2008 grad, Brock Sheahan is currently in the ECHL with Cincinnati and 2010 grad Brett Blatchford [was] with Toledo [at the start of the season].
I think the obvious question when evaluating Pooley, especially given the mixed bag of his Providence tenure, is this: how much credit do you give him for the successes of Jackson's programs at both Lake State and Notre Dame? Is there even a "correct" way to solve that one? Maybe you should listen to him coach for 30 seconds before you answer that.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Contenders Emerge?

Out of nowhere Tuesday afternoon, Twitter gave us this, from @MarkHorgas, a long-time Icers sponsor and former coach:
Add Guy Gadowsky of Princeton to the Penn State D1 Men's Ice Hockey Coaching interview list.
Wait, "add?" This unusual choice of words for a solo tweet intrigued me, so I checked out Horgas' timeline. Turns out, I missed something because it was in response to someone I don't follow last Friday:
@chrismpeters. Paul Pooley, Derek Schooley or Casey Jones. PSU will not pay high salary.
So all along, I could have just asked instead of waiting for this stuff? Cool, good to know. Horgas followed with another name drop late Tuesday night:
I'm glad I at least did a Head Coach Candidate on one of them to avoid looking like a total idiot. I had Pooley and Cavanaugh tentatively scheduled for two of the last few spots, so I'm thrilled that my independent evaluation at least has a 60 percent hit rate, which is about 60 percent higher than I expected.

You can read up on Schooley from my HCC post, and here are the school bios for Jones, Pooley, Gadowsky and Cavanaugh if you're interested. That whole "PSU will not pay high salary" thing probably isn't a good sign for Mark Johnson or George Gwozdecky, widely assumed to be the most expensive of the serious candidates. By the way, if you read Pooley's link, you might have noted that he was the head coach at Providence when Scott Balboni was there. Hopefully that has nothing to do with his appearance here.

Before we go running to conclusions, let's keep one thing in mind: this Horgas tweet from December 10th of last year:
Penn State D1 Hockey Coach short list does not include Mark Johnson.
Which, of course, is seemingly contradicted by what we know - and by his own words three months later.
Also, rumor is that Wisconsin women's hockey coach, Mark Johnson, will get an interview. PSU will play @ Wisconsin in 2012/2013!
By and large, the content of his timeline are items that were already known to me at the time he tweeted them - things about Terry Pegula buying the Sabres, the fact that the Big Ten Network was key to the formation of the Big Ten hockey conference, or even the games at Wisconsin in that quoted tweet and the fact that PSU won't pay high salary for a coach (Joe Battista is already on record with the latter).

That's not really bragging - I've never once claimed to be somebody important and I'm not starting now - but it does indicate that Horgas might not be some insider knowledge machine dropping occasional nuggets on Twitter because...just because, I guess. In fact, most of his tweets seem to be a combination of known information, speculation, and opinions. Kind of like this one:
With PSU's Hockey BIG TEN entry pushed up a year. Joe Battista must hire a coach who is an experienced and successful recruiter
I don't want to go all the way down this road again, but WHY DOES THE BIG TEN MATTER? Were we going to just play a hodgepodge of Atlantic Hockey, DIII, the NTDP and the ACHA forever if we had joined the CCHA? Would an inexperienced, unsuccessful recruiter have been acceptable if Big Ten entry was still happening in 2014 instead of 2013? Does what's asked of our program to eventually win on the national stage change in any way whatsoever with the 2013 entry? No, no and no. I thought we were going into this with the idea of building a top NCAA Division I hockey program, not one trying to do things differently than what was previously decided as best, just to compete with some as-of-now unknown Big Ten standard. Let's build the program with the former in mind, and the conference stuff will take care of itself - the latter is a ticket to mediocrity.

Could Horgas know something? Absolutely. As mentioned, he has a long-standing relationship with the Icers, one that goes back to before I was born. The timing makes sense - as of this past weekend, the seasons are over for every DI coaching staff in the country except four (although notably, Pooley's Notre Dame is one of the four). Does he? That's for you to decide. I've presented the information in the way I believe all non-confidential rumors should be handled, with everything out on the table, so go ahead and make your own judgment on it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame?

This is a little bit of a preview of what I'm going to try to do with the as-yet-unnamed Collegian archive series that will replace Head Coach Candidate once we make the hire in the next 4-6 weeks or so and I stop that series. I wanted to do this one now for obvious reasons.

The Frozen Four: North Dakota, Michigan, Notre Dame, Minnesota-Duluth. For a Penn Stater, is there much of a reason to care about any of these schools? You have the Fighting Whatevers, college hockey royalty that lacks appeal to any right-minded underdog supporter. UMD is a pretty anonymous school if you don't follow college hockey. Michigan is a future conference rival, so you can take up for them if you're into that sort of thing, but...they're Michigan.

So what about Notre Dame? Sure, there's that immediate distaste that comes to mind, the result of generations of domers who smell their own farts. But at the same time, there's a Penn State connection in play, which might make the Irish a little more palatable as a rooting interest.

Those familiar only with ND's football tradition might be surprised to know that their hockey tradition isn't quite as glamorous, despite their recent rise to the top echelon under Jeff Jackson. After a few years of informality, the program officially started in 1968 and never won a conference title or appeared in the NCAA tournament until 2004. In between, they even dropped from varsity status and played in the CSCHL for a year due to financial considerations, 1983-1984. That's where the Icers come in.

Yep, that's Notre Dame.

So what happened with those games? Well, we chipped off a point from the once-and-future varsity program, which isn't bad I guess.

As with all of these types of things, click for a readable size.

In case you're wondering, Notre Dame finished 22-6-1 that season as a club team, losing to Iowa State in the finals of the CSCHL tournament.


Interestingly enough Alabama-Huntsville, then a CSCHL team, didn't participate in the conference tournament, despite winning the regular season title with a perfect 18-0-0 mark. They were busy playing in their own fake national championship tournament, which (obviously) didn't even include the tournament champions from their own conference or a Notre Dame team that was probably more deserving than either of the at-large teams invited to the Von Braun Invitational. Meanwhile, PSU won the real 1984 national championship, from the tournament that didn't die off in the late 1980s, a week later.

Relax Chargers, just a little friendly junk. If anything, the evidence from this suggests that you had the better team in 1983-1984 - note ND's results versus UAH and PSU.

As for the Irish, even after regaining varsity status the next season, Notre Dame played as an independent and continued to schedule non-varsity powers like Iowa State, Michigan-Dearborn, North Dakota State and Arizona as they attempted to regain traction (and no, they didn't always win). This continued through the late 1980s, and the Irish were ready to re-join the CCHA - the conference they left in 1983 - in 1992. Part of this process was Penn State's return trip to South Bend for ND's first games "back" to open the 1984-1985 season, which went even less well than the games from the previous season.


While the Icers have played schools like defunct Wayne State and Findlay (more on that later this week), Robert Morris, UConn, Holy Cross and a bevy of NCAA DII and DIII schools, to the best of my knowledge, this is the only time PSU has played a major-conference DI program since the 1940s, even if they weren't one at the time.

Is a four-game series history enough of an incentive to care about the Frozen Four, even if PSU was 0-3-1 in those games? Enough to make you want to see Notre Dame win a national championship? Maybe not, but at the same time, a team that once tied the Icers is two wins from the NCAA national championship 27 years later. That's kind of cool.

Update 9:55 p.m.: Steve Penstone reminded me that he called eight games for the Irish back in 2006-2007, including, if I'm not mistaken, one where ND lost to Robert Morris. Yeah, I'm getting another cheap Derek Schooley plug in. So even if you think my argument's stupid, do it for Steve! Or Christian Hanson! Or...okay, that's about all I have.

Friday, March 25, 2011

More Page Updates

Just wanted to briefly mention that I've started a page listing Penn State's 2011 commits as sort of a handy reference for after last night's post joins the one before it in the nether regions of the TYT archives.

Also, as I'm sure you noticed, I've moved the page links from their previous location on the right side under the Twitter boxes to the much-more-prominent locale just underneath the masthead. I kept them fairly faint, so as not to be too intrusive.

For the half of you that probably didn't know these existed (hence the change), a rundown:
  • 2011 Recruiting Class contains headshots, basic info, stats and links for each of PSU's commits.
  • Results/Season, 1937-1947 is exactly what it sounds like, a game-by-game for the short-lived varsity team developed from reading every article about the team from the Daily Collegian archives.
  • Results/Opponent, 1995- lists Penn State's series history with everyone played in the last 16 years. My major focus when things get really slow in the next few months will be building out this page and the previous one.
  • Numerical Roster, 1996- is another pretty self-explanatory one. I created this one to help me place a nameless Icers game-worn jersey I bought on eBay. Keith Jordan was the answer (I think).
  • ACHA Tournament Appearances, 2000- includes every team's trips to the D1 national championship tournament in the last 12 years, including seeding and finish. If you forgot that Wisconsin-Whitewater existed, this is the page for you.

Four Aces

Penn State has announced that four new recruits have joined Jake Friedman and Tim Carr in the class of 2011: forwards Chris "Creek" Lewis, Forrest Dell and Dan Meiselman, as well as defenseman Peter Sweetland.

Since I haven't figured out the best way to cover recruiting yet, let's just stick with the "toss everything I can find against a wall" approach, first used with Carr and Friedman. No YouTube this time, which I suppose means that these four all have well-adjusted parents. Take the good with the bad.

Peter
Sweetland

Defenseman
Green Mountain Glades (EJHL)
6'2", 205 pounds
Newtown, PA

EJHL Player Page

Sweetland's 24 points (3-21), were tops among Glades defensemen as the team advanced to the EJHL playoffs, where they fell in the first round to Friedman's South Shore Kings. On December 9th, he had a season-high three points (1-2) in a 4-3 defeat at the hands of those same Kings. We probably could have used him on the power play last season, as exactly half of his points (1-11) came with the man advantage.

Back in October 2009, Sweetland was named EJHL rookie of the week by HockeyBarn.com. Here's what his blurb says:
Pete had back to back two-assist games for the Stars this past weekend in their split with Apple Core. After being All-League last year in the Empire League, Pete is starting to really understand the intricacies of the game at the EJHL level. Three of his assists this weekend were highlight-reel back door feeds. Pete is a solid student with a 3.5 GPA and continues to get better every week. His grades and upside are attracting significant interest from Division One schools.
Can't wait to see how he's developed since then.

Dan
Meiselman

Forward
Capital District Selects (EJHL)
6'2", 205 pounds
Winnetka, IL

EJHL Player Page

Meiselman was the Selects' leading scorer this season, with 36 points (23-13). What makes this especially impressive is that he did it in 34 games with the team after starting the season with the New York Apple Core. The Illinois native also knows a thing or two about how to finish a season, as he scored in 12 of CD's last 14 games (14 total goals), despite the fact that the team had little to play for, missing the playoffs with a last-place 6-36-2-1 record. And he has a pretty flattering write-up from USA Junior Hockey Magazine to his credit:
Meiselman started the year with the New York Apple Core, scoring two points in six games for Henry Lazar’s crew.

“They had just too many players there, and Danny came up and scored six points in nine games,” said Salfi.

Meiselman, a 1990-born forward from Winnetka, Ill., is a good student, scoring over 2000 on his SAT.
“I’m not sure what he wants to be, but at one time I thought it was an engineer,” said Salfi. “He was out visiting Penn State, which will be Division 1 in the future, but regardless it’s a great school, academically. Dan is one of those kids where you look at the scoresheet after the game and there’s his name [for a goal or assist].”

Offense is certainly the name of the game where Meiselman is concerned.

“He’s always been a guy who can find the net,” said Salfi. “He likes to shoot the puck, and that’s one of the hardest things to do today – to get kids to shoot the puck. He’s not a smooth skater. I believe he started hockey later [than most of his teammates], but he works all summer on it.”
Guess I should have known about him back in December, when that was published. Time to tweak the Google Alerts.

Forrest
Dell

Forward
New York Apple Core (EJHL)
5'11", 185 pounds
Evergreen, CO

EJHL Player Page

Between Friedman, Meiselman and Dell, Penn State has recruited three of the top 50 EJHL scorers from this past season. Dell held up his part of that statement with his 39 points (17-22) in 36 games, good for second on the Apple Core. Prior to his EJHL career, Dell played some Canadian Junior A, spending time in both the Saskatchewan and Manitoba Junior Hockey Leagues.

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
-------------------------------------------------------------
2008-09  Weyburn Red Wings      SJHL    5    0    4    4    2
2008-09  Winkler Flyers         MJHL   31    8    7   15   16
2009-10  Weyburn Red Wings      SJHL   58   14   21   35   61


I did a Google Image search for each of these players, hoping for a solid action shot. Instead, I got an invite to the gun show.

It's not stalking if you get it from Google - standard operating procedure for these posts - and not straight from his Facebook page. That's the rule that I just made up. Wait, is that even him?

Also, you don't run in hockey, you skate. First person to drop a "Run Forrest!" is persona non grata with me.

Chris "Creek"
Lewis

Forward
Boston Bulldogs (AtlJHL)
6'0", 215 pounds
Fort Covington, NY

AtlJHL Player Page

I think there's one question on everyone's mind here: is "Creek" one of those nicknames to be used in place of his first name, or is it just sort of a second-option type of thing? If I was a legitimate member of the media, that would be my first question for him. Whatever you want to call him, Lewis just finished a second straight stellar season with the Bulldogs, posting 92 (34-58) points in 44 games to follow up his 82 (32-50) in 2009-2010. His second-in-the-league 2010-2011 point total included back-to-back five-point games against the Laconia Leafs on December 19th and January 9th.

The Icers have a pretty extensive relationship with both the Bulldogs and the Atlantic League - Eric Steinour and Josh Hand both played for highly-respected coach Mike Addesa. In fact, Steinour captained the 2008-2009 Bulldogs, while Lewis played 37 games for the team that season.

A couple thoughts on a big-picture level are in order. First of all, I like the fact that we've taken the "eastern" recruiting approach so far, although I'm sure it's just a result of Scott Balboni and Josh Hand both being eastern guys - the to-be-determined head coach will ultimately take things in his direction, of course. Regardless, I hope we can maintain a strong presence in the east to differentiate ourselves from the rest of the Big Ten, which slants towards the setting sun (in hockey terms). Turns out, the whole "we're on the Big Ten Network" thing isn't a valid recruiting pitch against Wisconsin.

Also, while a lot is made of the potential of current Icers to make the NCAA team, here's something a little more immediate to keep in mind: Penn State's departures following this past season were four forwards (Tim O'Brien, Marek Polidor, Chris Pronchik, Taylor Cera), a defenseman (Carey Bell) and two goalies (Teddy Hume and John Jay). In this 2011 class, we've now recruited four forwards (Friedman, Dell, Lewis, Meiselman), a defenseman (Sweetland) and a goalie (Carr). You don't have to be an RPI grad to do that math - there's going to be a squeeze on roster and lineup spots for 2011-2012 if we get any more recruits, and we probably will.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Anastos to Michigan State

In a move that's flat-out bizarre on a few different levels (one of them being that I'm not about to talk about Danton Cole), Michigan State has announced now-former CCHA chief Tom Anastos as their new head coach, replacing the retired Rick Comley. What do you have to say about it, Sparty?
Tom Anastos, a Michigan State alumnus who has excelled in the sport of hockey as a player, coach, administrator, and visionary, has been appointed today (March 23) to the position of head coach of the Michigan State hockey program, according to an announcement made by Athletics Director Mark Hollis. Anastos, who has served as the commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association since 1998, becomes just the sixth Michigan State hockey coach in program history and the fourth in the modern era.
 
"I am extremely excited about returning to Michigan State to lead the Spartan Hockey program and once again be a part of the MSU Athletics Department family," said Anastos. "I have obviously maintained a relationship with MSU and been in close contact with the hockey program for the last 13 years in my role with the CCHA, but this opportunity is incredibly special.
 
"The expectations I have for our program will be to compete annually for conference and national championships. That was the expectation when I was here as a player and as an assistant coach, and I don't believe it should be any different in my role as head coach. In our locker room, we have quality young men who are good players, good students and good citizens, which are all hallmarks of this program. I am excited to get started, to hire a staff, and to get myself re-acclimated within the MSU community."

"Bringing Tom Anastos into the MSU Athletics Department to run our hockey program brings someone with energy and passion not only for the sport of hockey, but for our University and program as well," said Hollis. "He can attract high-caliber talent and develop those players into those who are attractive to the National Hockey League. He places a premium on education, and the drive and desire to compete for championships.
In case you've been...I don't know, somewhere where you didn't hear about Big Ten hockey (I'm not sure anywhere in North America qualifies), this timing is interesting to say the least. On Monday, news broke that Big Ten hockey is likely to be a reality. By Wednesday, the commissioner of the conference that stood to lose the most from that news was named head coach of a Big Ten program. Wait, what?
 
Another thing: as mentioned, Anastos has been in his role with the CCHA for 13 years. For the four prior to that, he was president of the NAHL. That's 17 years that he hasn't been behind a bench, in case you're an Ohio State grad and need me to put that together for you. Before he was an administrator, he played (1981-1985) and coached (as an assistant, 1990-1992) at Michigan State. In between, he was the head coach at Michigan-Dearborn (a school familiar to Icers fans) from 1987-1990 - by the way, I looked it up, and Anastos never coached against Penn State. The legendary PSU-Dearborn rivalry didn't get going until a few years after that.

This happened a while ago.
 
From a Penn State standpoint, obviously, Michigan State is competition now. Anastos, barring some kind of unlikely major scandal, will be the coach in East Lansing when we play the Spartans for the first time, as he tries to rebuild a program that has fallen off the map in the last couple years, hastening Comley's departure.
 
Furthermore, Anastos is not George Gwozdecky, the former MSU assistant who has been kicked around as a candidate for both their job and ours (as mentioned, he's also not Cole, the assumed frontrunner pretty much since the job came open). I can't think that Anastos was even within 12 feet of our radar, so an opening at a pretty prestigious program being filled without interfering with our search is not a bad thing.

Coach and Recruit Time

I hate to short-shift Brent Brekke like this, but Joe Battista (via Tony Barton and the Collegian) said more things to follow up other things he said, and I'd be pretty useless as a blogger if I didn't obsess over it in post form. Off we go.
“[Big Ten hockey's debut is] a year earlier than we originally thought,” Battista said. “So we are going to have to ratchet everything up. We will definitely have to hire the full staffs earlier than we had initially planned to. At the same time, it also means having more revenue coming in earlier because the arena will be built and ready for play.”

Hiring the staffs sooner will ease the transition from the current ACHA D-I club program to NCAA. Battista said it is necessary to have the staff, including the coaches, work hand-in-hand with the club teams, the ACHA Penn State Icers and Lady Icers, in their final seasons.

“The new coaches will have an opportunity to influence the systems the Icers will play next season to help the transition to the D-I team,” Battista said.
I'm not sure I understand why the timeline's changed - I mean, we were playing games in 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 either way, weren't we? I'm probably reading entirely too much into this, but that points to one reason I was anti-Big Ten: the insular conference mentality that leads to competing with the conference at the expense of competing nationally. It's the same mentality that leads the football and basketball teams to their frequently-criticized out-of-conference schedules. I can't speak for everyone, but I'd rather be fourth in the Big Ten and make the NCAA tournament than be second in the Big Ten and miss it.

If the new timeline is ultimately the best way to do things, great. I guess my concern is the almost reflexive response to the Big Ten announcement - that it was seemingly the sole impetus for evaluating the timeline and ultimately changing it. In my opinion, 2013-2014 is actually pretty inconsequential. Ramp things up in the way that you think is best, even if it's the original plan, and being competitive with Wisconsin and Michigan will follow.

Yeah, we'd be in a conference regardless, but something tells me that if the conference was the CCHA, there would be a lot less emphasis on it.

Anyway, the intended point being made here is loud and clear to me: Icers will have the chance to play for the NCAA team. Otherwise, why would this matter? You could just recruit a full team and do everything separately, including the Bill Curry/Georgia State football model of acting like you're playing a season, just without the games. The buzz is that we'll have a recruiting class of 9-12 this year (I've heard closer to nine, although I forget where), and assuming the same next year, there could be a handful of openings. Who wants them?

Moving on to the coaching search:
Battista said the university received more than 100 resumes from qualified candidates on the men’s side, as well as 80 for the women’s position. Those numbers are now down to 15 per squad, and Battista said there is even more work to do, as the university will not be bringing 30 people in for formal interviews.

“We’re going to be in good shape,” Battista said. “We have not contacted everyone on this shorter list just yet, but I’ve been traveling, meeting with prospective coaching candidates at many clandestine locations.”

While Penn State has expressed interest in some candidates, Battista said the school refuses to be disruptive to coaches currently in-season.

Another factor in the decision could come from the choice of who will be Michigan State’s next head coach. The Spartans’ former coach, Rick Comley, retired at the end of the 2010-2011 season.

“They may be announcing theirs as early as next week,” Battista said. “The rumor mill is rampant, but all I’ve heard from my sources is they are leaning toward a Michigan State alum.”
George Gwozdecky, a former assistant for Sparty, went to Wisconsin. It's widely thought that MSU alumnus Danton Cole, formerly of Alabama-Huntsville, currently with the USA Hockey National Team Developmental Program, is the frontrunner, so that makes sense. In fact, Cole's Wikipedia page thinks he already got the job, so stay tuned on that one.

So we're down to 15 for the men and 15 for the women. "Clandestine locations." I always love that cloak-and-dagger stuff. I hope he met with Derek Schooley at the Dierks Bentley concert.

And finally, a quick note on recruiting:
The same pressure the new coaches face with less time to transition from club to D-I will also affect the current state of the Icers, with an influx of D-I recruits expected for next season.

Forward Jake Friedman and goaltender Tim Carr have already verbally committed to Penn State, with more signings to come. Both are considered NCAA-level prospects.

Battista said the recruits’ intentions are to play for the Icers in their final season before moving to the D-I team the following year. Under NCAA rules, the class will retain four years of eligibility to play once the move to D-I is made.

Icers assistant coach Josh Hand, who is handling recruiting, would not discuss the current state of the 2011 class, as they are all verbal commits.
I have a pretty high opinion of Hand, so there's no doubt in my mind that he's doing a great job. And it sounds like he has a few of the notorious "silent verbals" on board as well...

By the way, if you want to watch a video of Battista covering most of these topics so you can analyze the nuances of his gestures and facial expressions (even I won't go that far), be sure to check out Steve Penstone's post on VFTB yesterday.

Head Coach Candidate: Brent Brekke


Ninth in a series taking uninformed, uneducated guesses at the candidates to become the first head coach of Penn State's NCAA men's team. Previously: Icers coach Scott Balboni, Denver coach George Gwozdecky, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Tony Granato, Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley, Wisconsin women's coach Mark Johnson, Nebraska-Omaha hockey czar and former coach Mike Kemp, Ottawa Senators assistant Greg Carvel, Minnesota head coach Don Lucia.

Right up front, there's absolutely nothing at all behind my selection of the current Miami assistant for this series. Not a single Brekke-PSU mention on the internet, I haven't heard one anywhere else and he's not necessarily considered one of the "candidate for every job that comes up" types like George Gwozdecky.

Well, almost nothing. There is the fact that he's a Miami assistant and the supplemental fact that the Enrico Blasi coaching tree has proven quite fruitful despite not having many rings to the trunk, as two former RedHawks assistants in particular are now making waves in head coaching jobs:
  • First off is Chris Bergeron, who just completed his first season at Bowling Green after 10 years in Oxford. Yeah, okay, the Falcons went a less-than-impressive 10-27-4. But keep in mind that a) the program hasn't mattered since Brian Holzinger, b) 10 wins is twice as many as BG had in 2009-2010 and c) many have noted a fresh energy around the program and predict better days ahead. The highlight of Bowling Green's season was undoubtedly a double-overtime win over Northern Michigan in the deciding third game of the first round of the CCHA playoffs. The playoff round win was the first for the Falcons since 2007-2008 and just the second in the last 10 years.
  • Jeff Blashill also jumped elsewhere in the CCHA (via the USHL), to Western Michigan, and has had success of a more obvious variety. His Broncos powered to a 19-12-10 record (after 8-20-8 last year) and a berth in the CCHA championship game, giving the Lawson Lunatics reason to be...uhhh...lunatical once again. While they lost that title tilt - to Miami, no less - WMU made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. They take on Denver in the Midwest Regional Saturday.
Then there's the matter of Miami's program itself, and its winning (duh) mentality. I once foolishly thought that the RedHawks would go back to being the Redskins once former Hobey Baker hat trick finalist Ryan Jones departed following 2007-2008. But the post-Jones era led to even better things, like a national championship. Hockey games are 59 minutes long, right?



Scratch that. Nevertheless, back to back Frozen Fours in 2009 and 2010 qualifies as uncharted territory for the RedHawks. There's also been more Hobey finalists, like Carter Camper and Andy Miele this year. And who can forget the way the program came together and made a Frozen Four trip last season following the death of student manager Brendan Burke - which is really just a natural extension of the "Brotherhood" culture that exists at MU?

Granted, Brekke doesn't have as much time in the program as either Blashill or Bergeron did, although he's in his third season there, which encapsulates most of the events I just mentioned in the previous paragraph. And he's already been promoted to associate head coach, a strong endorsement from Blasi and the administration there. Plus, he was interviewed by his alma mater for that Western Michigan opening that ultimately went to Blashill.

Prior to Miami, Brekke, a defensive specialist, spent nine years as a Cornell assistant, from 1999 through 2008. Working under head coach Mike Schafer, the Big Red enjoyed probably their greatest run of sustained success since the Ken Dryden era, making the 2003 Frozen Four in the middle of four NCAA tournament appearances and five ECAC regular season or playoff titles from 2001 until 2006. Defense and goaltending have always been hallmarks at Cornell, and these teams were no exception with guys like Doug Murray, Mark McRae, Ryan O'Byrne and Charlie Cook in the d-corps.

Schafer hired Brekke from the USHL's Chicago Freeze, where he spent two seasons as an assistant coach and director of player personnel. Before that? He was playing, both at WMU, where he served as captain as a senior, then during a brief pro career.

Season   Team                 Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
-----------------------------------------------------------
1989-90  Rochester Mustangs   USHL   47    7   11   18   34
1990-91  Western Michigan     CCHA   38    1    8    9   57
1991-92  Western Michigan     CCHA   36    1   10   11   68
1992-93  Western Michigan     CCHA   38    3    2    5   42
1993-94  Western Michigan     CCHA   39    4   25   29   76
1994-95  Dayton Bombers       ECHL   24    1    7    8   31
1994-95  Cornwall Aces        AHL    29    1    0    1   24
1995-96  Dayton Bombers       ECHL   54    5   11   16  134
1995-96  Cornwall Aces        AHL     1    0    0    0    0
-----------------------------------------------------------


There's no doubt that Brekke is one of the up-and-coming coaches in college hockey, and if he doesn't end up at Penn State, he'll definitely be running someone's program at some point, following in the footsteps of former co-worker Bergeron, and the guy he replaced at Miami, Blashill. He has no head coaching experience, and that's generally considered a drawback, but then again, Colorado College head coach Scott Owens has an interesting take on that.
“Somebody with head coach experience is sometimes better the first month or two,” Owens said. “But some of these (assistants) have so much more upside. I do think it’s overrated. If you’re looking at someone for 5 to 10 years, you have to be careful you don’t get a yourself a person who minimizes what you could have been.”
Good point. But with all due deference to Coach Owens, in our somewhat unique situation, there's going to be a lot of uncharted territory no matter who gets the job. My preference would be to minimize the unknown, even while running the risk he mentions - besides, as we've seen, some head coaches are pretty good too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Game Time

Big Ten announcement? Yesterday's news.

Daily Collegian hockey writer/rock star Tony Barton wasted no time getting some additional juice from Joe Battista right on the heels of the arrival of what one USCHO message board poster refers to as the Big Ten Death Star. First, a little bit of background/reminder, because it sets up what follows.
The [Big Ten] proposal has teams the teams playing a 20-game conference schedule, two home and two away against each Big Ten opponent. The remaining 14 games will be scheduled out of conference against other D-I teams, including those from the current WCHA and CCHA.

Penn State will play as an independent for its first season in the NCAA in 2012 before joining the conference in 2013.
Now, the fun part:
Battista said he has already begun negotiations with several teams throughout D-I hockey to fill not only the 14 non-conference games in 2013 but the entire 2012 independent season. Those schools include University of Connecticut, Holy Cross, Army, Air Force, RIT, Alabama-Huntsville, Princeton, Cornell. He said he has also touched base with Michigan State and Wisconsin to play Penn State during the 2012 season.
The Wisconsin side is calling it a tentative agreement, so let's go with that.

I absolutely love seeing UAH on that list. Scheduling them should help win back some goodwill nationally, because if you don't travel beyond PSU circles or in case you just haven't noticed, we (with an assist from Wisconsin) are ruining college hockey (the post before that puts it much more succinctly). So a series with college hockey's cause celebre, hopefully at the VBC, certainly won't hurt our rep. I guess it doesn't hurt that they're the only other team in the country with nothing to do come the 2012-2013 conference season.

As a personal note, I hope a trip to Ithaca in the works - Cornell very narrowly lost the derby for both my undergraduate talents and my significantly less formidable law school talents. Plus there's the matter of that 0-1-0 series history.

Me, in a parallel dimension.

Okay, let's move on.
“We had to establish a lot of home and home deals where we play away games with these teams in 2012 and then they come to State College in 2013 for the Pegula Arena’s inaugural season,” Battista said.
I understand the need to hit the road, but the nostalgic/sentimental sap in me wishes there was a way to send the Ice Pavilion out with a full slate of home games.
Penn State will also be playing the U.S. National development team the first few years including what Battista said will be a four game slate in the Nittany Lions first season.
“The reason for that is scheduling non-conference games in the second semester is difficult,” Battista said. “Most teams have a full schedule of league matchups that we have had to work around as an independent. On top of that, they are a great source of potential recruiting for [Penn State].”
Editorial interjection: Alabama-Huntsville again says hi.

UAH is sad when nobody schedules them during the second half of the season.

But I wholeheartedly agree with Battista here - establishing a solid relationship with the NTDP early on is a savvy move for future recruiting.
Battista said Penn State will also look into scheduling agreements with the already established CCHA and WCHA to fill the remaining games.
“There are a lot of options out there,” Battista said. “It’s our first time going through this so we are trying to be flexible. We’ll make sure the scheduling is mutually beneficial.”
That's good - it's a transitional schedule in some respects, but there's no reason we can't slide a few of the rainmaking programs in there besides Bucky and Sparty. If nothing else, it's a measuring stick.

Quite a bit to digest, no? And guess what - it's not over yet. Per Mr. Barton, we're getting some news on the coaching search and recruiting tomorrow.

Hope you're all enjoying the ride as much as I am - how often do you get to follow the building of a major program from scratch at your alma mater? Catch your breath, see you in 24 hours.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Penn Stater's Guide to the NCAA Tournament

The NCAA Divison I hockey tournament starts Friday. Since Penn State's still two years away from having any reason whatsoever to care about it (note to the more dense among you: that's not a prediction that we'll be there in 2013), I thought it might be helpful to throw this post out there. I've ranked each qualifying team within their region based on the benefit, or lack thereof, to Penn State from that team's success - or in some cases based on things that have already happened.

Just to be redundant, this post has absolutely nothing to do with predictions, analyzing matchups, or my personal rooting interests - even they aren't completely in line with this. It's simply weighing each school in terms of their relationship with Penn State, however tenuous that may be in some cases. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you're looking for the more conventional sort of thing, here's some bracket stuff from NCAA.com (interactive and PDF), as well as some typically great analysis from College Hockey News.

Northeast Region (Manchester, NH)

Miami vs. New Hampshire, Saturday 4:00 p.m., ESPNU
Notre Dame vs. Merrimack, Saturday 7:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
Regional Final, Sunday 8:00 p.m., ESPNU


1. New Hampshire. Why UNH? Try this one: the Wildcats have a tournament-high four Pennsylvanians on their roster, thanks mostly to a recruiting pipeline with the Philadelphia Jr. Flyers. They're not inconsequential guys either - two are alternate captain Matt Campanale (Chester Springs, PA), a senior defenseman and star goaltender Matt Di Girolamo (Ambler, PA). Senior forward Greg Manz (Wayne, PA) and hulking freshman d-man Eric Knodel (West Chester, PA) round out the group. Knodel has yet to play for UNH but was a fifth-round pick of the Maple Leafs in 2009 - not exactly stunning news if you're familiar with Brian Burke.

2. Miami. The RedHawks get this spot over Merrimack solely because they have a rink that Joe Battista liked on his arena tour across North America. Bonus points for the fact that they're a non-traditional program that's thrust themselves into the elite of college hockey over the last few seasons. We have less NCAA tradition than anyone out there, so why not admire one of the models for bad to good?

3. Merrimack. The Warriors are making just their second-ever trip to the NCAA tournament since going DI in 1984. While there's not a Penn State interest on either side of the ledger here, as you go through this post, you'll see that I tend to give the underdogs a bump when all things are equal. Why shouldn't I? Until further notice, we're an underdog too. I'll always give more weight to a solid PSU angle (well, except in this region, as you'll see in a second), but without one, more power to the little guy.

4. Notre Dame. While South Bend was another stop on the PSU rink tour, that gets outweighed by the fact that it's Notre Dame. Hey, I can't be expected to check my partiality all the time.

East Region (Bridgeport, CT)

Union vs. Minnesota-Duluth, Friday 3:00 p.m., ESPNU
Yale vs. Air Force, Friday 6:30 p.m., ESPNU
Regional Final, Saturday 6:30 p.m., ESPNU


1. Minnesota-Duluth. In the weakest region for Penn State connections, the Bulldogs get the nod for having an arena that Battista really liked. I'll even given them a few bonus points for the glut of pictures on the venue's official site (I'm deliberately avoiding use of its proper name so I don't change my mind about this placement). I was also really, really tempted to downgrade UMD based on the rantings of Bruce Ciskie, but managed to resist.

2. Union. Absent any strong PSU-related reasons, how can you not root for UC? In general and as I mentioned, I think rooting anti-establishment is a decent position to take. And since joining Division I in 1991-1992, the Dutchmen have been mediocre at best and putrid at worst...until last year and now this year. If they can do it, who can't?

3. Air Force. Do it for former Icers Bobby Pate and Mike Carrano, who once upon a time transferred from Colorado Springs. The Falcons stay behind Union because obviously they didn't like it there too much.

4. Yale. Nothing personal Yalies, I just couldn't think of a reason why an average Penn Stater should root for you, other than having sick unis that I hope to rip off substantially. Of course, I couldn't think of a reason to root against you either, so should you make it out of the region, you have a decided edge on BC, North Dakota or Denver, schools more likely to be there than ones I favored in their regions.

Yes, please.

West Region (St. Louis, MO)

Michigan vs. Nebraska-Omaha, Friday 5:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
Boston Coll. vs. Colorado Coll., Friday 9:00 p.m., ESPNU
Regional Final, Saturday 9:00 p.m., ESPNU


1. Michigan. The Big Ten certainly isn't the most popular entity in college hockey right now. But the true problem, as far as I'm concerned, is the tone of the verbal grenades. They've gone from "the Big Ten's going to be too good and ruin college hockey" to "the Big Ten sucks, only Michigan even made the tournament this year." I've never been one of the root for your conference crowd, but if the skunkbears were to add to their record nine national championships, it might put some fear back into people.

2. Nebraska-Omaha. UNO was the last program to go from scratch to major Division I conference, and as such, I've always had an affinity for them, one that's heightened since PSU's decision to take that label away. They're 14 years in and a legitimate player in the best conference in college hockey. Not bad. Now let's hire us our own Dean Blais and do it even quicker.

3. Colorado College. Like Yale, there's nothing obviously pointing pro or con with respect to CC. I have tremendous respect for what they've gone through to get where they are today and for the fact that they're a school of 2,000 students swimming with the sharks. You have to be anti-America or pro-Denver to not appreciate that. But the lack of a PSU connection sticks them in third.

4. Boston College. Does anyone, other than their fans, ever root for the defending champs in anything? Something a little more sturdy than that: if we're going to be regulars in the EJHL recruiting scene (Jake Friedman and Tim Carr both came from there), we're going to be bumping up against Jerry York's juggernaut more than a couple times.

Midwest Region (Green Bay, WI)

North Dakota vs. RPI, Saturday 1:30 p.m., ESPN3.com
Denver vs. W. Michigan, Saturday 5:00 p.m., ESPN3.com
Regional Final, Sunday 5:30 p.m., ESPNU


1. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. RPI's another personal favorite, but more importantly in terms of Penn State interests, Oren Eizenman went there. Oren, of course, is the brother of Icers legend Alon (1997-2001). Backup goalie Bryce Merriam shares a hometown of Bethel Park, PA with Tim O'Brien.

2. Western Michigan. Don't we kind of owe it to society to wish the best for one of those weaker CCHA schools we're supposedly killing off with the whole Big Ten thing? Plus, like Union and Merrimack, they're a nice story - they haven't been to this show since 1996 and came oh so close to their first conference title of any kind before falling to Miami in the CCHA title game.

3. North Dakota. Like BC, they hardly need help. If it weren't for special circumstances with respect to Denver, I would've placed them last. Not to mention the fact that one of their more prominent fans/bloggers irrationally hates PSU over the whole Alabama-Huntsville/CCHA thing. Unless we led Tom Anastos on, and judging by how pro-Big Ten our administration has always been we didn't, that situation is in no way our fault. If anything, the idiot squad braying about how we may or may not have killed Bowling Green at some undetermined point in the future should be praising us for breaking up the airtight conference structure and possibly saving UAH.

4. Denver. If George Gwozdecky is in fact a candidate for the PSU coaching job, why root for him to drive his price up? He's well-qualified, regardless of how the Pios do in this tournament, so a flameout hardly changes his level of consideration. But a national title or a Frozen Four would certainly affect the asking price of a guy who's already pretty expensive.

B1G Announcement


The Big Ten Conference announced today that it has taken a major step towards sponsoring men's hockey starting with the 2013-2014 season, as the conference's athletic directors have recommended the initiation of Big Ten hockey to the conference presidents and chancellors. This effectively ends the worst-kept secret ever and months (actually, years - this stuff pre-dates Terry Pegula by about a decade or so) of pretty useless speculation and hand-wringing. While it's not officially official until a vote of the presidents and chancellors in June, that vote is a formality.

I'm not sure what's left to say at this point, so here's the entire press release.
Park Ridge, Ill. - The directors of athletics of Big Ten institutions which sponsor men's ice hockey unanimously announce their intention to recommend to the Big Ten Council of Presidents/Chancellors in June the establishment of men's ice hockey as an official conference sport for the 2013-14 academic year with participation by Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin.
 
The recommendation includes both the establishment of the inaugural Big Ten Men's Ice Hockey Tournament in March of 2014, with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Championship, and a 20-game conference schedule with each team playing the other five schools four times (two home games and two away games). In addition, the Big Ten's men's ice hockey programs will continue to proactively work to maintain a strong schedule of non-conference competition with the Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) and Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA).
 
In September of 2010, Penn State announced the establishment of men's and women's ice hockey programs set to begin competition in the 2012-13 academic year, giving the Big Ten six institutions sponsoring men's ice hockey. Big Ten rules allow for a conference championship when six institutions sponsor a program in any given sport.
Since Penn State's announcement, the conference has researched and investigated the establishment of men's ice hockey as a conference sport. The conference has sought input and communicated both internally with conference chancellors, presidents, administrators and coaches, and externally with members of the hockey community, including the CCHA and WCHA.
With the addition of Nebraska on July 1, 2011, the broad-based athletic programs of the 12 Big Ten institutions will sponsor 298 teams with more than 9,500 men and women student-athletes competing for Big Ten Championships. The conference currently features 25 official conference sports, 12 for men and 13 for women. The last official conference sport established by the Big Ten was women's rowing in the 1999-2000 academic year.
Nice way to work around the fact that there are not, as of yet, formal scheduling agreements with the remaining CCHA and WCHA schools (as first reported by College Hockey News).

I've been against this idea more or less since I started TYT five months and one conference logo ago (while at the same time disputing its assumed effects on the rest of college hockey), but that's over now - time to board this train and see where it takes us. One early stop, in all likelihood, will be a pair of games against each future conference opponent in 2012-2013 (I don't know anything there, it just makes logical sense).

Like how I deftly linked more or less everything I've said about Big Ten hockey? Which quite frankly isn't all that much - I became so sick of hearing and talking about it, even pre-TYT, that I figured I'd just toss my official position out there early on, then defer to it whenever the occasion demanded it.

The women's program remains unaffected by all of this, since those sexists at Michigan and Michigan State don't have NCAA women's programs. It's widely assumed that PSU will be joining one of the existing eastern conferences, at least until the Big Ten puts some pressure on the holdouts to add women's hockey to get to six sponsoring teams. The CHA seems a likely destination, as the ECAC and Hockey East are saturated with 12 and 8 teams, respectively.

At some as-yet undetermined point this offseason, I'll run a series of five posts designed as sort of an introduction to our new, yet not new, conference rivals. Don't press me for a date, that's just something that popped in my head while I was writing this!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Monarchs Win EJHL Title

Tim Carr left the traditional goalie slide in front of the team picture to starter Brian Billett.

The New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs won the Dineen Cup, symbolic of the EJHL championship, today with a second consecutive 3-2 win over the Jersey Hitmen. Penn State recruit Tim Carr served as backup goalie (as he had all playoffs), so since I obviously can't comment on his play, I'll turn it over to the EJHL website.
Cody Sharib scored two goals, including the game-winner, to lead the New Hampshire Jr. Monarchs over the Jersey Hitmen 3-2 on Sunday and give his team its second EJHL Dineen Cup Championship in as many years.

Ryan Tyson put the Monarchs on the board 3:24 into the game when he banged home Chris Cowles’ rebound from the slot. Billy Fitzgerald set up Cowles’ shot.

Sharib extended the lead to 2-0 with a power play goal with 7:14 on the clock when he took a pass from Trevor vanRiemsdyk just outside the slot and fired it past Hitmen goaltender John Nauta.

The Hitmen got on the board 3:40 into the second period when Matt Willows took a pass from Craig Kitto at the point and rifled it at the net. Monarchs goaltender Brian Billett made the save, but Connor Leen buried the rebound.

A power play goal by the Hitmen tied the game with 10:57 left in the second period. Max Novak sent the puck to Andy Latta, who took a shot. A defenseman deflected the puck to the circle and Matt Willows beat Billett with his shot.

Sharib put home his second of the game with 3:21 remaining in the frame when he scored on a point blank shot with assists from Cam Brown and Ryan Tyson.

Billett and Nauta held the teams scoreless in the third period. The Hitmen pulled Nauta with a minute remaining, but to no avail, and Sharib’s tally held as the game-winner. Nauta finished with 25 saves and Billett recorded 36.

The win gives the Monarchs their second consecutive EJHL Championship and their sixth overall. The Eastern Junior Hockey League would like to congratulate the Monarchs and the Hitmen on their outstanding seasons.
Carr, of course, was an integral part of the Monarchs' 38-4-2-1 record, and their Northern Division championship, which earned them a first-round bye and home ice until the final. He went 15-2-1 with a 2.40 goals against average, a 0.917 save percentage and three shutouts, and even chipped in an assist.

The other PSU recruit to date, Jake Friedman, exited the EJHL playoffs with his South Shore Kings two rounds ago, with Friedman collecting a goal and two assists in the Kings' four total playoff games, plus a 20:00 mini-game. During the 45-game regular season, he led the Kings in scoring and was tied for sixth in the league with 26 goals and 35 assists.