Back in September, I wrote this:
Hopefully you'll forgive me if one day, when this blog has run its course, I end up volunteering with Akron or another ACHA team local to wherever life takes me between now and then.Little did I know how short that wait to volunteer would actually be, or that it would end while TYT is still running full tilt.
Here's the story: I arrived at Galactic Ice in Altoona shortly before 9:00 Sunday morning for the 9:50 puck drop between the ACHA women and Slippery Rock. Things started off pretty well, as I was allowed up to the mezzanine level just above the benches, where I set up a makeshift press box by hauling a table over from the party room. The rink's wifi was down, but I wasn't overly concerned with that - I could just skip the live blog, take notes, and write a recap. Put that together with a postgame interview and a few photos, and I'd be satisfied that I gave the team the coverage it deserves.
With setup complete and seeking to snap a few photos during warmup, I went back downstairs. My stay wasn't temporary though, because nobody was available to run the scoreboard. So, in the participatory sports journalism tradition established by George Plimpton, with much trepidation, and after PSU coach Pat Fung gave a quick tutorial, I did. And, with Kim Vaughan (the mother of Penn State starting goalie Katie) working the scoresheet next to me, I had a blast.
I think I did fairly well too, considering. The button to start the clock was rather unreceptive, so the 17-minute periods were probably about 17:18 in actuality. I did make mistakes on both of the game's penalties, though. On the first, to Slippery Rock leading scorer Christy Pastucha, I punched in number 21 instead of her actual 41. More egregiously, on a third-period tripping call to PSU's Jackie Saideh, I put eight minutes of penalty time up on the board and held up the proceedings for a minute (that felt like about 20) while I scrambled to fix it.
Perhaps I was subconsciously trying to help balance out the game, which to be honest, wasn't much of one, with Penn State blowing out Slippery Rock to finish its first fall semester 4-1-1. Devon Fisk - who now has 10 goals in six games - scored four times, as did OHA product Mandy Mortach. Vaughan (34 minutes) and Sarah Eisenhut (17 minutes) split a relatively easy 14-save shutout and watched 36 shots launched at Pride goalie Tori Sheffel in the opposite crease.
Captain Carly Szyszko helped open the scoring with an assist on Mortach's transition effort, while Mary Kate Tonetti and Ashton Schaffer added a pair of apples each. Allie Rothman's first-period bomb set up the 3-0 goal that unofficially signaled the end of any reasonable doubt as to the game's outcome. A stout team defensive effort rendered Pastucha, who had 22 goals in 10 games entering the contest, a non-factor, and Vaughan and Eisenhut saw their already-microscopic goals against averages drop to 0.86 and 0.72, respectively.
Really, there was nothing to dislike from a Penn State perspective, including the big-picture implications. An expanded national tournament for ACHA Women's Division 2 this season will see the top four eastern and western teams invited to Ashburn, VA in March. Fourth in the east right now? PSU. Fifth? Slippery Rock. It could be said that Sunday's game drew a thick, black line between tournament and non-tournament teams, but that's probably an understatement (although as we learned with the Lady Icers in in both 2010-2011 and 2011-2012, don't trust the ACHA polls to get it right).
Before that though, there are more games to be played and more statements to be made. The second half of the schedule opens at Navy on January 13th, followed by series at West Chester, at D1 Buffalo and the regular season finale on February 22nd at the Ice Pavilion.
As for me? I'm just hoping they need someone to run the scoreboard on the 22nd. Or do anything else for that matter, that day or before then. And while I have no immediate plans to quit blogging, I think I've added more specificity to my goals for when that time comes. Hey, you guys do need a website...just saying.