Thursday, April 18, 2013

33 Seasons, 33 Games (Part II)

In order to bid a fond farewell to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion, the orange barn Penn State hockey called home from January 16, 1981 until February 16, 2013, here is the second half of a subjective opinion of the top 33 games in the building's history. The significance of the number 33, of course, is that the rink hosted 33 seasons of games. "33 Seasons, 33 Games (Part I)" covered numbers 17 through 33, while this one hits the top 16.

Unfortunately, due mostly to lack of documentation concerning Lady Icers and Ice Lions games, this list only includes contests from the Icers-to-NCAA men lineage, with sincerest apologies to all involved in the many fantastic Ice Pavilion games not involving the Icers or Nittany Lion men.

This post will also serve the secondary purpose of launching TYT into its offseason series of history-themed posts, dubbed "Breakout Past" during a period where I had to come up with a really lame title (preferably including a pun) for everything. Look for those each Thursday, starting next week.

16. Penn State 5, Towson 4 - January 22, 2005. In what would turn out to be the Icers' final championship of the Nittany Lion Invitational - a tournament created the season after the Ice Pavilion's opening - scrappy Towson played the Icers extremely tough until Brett Wilson's power play goal with 16 seconds left propelled PSU to victory. Wilson's heroics were only necessary because of three bad calls related to goals, including two apparent Icers scores that were waved off in the second period, the latter of which was a Teague Willits-Kelley effort that was ruled a goal by the referee on the play, setting off the horn... only to be overturned by a linesman 60 feet away. The brutal officiating included the other end of the ice, as the Tigers' Erik Dixon tied the game at 4-4 with 3:33 remaining despite the fact that the net behind goalie Paul Mammola was off the pegs for at least ten seconds prior to the puck's entry.

15. Penn State 4, Central Oklahoma 3 (OT) - October 15, 2010. Arguably, the 2009-2010 Icers were the best team of the Scott Balboni era, so when Jonathon Cannizzo scored late in the first overtime to eliminate PSU from championship contention by a 2-1 score in the 2010 ACHA quarterfinals after the Icers led 1-0 until just 89 seconds remained in regulation, it was quite a blow. While a regular-season win in the following campaign wasn't a full measure of revenge, it was still quite satisfying, especially after the Bronchos' Donald Geary forced overtime 23 seconds away from a Penn State win, perhaps inspiring a couple of "here we go again" eyerolls within the Greenberg throng. George Saad ensured that any similarities to the previous heartbreak ended there by making a fantastic play in overtime to take the puck off of the boards, work to the front, and score. In what - at best - is a footnote to history, the Icers' second home game following the NCAA elevation announcement was a primary motivator of the creation of this blog.

George Saad (center) celebrates his OT winner against UCO

14. Buffalo State 5, Penn State 4 - March 14, 1992. Two weeks after PSU failed to win the first-ever ACHA national championship on home ice (see number 8), the ICHL regular season champions - who went 14-1-1 in league play, the best record in ICHL history - were stunned by Buffalo State in the conference tournament opener. Chris Kruger, Bob Kowalski and Regis Marrale all scored in the third period for the Bengals, who survived a controversial finish to their win. Dave Murphy sniped in the last minute to cut the BSC lead to 5-4, then appeared to tie the game with one second remaining, a goal negated by a ruling that the Bengals had intentionally dislodged the net beforehand. The Icers were awarded a penalty shot, but ICHL MVP Andy McLaughlin was denied by goaltender Chris Economou, who would go on to win tournament MVP honors while leading his team to a championship game loss to Niagara College.

13. Penn State 3, Towson 1 - January 22, 2000. In one of the all-time great performances by a visiting goaltender at the Ice Pavilion, Towson's Derek Rabold stopped 52 of the 54 Icers shots he faced to win NLIT MVP honors, despite his team's loss in the championship game. Prior to Loren Remetta's empty-netter, heavily-favored PSU (which scored 12 on 84 shots against Rutgers the day before) only cracked Rabold twice - once with Jamie Weston's slap shot, and on the winner, a spectacular end-to-end play that saw Weston feed Neal Price at center to catch the Tigers in a line change. Price motored down the left side, then connected with Joe McArdle, who one-timed it home from the right circle.

12. Penn State 4, Hobart 3 - November 29, 1995. While games against NCAA Division III teams later became close to a 50-50 proposition, they were something a little south of that 18 years ago. That fact, combined with a 6-5 overtime win by the Statesmen during the 1994-1995 season, made this triumph noteworthy, even if it didn't directly count for ACHA positioning. The Icers faced second-period deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 before goals by Brian Rolli, Steve Hajek and Don Coyne over a 4:30 stretch late in the period put PSU ahead for good, including insurance against Hobart's extra-attacker answer with time winding down. "The loss to them last year left a bitter taste in our mouths," goaltender Jeff Crispino said, "so this win means a lot."

11. Penn State 6, Kent State 5 (OT) - February 17, 1984. Throughout the 1980s, Kent State - which sponsored an NCAA Division I program from 1986 until 1994 - was one of the Icers' toughest regular opponents. In 1983-1984, despite PSU's eventually winning the national club championship, the Golden Flashes won three of the four games between the two, and nearly took the fourth. Penn State trailed 5-3 late in regulation, but Art McQuillan scored on a backhander with 3:51 remaining to trim the deficit to 5-4, and Brad Rush tied the game roughly two minutes later off of Lynn Sipe's setup. Greg Powers then deflected a Glenn Cawood shot past Adam Brinker for the OT winner. "We've been in overtime before," Powers said, "and me, Art [McQuillan] and Clark [Dexter] go full force in overtime. We were pressing and getting our shots - you could tell it was gonna come. I told everyone on the bench, 'You don't have to warm up, because we're going to score.'"

10. Iowa State 5, Penn State 3 - January 23, 1999. In a preview of the infamous 1999 ACHA national championship game won by "vacated," the Icers and Cyclones met in the NLIT championship game, and the teams ranked first and second in the ACHA for the entire 1998-1999 season put on a show worthy of the pollsters' esteem. After Darren Anderson (one of the stars of "vacated's" title run, as it would turn out) gave ISU a 2-0 advantage on a 3-on-0 rush, Penn State answered three times to gain the lead in the third period: Jason Zivkovic on the power play, Rob Shaner's rebound putback and C.J. Patrick's slapper. The Cyclones, however, had their own rally against a shaky John Sixt with John Strama and Brian Paolello putting ISU back ahead, and Jeff Smith added an empty-netter.

Jamie Hettema scored in the first game at the Ice Pavilion

9. Penn State 6, Upsala 5 - January 16, 1981. A contest generally only remembered for the Ice Pavilion's opening and for the crowd of 1,450 that stood as the building's record for its first nine years was also a fantastic game in and of itself. Matt Glass became the first of many Icers to fill the net beneath Section E, but he was answered by the Vikings with just 45 seconds left in the opening period. Glass' second, along with tallies by Glenn DeStefano, Rush and Jamie Hettema gave PSU a seemingly-safe 5-2 lead late into the third period, before Upsala managed to score three times in the last 120 seconds of the game. DeStefano, however, also scored late and goaltender Jim Pollock shut the door just in time for the Icers to escape with a win that wasn't finalized until 1:00 a.m.

8. Iowa State 5, Michigan-Dearborn 3 - February 29, 1992. The only non-Penn State game on the list qualifies due to its heavy significance as the first championship game in ACHA history, and still the only national title won by the man, long-time ISU coach Al Murdoch, who ended up with his name on the trophy given to the ACHA's last team standing. The Icers were denied home-ice glory that year by Dearborn, as the Wolves bombed PSU 8-5 to earn their way into the final. Incidentally, the captain of that 1991-1992 Iowa State team was Bill Ward, who is now the girls hockey coach at National Sports Academy, the alma mater of current PSU women's team forward Emily Laurenzi.

7. Niagara College 6, Penn State 5 (2OT) - March 12, 1988. In an ICHL semifinal matchup, Knights goaltender Jim Darling made 40 saves - eventually winning tournament MVP honors and leading the Welland, ON-based school to the championship - in beating the Icers. Penn State held a 5-2 lead at one point, but were unable to avoid ICHL elimination at the hands of Niagara for the third season in a row (including another 6-5 double-overtimer two years prior to this game). Payback would be sweet, and it would come the next season when PSU beat the favored Knights 5-3 on the way to the title (see number 3).

6. Penn State 4, Canton 3 (OT) - January 14, 1984. The SUNY school, then known as the Northmen, took an early 1-0 lead on a Mike Jones clapper 1:55 in, and were on the verge of running a flat PSU team out of the rink but for a series of shots ringing off posts and missing gaping nets. Even with puck luck seemingly on their side, Penn State still faced a 3-1 deficit entering the third period, but a Powers putback of a Sipe rebound, following a Jim Yablecki goal, brought the Icers back to even midway through the frame. Yablecki then won the game, and the championship of the third NLIT, 2:35 into overtime with a wrister off left wing. The goal almost never happened, as PSU survived a near-miss by Canton just six seconds into extra time: "The guy came breaking in on a 3-on-2," goaltender John Davis said. "He passed it right in front, and as he came by, he just took my skates right out from under me. They just shot it and I stopped it from the back of the net. The puck has to be completely over. I didn't think it was, it was close though."

Casey Bailey (18) scored PSU's first NCAA goal at the Ice Pavilion

5. American International 3, Penn State 2 (OT) - October 12, 2012. Without a doubt the only game that made the list based on the pre-game warmup, and the chills I (and undoubtedly others) got watching PSU get ready for an actual, honest-to-goodness NCAA Division I men's hockey game after decades of almosts and what-ifs. Nittany Lions hockey will see greater heights than an overtime loss to perennial doormat AIC, a result made possible by Ben Meisner's 61 saves and Jon Puskar's winner, but there will only be one first, and only one time experiencing the unique feelings it inspired.

4. Penn State 4, Oklahoma 3 (OT) - February 4, 2012. The Icers' aura of ACHA invincibility in the final season before making the NCAA jump had already been smashed by Delaware and Central Oklahoma by the time Oklahoma came to town late in the season, but after Shane Vordran capitalized twice on misplayed pucks by goaltender Matt Madrazo to give the Sooners a commanding 3-0 third-period edge, a palpable new height of concern among Penn Staters was reached. And promptly rendered moot by Justin Kirchhevel's two goals in the last five minutes of regulation sandwiching one by Taylor Holstrom. Saad was once again large in overtime, putting back a rebound of an Eric Steinour shot to cause the old barn to explode. "I've been here for a lot of great wins over the years," Joe Battista said. "This will go down as one of the greatest comebacks ever in this building." Third best, to be precise (the Icers never trailed in one of the top three games).

3. Penn State 8, Buffalo 6 - March 12, 1989. No less of an authority than Battista considers this game, for the ICHL tournament championship, the launching point for the success enjoyed by his program in the years that followed. The Icers, who had struggled in the conference since joining in 1985, took the unorthodox step of skipping the club national championships that season to focus on success in the ICHL playoffs after a fourth-place finish in the regular season standings (in those days, nationals preceded the ICHL tournament). The move paid off, although it certainly wasn't easy. Facing a 4-2 deficit entering the third period, PSU quickly tied the game, just as quickly fell behind by two once more at 6-4, then took advantage of a rare full two minutes of 3-on-3 hockey to once again pull even. John Ioia's rebound goal on a 2-on-1 with Lance Riddile at the 17:10 mark put the Icers ahead for good, with Brian Stevenson adding an empty-netter. Current women's head coach Josh Brandwene scored twice for Penn State on his way to the program's scoring record for defensemen.

1 and 2. Penn State 4, Ohio 3 (OT) and Penn State 4, Ohio 3 (OT) - October 29 and 30, 2004. I mean really... could it be anything else? Essentially, take circumstances similar to that UCO game in number 15, add in the fact that the previous season's national tournament loss was in the championship game (as opposed to the quarterfinals), the juice of the best rivalry the ACHA has ever seen and a sellout crowd wearing white t-shirts, then multiply it by two. Michael McMullen scored the winner in Friday's game by cutting to the middle off left wing and putting back his own rebound, a goal that completed a rally from a 2-0 deficit with 10:33 to play. Kevin Jaeger was the hero the next night when he finished a hat trick on a breakaway resulting from Mike Carrano's lob over the Bobcat defense.

1 comment:

  1. Kyle, you left a big one out. October 24, 1998 vs Ohio. I remember, because I was there!