|Pete Sweetland and PSU will again try to shut down Union's Daniel Ciampini Thanksgiving weekend|
The already-known series between Union and Penn State at Pegula Ice Arena, the return trip from last year's matchup in Schenectady, NY, has been set for Saturday, November 30th and Sunday, December 1st by Union's schedule release. As with all of the Nittany Lions' 2013-2014 contests so far, the game times are TBA.
The Dutchmen, of course, have emerged from 15 years of mediocrity following their elevation to NCAA Division I in 1991 to become one of college hockey's nouveau riche, first under Nate Leaman and now under Rick Bennett. Union has won the last two Whitelaw Cups (ECAC Tournament championships) and two of the last three Cleary Cups (ECAC regular season championships). The school famously rebooted as a DIII power by legendary Cornell and RPI coach Ned Harkness in 1975 has also qualified for the NCAA Tournament in each of the past three seasons, advancing to the 2012 Frozen Four.
Last year's 22-13-5 (10-8-4 ECAC) squad swept the Nittany Lions 2-0 and 4-1 on November 24th and 25th, 2012 at the Achilles Center's Messa Rink. Based on what we knew of Penn State's team at the time (in other words, PSU hadn't played Ohio State, Vermont, Michigan State and Wisconsin yet), the results were stunningly close, as both games included empty-netters by the Dutchmen and the second contest was 1-1 after 40 minutes, with David Glen - who else - accounting for the blue and white's goal. Flyers draft pick and World Junior Championships gold medalist Shayne Gostisbehere dropped a power play bomb early in the final stanza to break the deadlock.
Union is at an interesting stage in its program's development, one where it gets decided whether recent successes are an aberration or whether reloading and competing at the top of college hockey on a consistent basis is possible. Some key pieces from that Frozen Four team have begun to depart thanks to both graduation and the professional ranks - notably, in that latter category, 2012 Hobey Baker Award finalist and Academic All-American Troy Grosenick, who stopped 37 shots against PSU in the November 25th matchup and signed with the San Jose Sharks in April. Gostisbehere returns on defense, along with Mat Bodie, and guys like Daniel Carr, Josh Jooris, Max Novak and Daniel Ciampini are still around to score the goals.
Teams are allowed a maximum of 34 games by the NCAA (with certain games exempt from the total). With the Union series now known, PSU - which does not meet any exemption allowances so far beyond the fact that postseason games like the Big Ten Tournament don't count - has 27 games fully on the books. There are the 20 Big Ten games obviously, Union, the Pegula Ice Arena opener on October 11th against Army, the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff versus Vermont on October 26th, the November 8th game with Sacred Heart, and the Three Rivers Classic on December 27th and 28th including Boston College, Robert Morris and Bowling Green.
Seven other matches (two at Air Force, one at Robert Morris, and at home against Boston College, RIT and twice against UMass-Lowell) range from confirmed, just without a hard date, to rumor containing a fair amount of meat on the bones. Assuming they all materialize, Penn State's 2013-2014 opponents and locations are now entirely known. As always, check M Schedules/Results for the complete rundown.