Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Breakout Past: Team of Destiny

Joe Battista with 2001 seniors (left to right) Greg Held, Alon Eizenman and Mike Blevins

The 2000-2001 Icers could probably be considered the peak of PSU's early-2000s ACHA dynasty. By that season, winning had become more coldly efficient than stunning (as it had been the year before). It was also the only intersection between one of the greatest players in ACHA history, Alon Eizenman, and a couple other holdovers from the 1998 Murdoch Cup winners with guys like then-freshmen Glenn Zuck and Curtiss Patrick, junior Neal Price and a sophomore class that would go on to win titles in each of its four collegiate seasons.

Predictably, Penn State steamrolled its way to a 24-4-2 regular season, losing only to CIS school York on the road, in overtime at Ohio, and a December Ice Pavilion sweep at the hands of Eastern Michigan by a pair of 4-3 scores. The Icers won both in-season tournaments on the schedule, the Two Nations Cup over CCAA programs Seneca and Carleton, and the Nittany Lion Invitational by a combined 17-0 blowout of Navy and West Chester.

The national tournament that year was hosted by Arizona. PSU entered as the second seed (predictably, behind EMU) and cruised through Pool B by beating Kent State 6-2 and the host Icecats 8-3. However, the Icers were the only team in the top four to advance to the semifinals as Illinois trumped No. 3 Minot State, Iowa State took down No. 4 Ohio and, most shockingly of all, the Josh Brandwene-coached Delaware Blue Hens beat top-ranked EMU 6-5 on the first day of the championships and went on to win the group. With the other favorites out of the picture, Penn State made short work of Illinois (7-3) and Delaware (7-2) to take the crown for the second time in a row and the third time in four years. Sure it was aided by the upsets, but nothing closer than four at nationals? That's pretty dominant.

Former Johnstown Chief Bill Downey is among the 2000-2001 Icers still involved with hockey

By ACHA standards, a ton of players from that team went on the play professionally, including Zuck, forward Bill Downey, defenseman Josh Mandel and goaltenders Scott Graham and Brian Gratz. Eizenman and Patrick were particularly noteworthy in that regard, with the former playing in Israel and France (and internationally with the Israeli team) for six years and Patrick (of the Patricks, for those unfamiliar) enjoyed a five-year career primarily in the ECHL but also including 11 games and two assists in the AHL.

That was then. What about now? Beyond the investment brokers, lawyers, doctors and web developers in the group (and there are plenty of people that have done very well in a wide range of fields), what of those still involved with hockey?

Click to enlarge

Head Coach Joe Battista (front row, center): Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena and Hockey Development, Penn State

Assistant Coach Dave Bauer (middle row, fifth from left): Head Instructor, Bauer Hockey Training Center

Assistant Coach Darren Hersh (middle row, third from left): Goaltending Coach, Reading Royals (ECHL), also Instructor, Goalie Academy

Bill Downey (back row, sixth from left): Director of Operations, Penn State Men's Hockey

Ryan Patrick (middle row, sixth from left): Hockey Director, Pegula Ice Arena

Geoff Beauparlant (front row, second from right): Head Coach, Kenai River Brown Bears (NAHL)

Joe Sheridan (back row, fifth from left): Assistant GM, Wells Fargo Center

Brian Gratz (front row, far right): Head Coach, Bloomington Thunder (SPHL)

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