Monday, September 23, 2013

Three Stars: September 16-22

Goalie Justin Golia and the Blue Lions are 1-1-0

3. NCAA Women’s Hockey: 2013-2014 CHA Preview
(The Hockey Writers)

Milestone alert: For the first time, to the best of my knowledge, a Penn State NCAA team has been picked somewhere other than last place by someone legitimate (so, like, not me). So thanks for that, Gabriella Fundaro. Okay, it's second to last, but baby steps. Additionally, Fundaro placed Shannon Yoxheimer (first team) and Jordin Pardoski (second team) on her preseason all-CHA teams.

My only criticism is that most of PSU's projected improvement was chalked up to internal growth, without a single mention of what I think is a pretty great recruiting class. It's always tough to expect rookies to be a huge part of a team (as we know from last year), but if Kelly Seward can be an anchor on defense and the Amy Petersen-Laura Bowman combination can give the Nittany Lions two reliable scoring lines, that's going to have a huge ripple effect up and down the lineup. Someone like Yoxheimer - called a borderline game-changer in the article - will suddenly see a lot more room to breathe, and she doesn't need a ton of space to pop a water bottle.

All in all, fifth place isn't a crazy thought. But if that does end up as the result, I think it will be the sort of fifth place Lindenwood experienced last year, with the occasional win over RIT and RMU, and higher slots still very much in play late in the season. And, as Josh Brandwene likes to say, anything can happen in the playoffs.

2. Penguins-Flyers outdoor game site undetermined
(Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Last week was an interesting one for those trying to figure out if and when Beaver Stadium will host an outdoor game between the Penguins and Flyers and/or (even better in my view) Penn State versus anyone. First up was this piece from Rob Rossi - no relation - which claims that a major sticking point in the early discussions between the NHL clubs has been figuring out which of the two will give up a home game for a neutral-siter. That's usually an easy call when the game is played in one team's city, less so when it's not. The NHL, not the designated home team, takes in the gate from the Winter Classic and other outdoor games, so it's not simply a matter of (for example) the Penguins dropping a Consol Energy Center contest and adding in one with more revenue.

Shortly after Rossi's article, the NHL announced that the Washington Capitals will host the 2015 Winter Classic (with the venue and opponent still to be determined). Since the league plays roughly 18 outdoor games per year now, that news is hardly as crippling to Penn State's chances in the short term as it would have been a couple years ago, but it certainly doesn't help.

1. @achamensd1

Lately, people from across the hockey world have been noting any and all indications that the season is around the corner and attaching declarations like "HEY YOU GUYS! HOCKEY SEASON!" However, and with all due respect to the year-round preparation required to play the game at a high level, hockey season only truly begins when games take place. Well, we now have that. Congratulations to ACHA Division 1's Penn State Berks, the first PSU hockey team to play this season, and also the first to win, as the Blue Lions topped Indiana (PA) 5-4 on Friday. The next day brought a 4-1 decision for the hosting Crimson Hawks, but still, a road split is not the worst way to start a season.

Best of the Rest

Pretty please?


ComRadio's Ross Insana spotted jerseys at Family Clothesline in State College with a Pegula Ice Arena patch on them last week. Cool. It's important to state that these are replicas (notice that they aren't made by Nike), so it would be premature to jump to a conclusion other than "Family Clothesline is selling replica jerseys with a PIA patch on them."

Still, it would be nice to see the patches make their way on to the game jerseys for the start of the season. It won't be easy with the Big Ten and CHA logos placed in the "patch spot" on the real thing, but there are certainly options.

Trustees asked to provide financial hand to PSU sports

Penn State is exploring a $30 million borrowing program to help tide its Athletic Department over troubled financial waters that have come with the Jerry Sandusky child sex scandal and other recent developments.

The plan is designed to help cover projected operating deficits and meet short-term capital needs at a time when the department is without football bowl revenue, home ticket sales are lagging, and the Sandusky scandal is bringing new costs.

Athletic Department expenses outstripped revenues by more than $6.1 million in 2012-13, according to university figures, which in turn has drained departmental reserves and caused a near freeze in spending on major maintenance and capital projects.
I've said it before, but hockey is pretty fortunate to have the guy behind the largest private donation in Penn State history in its corner. One has to believe that fact will help shield it from potential fallout related to the athletic department's finances.


An official announcement is coming soon, but it looks like there will be a sequel to last year's successful Midnight Madness to celebrate the first full practice for the NCAA men. This year's event will be on the night of Friday, October 4th, into Saturday the 5th. And of course in the new arena, which promises to add an extra dimension to the fun.

CHA and America One to continue web broadcasts
(College Hockey America)

While the Big Ten's new television arrangement on the men's side got plenty of attention last week, the CHA and the women will have the identical setup as last season, as the league is in the final year of a three-year streaming deal with America One. Essentially, all games played in a CHA venue will be available on America One's outstanding platform, making the $125 for a season pass well worth it, in my view.

Women's Hockey Eighth In Opening USA Today Poll

In the not-exactly-stunning department, CHA juggernaut Mercyhurst was eighth in the first USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine women's ranking of the year, with Minnesota - the undefeated national champions of 2012-2013 - in the top spot. Beyond the Lakers, Penn State opponents Quinnipiac (October 11th and 12th) and Ohio State (January 3rd and 4th, 2014) also appeared in the poll, among the others receiving votes.

Now it's a Penn State hockey rink


Just in case you were wondering what became of those wall hangings that backed the seating at the Ice Pavilion...

Road wins, quality wins get boosts in changes to NCAA tournament selection criteria

On Friday, the NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Committee announced fairly significant changes to its formula for selecting at-large teams for the NCAA Tournament. Out is the criterion measuring performance against "teams under consideration," or TUC, those with an RPI of .500 or greater. In are tweaks to the RPI calculation that reward both winning on the road (while also reducing the punishment for losing on the road) and winning against teams rated in the RPI top 20. Generally, reception to the changes has been positive, as using TUC added unnecessary volatility to things (if you're unfamiliar with that situation, think about what might happen when several teams have an RPI right around .500 late in the season, and the effects of their bouncing on either side of the so-called "TUC cliff" from game to game).

Here's hoping we have a reason to care about all of that sooner, rather than later.

A Who’s Who from West to East in NCAA Men’s Division-I Hockey (Part 3 of 6): Big Ten Hockey Begins
(Chief Maj's Blog)

Random Big Ten preview? Sure. On Penn State:
The program is still in its infancy, but I believe the team will be in the top half of the standings come February, and could even challenge the more structured teams such as Minnesota or Wisconsin.

Minnesota Leads Big Ten Recruiting Class
(College Hockey News)

Good: CHN called Penn State's recruiting class for this year "noteworthy." Bad: "Noteworthy" is the worst label given to any of the Big Ten programs.

USHL Alumni Voices: Tommy Olczyk

The captain dropped a couple minutes worth of video on the USHL experience, watching his brothers play and helping to lay the foundation at Penn State for the league's website - and more or less demonstrated why he's the Nittany Lions' captain.

Matt Skoff: Flyers prospect?

Ranking the Flyers’ prospects: Goaltenders
(Flyers Faithful)

While not a Flyers prospect, Matt Skoff got a mention here under "other names to watch," since he attended the team's development camp in July. Of course, the guy who wrote the story is Penn State alumnus Tom Zulewski, so there may be a bit of a bias in play.

Still, Skoff is certainly a guy with pro potential, and Philly's taken more of a look at him than anyone else, so why not?

2013-2014 ACHA Men's D1 Pre-Season Ranking

An ACHA section is part of Three Stars this week, led by the ACHA Division 1 preseason poll. Not a Penn State story anymore, just interesting to know. Defending champ Minot State is number one, with notables Arizona State (2), Ohio (5), Oklahoma (6), Illinois (7), Delaware (11), Rhode Island (18), Lebanon Valley (23) and West Chester (25) also appearing.

The Rise of ACHA Division I Hockey
(The Hockey Writers)

Arizona coach Sean Hogan, who is doing some really nice work on his rebuild in Tucson, wrote this article outlining factors explaining ACHA D1's rise over the last decade. And he's 100 percent on the money. While I'm biased as a big-school alumnus, I'm not sure that I see the benefit to playing NCAA Division III over ACHA D1, particularly now that the top ACHA programs have most of the "extras" in place like institutional support and great coaching. And, in recent years, it's begun to look like people who aren't terrible at hockey feel that way too.

Playing shorthanded: How club hockey works
(Daily Illini)

The Illinois student paper delivered a bit of an ACHA primer for the uninformed, although one that reinforced why I still like talking about it a full three years after Penn State announced that its top teams would be leaving.
Senior defenseman Mike Evans said the Illini players are responsible for generating awareness throughout the community for Illini home games, where they make their primary source of funding through ticket sales, while the remaining bills get passed down to the team’s players and coaches.
...and, as tends to happen a lot with Illinois, there was one of those quotes:
"Illinois is a hockey state and there are a lot of great youth hockey players here that have to leave the state in order to play Division I hockey elsewhere," [head coach Nick] Fabbrini said. "The Big Ten Conference is going to be great for college hockey, and hopefully at some point the University takes a look at getting involved."
By the way, "college hockey directory", which hasn't done much correctly since jumping on the credibility-enhancing Twitter handle @USCollegeHockey, did notice that quote in case you were wondering. If you forgot (and how could you), is the entity that blew up the hockey world for one evening in July by claiming that a DI announcement was imminent for the Illini.

Tommy Vannelli leaves Minnesota program
(Western College Hockey Blog)

Just as quickly as he arrived, freshman Minnesota defenseman Tommy Vannelli is now gone. A statement from head coach Don Lucia said that Vannelli struggled to balance athletics and academics, but really, he was sweating Penn State. We know that.

Speaking of PSU... Vannelli was a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues back in June. His departure makes him the second consecutive Blues draftee to leave the Gophers early, following Max Gardiner.

JoeBa and HeidiBa shut 'er down


JoeBa wrapped up what seemed like a recurring series of people saying their farewells to the Ice Pavilion on Sunday night:
The "last skate" at PSU's Greenberg Ice Pavilion. First skated here in Jan.1981. Great memories!
Great memories, indeed.

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