"I felt we made a mistake in building a baseball field. I thought that should have been the ice skating rink, because I think hockey in this state right now, not just hockey, but ice skating, if you come up to our office building at 6:00 in the morning, some mornings you can't get a parking spot because parents have taken their kids up here to skate...I think hockey will be a great addition to our intercollegiate program. [The Pegula gift] is a great, great gift. And I think very far-sighted and I'm really pleased with it." - Joe Paterno

Showing posts with label Oakland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Oakland. Show all posts

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Five Things To Watch In ACHA D1

For long-time Penn State hockey fans, this season will certainly be exciting, but also a little awkward because, as hard as it may be to believe, the ACHA will continue to march forward without the Icers.

Maybe it's just the fact that old habits die hard or maybe it's a sincere desire to see an organization PSU helped initiate do well, but despite our finally achieving the long-dreamt-of NCAA status and despite no longer having a dog in the hunt, I'm still going to keep tabs on ACHA D1. Men's D1, not the women - for the latter it's pure schadenfreude across the board after how the Lady Icers ended their run by being shafted out of nationals twice in a row.

(Men's and women's D2, of course, are a different story with the Ice Lions and the new women's team maintaining Penn State's ACHA presence.)

Naturally, I'll keep an eye on Ohio, Arizona State and Oklahoma due to their being 2012-2013 opponents, and I'll also keep crushing Jimmy John's in the hope that Let's Play Hockey's bold speculation concerning Illinois is more than a rumor. But let's go a little deeper and look at five other things I'll be tracking in the ACHA this season.

Senior captain Brian Slugocki was a key figure in Arizona's transition. His jersey now features fewer cacti, but more official logos.

1. Arizona

The Wildcats - yes, Wildcats - are entering the second year of a drastic and long overdue reorganization. That, of course, entailed the ouster of program founder Leo Golembiewski and his private company (Icecat Hockey LLC) that actually ran the team independently of the university for 32 years. While there's nothing inherently wrong with that setup, and the Icecats certainly enjoyed a lot of success in their day, it became increasingly clear in the last decade of Golembiewski's reign that Arizona wasn't built to compete in the modern ACHA. Perhaps most insulting of all has been archrival Arizona State's concurrent rise to become the alpha program of the southwest.

I wrote a post about the Icecats/Wildcats transition last April, which surprisingly was quoted in the Arizona Daily Wildcat a few days ago. The Daily Wildcat piece is good reading that sort of illustrates the present state of things. Sean Hogan, who was the video coordinator at Western Michigan (NCAA version) during their turnaround under Jeff Blashill (now the head coach of the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins after assisting with the Detroit Red Wings last year), was an impressive hire as the new coach last summer. In his second year in charge, he'll attempt to navigate a daunting schedule worthy of the Icecats' glory days with an roster that, on paper anyway, won't give up much to their opponents.

Undoing a decade of damage isn't something accomplished overnight, but monitoring the progress of the program, and hoping they finally take Arizona State down a peg or several - the Icecats/Wildcats are winless in their last 24 against ASU - will definitely draw some of my attention this season.

2. Delaware

I have no problem admitting that I like Delaware, partially for the completely selfish reason that their players and coaches noticed this blog before even most of the Penn State community. But more significantly, I think it's fair to say that the Fightin' Blue Hens represent everything top-level ACHA hockey is supposed to be: perpetually great talent on the roster, top coaches, a packed Fred Rust for home games. And now, finally, the hardware to go with it.

UD loses some great players for their title defense, including Icer alumnus John Conte's brother David and Andre Menard, who is now playing professionally in France for second-division side Courbevoie. Still, the Hens will have a stacked roster that should still be considered a Murdoch Cup favorite, and it's easy to envision them stringing together a run like Lindenwood's four straight championship game appearances between 2008 and 2011.

A bonus reason to follow Delaware is the fact that it was none other than Josh Brandwene who first led the program out of second-tier status with a surprise run to the 2001 ACHA championship game. He was assisted by former Icers teammate John O'Connor - who is still in Newark and set to begin his 16th season on staff, which includes one year as head coach following Brandwene's departure for Michigan-Dearborn in 2003.

Oakland's Jordan MacDonald had a lot to do with last year's Icers falling short of the title...but no hard feelings.

3. Oakland

Everything I just said about Delaware also applies to Oakland, the team UD beat for their first-ever ACHA national championship in the spring. Considering all aspects, from promotions and marketing to fan support to public service to the on-ice product, the Grizzlies are about as close as you'll find to a model ACHA program in the post-Icers world and deserve support for it.

Generally speaking, this blog keeps me emotionally detached. That's not forced "no cheering in the press box" neutrality, as I make no apologies for my allegiances. It's just the fact of the matter that I've sacrificed many of the fun things about being a fan to do this and don't really get to truly enjoy most things - for example, while most of you are on your feet after a PSU goal, I'm making sure I caught who started the play on the other end and hurriedly typing about it into a Cover It Live.

I mention that because there's been but one exception so far: the ACHA national championships last year. That was the one time I let it all hit me. I desperately wanted that one last championship that I felt was birthright on our way up and out. Then Oakland showed up, outworked and out-executed the Icers, and ripped it away. And yes, it got a little dusty in Strongsville, OH's Hoover Arena as the clock wound down and the outcome became clear. One would think that I would hate the Grizzlies for it, but I don't. In fact, I respect them tremendously and wish them nothing but continued success.

4. The Continued Evolution of Program Types

Back in those days of yore when it appeared hopeless that Penn State would ever have NCAA hockey, a friend asked me what it would take for the ACHA to supersede the NCAA as the primary sanctioning organization for college hockey. The obvious answer to that desperate question is "shut up." I could spend all day discussing why that's a ridiculous notion, although I am starting to come around to hoping that one of the mega-$$$ sports paves the way in challenging the NCAA's hegemony in the world of college athletics, for reasons any Penn Stater can probably list at this point. Certainly if things were drastically shaken up and each sport had its own sanctioning organization, that would put a lot of different outcomes into play. But realistically, based on present circumstances...no, stop it.

I indulged my friend with sort of an indirect answer, by saying that the keys to the ACHA's continued growth are the large-school programs in the south and west, for a few reasons:
  1. Those are rapidly growing hockey areas that will likely be underserved by the NCAA for the foreseeable future.
  2. The schools in question - Arizona, ASU, Oklahoma, others in lower ACHA divisions at schools whose varsity teams are generally members of the SEC and Pac-12 - have large student bodies and alumni bases who tend to like sports. A well-marketed and competitive team could be a big deal at those schools.
  3. Large schools are positioned to challenge NCAA Division III schools for recruits, and therefore competitively, because what they have to offer is virtually at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of name recognition, things to do, atmosphere, educational opportunities, alumni networks, you name it. I'm admittedly biased as an alumnus of a large, public school, but I really don't understand why anyone would choose to play in DIII over the ACHA. The NCAA status, at that level, is almost a technicality and (in my opinion) doesn't outweigh a true college experience at a place more populated than a large high school. Players aren't on the fast track to the show in either location, and the hockey's about equal between an average DIII team and a top ACHA D1 team.
If all of that sounds vaguely familiar to you, minus the geography, feel free to refer to it as the Penn State model. Few people would argue that more Penn States in the ACHA is good for business. And a whole bunch of Penn States playing in regions where NCAA hockey, effectively, doesn't exist? Use your imagination.

Recently though, those ideas have been challenged by schools like Lindenwood and Davenport, smaller schools in more traditional hockey areas that place hockey front and center, treating their ACHA teams almost as varsity programs - including, some allege, with financial aid creatively disbursed to work around the rules. Which program type will win out over the long haul? It's impossible to say right now, which is precisely why it's so interesting.

In the future, will UK hockey be known for more than schedule posters?

5. The Crossover Games

I just discussed the ACHA's place in the universe relative to NCAA DIII, which is a nice transition to the final thing I'll be watching: the ACHA's games against teams outside of the ACHA. In following the Icers, those games were always circled on the schedule as an opportunity to prove that non-varsity hockey done right is, in fact, pretty good.

One notable crossover this season is a holiday tournament involving two of Penn State's three ACHA opponents. On December 28th and 29th, while the Nittany Lions are at the Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational, Oklahoma and Arizona State will be in Burnaby, BC to play in a showcase involving the CIS' University of British Columbia and Canadian non-varsity power Simon Fraser. UBC is frequent exhibition fodder for NCAA DI teams, losing 4-1 to UNO, 3-0 to Minnesota and 3-1 to Minnesota State last season, so the Thunderbirds will certainly present a measuring stick opportunity for the ACHAers.

Of course, there's also the matter of those six crossover games scheduled to be played at the Ice Pavilion. You'll have to forgive me for not supporting the ACHA on those occasions.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Nationals Day 6: Championship Game



The Delaware Blue Hens are the 2012 ACHA Division 1 national champions, thanks to a 5-1 victory over Oakland in Wednesday night's final that was never really in doubt. In fact, UD led for all but the first 1:03 of the game, since Michael Piet snuck a shot past a stunned Matt Toter in the Grizzlies net at that point. Later in that opening period, Christian Tasker overwhelmed an OU defenseman at the blue line and took it himself for a 2-0 lead. Despite the fact that the bulk of the game remained, that lead felt insurmountable, thanks to the stellar play of tournament MVP S.J. Broadt, who demoralized Oakland with several clutch stops early on. He was beaten once, by Icer nemesis Jordan MacDonald, but well after the tilt was no longer in the balance.

Chris Volonnino added a second period power play goal and Connor Moore scored twice around MacDonald's tally in the third to close out the scoring. Really though, it was all window dressing on the first-ever national title for a Blue Hens program that gladly relinquishes its title as the best to never win one.
Delaware captain, senior Andre Menard, was ecstatic after playing his last game for the Hens.

"We have a great group of guys, and we really came together at the end of the season and in this tournament," he said. "We’re like a family and we beat a great team because we worked together and we have a great goaltender in S.J. (Broadt)."

"I can’t describe how I feel right now," said Broadt. “But we beat a great team, so I’m really going to enjoy this tonight."
Here's some video from the last few seconds of the game, as well as the postgame festivities:



Official All-Tournament Teams

Tournament MVP
S.J. Broadt (DEL)

First Team
Goalie: Matt Toter (OAK)
Defensemen: Dustin Hopfner (OAK), Jason Michaud (DEL)
Forwards: Jordan MacDonald (OAK), Mark Zeszut (DEL), Nick LePore (DEL)

Second Team
Goalie: Linus Ahgren (LIN)
Defensemen: Colin Long (LIN), Chris Galgano (DEL)
Forwards: Adam Novack (OAK), Dominic Morrone (PSU), Neeco Belanger (LIN)

TYT All-Tournament Teams

First Team
Goalie: S.J. Broadt (DEL)
Defensemen: Colin Long (LIN), Jason Michaud (DEL)
Forwards: Jordan MacDonald (OAK), Adam Novack (OAK), Mark Zeszut (DEL)

Second Team
Goalie: Matt Toter (OAK)
Defensemen: Dustin Hopfner (OAK), Craig Martin (OKL)
Forwards: Bryce Johnson (PSU), Michael Longo (PSU), Spencer Bonomo (ADR)

Final Tournament Placement

1. Delaware
2. Oakland
3. Penn State
4. Lindenwood
5. Ohio
6. Minot State
7. Oklahoma
8. Adrian
9. Arizona State
10. Liberty
11. Iowa State
12. Robert Morris (IL)
13. Illinois
14. Davenport
15. Central Oklahoma
16. West Virginia
17. Rutgers
18. Kent State
19. Drexel
20. Mercyhurst

Leading Tournament Scorers

                  Team   GP   G    A   Pts.
Jordan MacDonald  OAK    5    7    2    9
Bryce Johnson     PSU    3    2    6    8
Michael Longo     PSU    3    4    3    7
Adam Novack       OAK    5    4    3    7
Jason Michaud     DEL    4    1    6    7
Frank Matyok      OAK    5    2    4    6
Spencer Bonomo    ADR    2    4    1    5
Neeco Belanger    LIN    3    4    1    5
Chris Volonnino   DEL    4    3    2    5
Colin Long        LIN    3    2    3    5

Ryan McDonald     DEL    4    2    3    5
Dustin Hopfner    OAK    5    2    3    5
Christian Tasker  DEL    4    1    4    5
Billy Balent      OAK    5    1    4    5
Chad Hudson       OKL    2    3    1    4
Travis McKinney   OKL    2    2    2    4
Niklas Bunnstedt  LIN    3    2    2    4

Grant Gorczyca    LIN    3    2    2    4
Jordan Spear      ADR    2    1    3    4
Craig Martin      OKL    2    1    3    4
Darrell Boldon    ADR    2    1    3    4
Taylor Holstrom   PSU    3    1    3    4
Steve Brancheau   LIN    3    1    3    4
Brandon Johnson   OAK    5    1    3    4

Leading Tournament Goalies

                  Team   GP  Rec.   SH   SV   Pct.  GAA
Justin Wisniewski KSU    1   0-0-1  65   63   .969  1.59
S.J. Broadt       DEL    4   4-0-0  153  144  .941  2.01
Phil Graveline    DAV    2   1-1-0  83   79   .952  2.02
Nick Clarke       ILL    1   0-1-0  30   28   .933  2.43
Mark Schacker     ASU    1   0-0-1  36   33   .917  2.48
Rob Borcky        WVU    2   1-1-0  74   69   .932  2.50
Tory Caldwell     UCO    2   1-1-0  72   66   .917  2.65
Nick Holmes       OKL    2   1-0-0  50   45   .900  2.68
Matt Toter        OAK    5   4-1-0  160  146  .913  2.69
P.J. Musico       PSU    1   1-0-0  23   20   .870  3.00

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nationals Day 5: PSU 3 vs. Oakland 5/Semifinals


This isn't the way it was supposed to end for the most successful team in ACHA history.

In their club hockey swan song the Icers, buoyed by four NCAA Division I transfers and several others with hopes of playing for the coming varsity program, would take the ACHA by storm and cruise into the sunset with the Murdoch Cup. Everyone just knew that the only proper ending for the storied program was an eighth national championship and a record-extending sixth since the ACHA's founding in 1991-1992.

Then again...

...the last Icers Cup was in 2003, nine seasons ago. A brutally honest assessment of Penn State in recent seasons would show a program that has remained close to the top of the pecking order, but one that has been passed by others. After 2003, PSU stopped winning championship games. After 2007, they stopped making them at all. Heartbreak has overtaken happiness. So maybe it's even more appropriate that Icers history ends with a cloning of one of those moments of lesser fortune.

In 2007, Will McMahon was largely to blame for stopping the Icers cold in the national championship game, as Oakland won the title in its first year of Division 1 play. McMahon scored eight times, adding four assists, during the Grizzlies title run in Boardman, OH. The best of his tournament MVP and ACHA player-of-the-year season came in OU's Murdoch-clinching 5-1 win over the Icers when the 2010 ACHA Hall of Famer scored four of the Grizzlies' goals and assisted on the other.

Five years later, the role of four-goal-scoring nemesis was ably played by Jordan MacDonald, a senior from Rochester Hills, MI. To be sure, the 220-pound MacDonald plays a different style of game than the diminutive McMahon - but both are equally effective at terrorizing defensemen, as it turns out. Exhibit A: With Oakland clinging to a 3-2 lead in the third period, Dan Loucks retrieved a loose puck near the Icers blue line. Before the senior captain could make a play with it, MacDonald was on top of him, ripping the puck away, then coming in unabated on Matt Madrazo and scoring. Exhibit B: After Nate Jensen scored to slice the OU lead back to one at 4-3 and with the Icers again pushing for a tie in the last two minutes of the game, Eric Steinour won an offensive draw back to Jensen, who swung the puck across to Peter Sweetland. Once again though, the opportunistic MacDonald quickly approached, outmuscled a PSU defenseman for the puck, and took it himself on the resulting 2-on-1. Game over. Season over. Icers over.

MacDonald (center, with white sack) received a hero's welcome from Oakland supporters upon emerging from the locker room.

That's not to say that Penn State didn't have its moments. Michael Longo, who had a fantastic tournament, answered MacDonald's first goal with a one-timer blast from Bryce Johnson, who also had a fantastic tournament, in the right wing circle. Jake Friedman answered MacDonald's second with a drive through traffic late in the first period. But really, the story of this tilt was MacDonald, his selfless teammates that put on a shot-blocking clinic through long stretches of Icers territorial dominance, and goalie Matt Toter, who stopped most of what the shot blockers didn't, 35 saves in all on 38 PSU shots. It's also about a team that has performed the once-unthinkable task of playing in last Friday's first round as a 13th seed - essentially needing to win one more game than the tournament favorites - then slaying No. 4 Arizona State and No. 1 Penn State among its four wins en route to Wednesday night's final.

Unfortunately, another storyline has to be the absence of PSU's leading scorer, Justin Kirchhevel. The Alaska-Anchorage transfer from Brookings, SD was parked by Guy Gadowsky for his role in an altercation with Oklahoma goalie Nick Holmes in the Icers' quarterfinal win Sunday night. For the little that it's worth at this point, I sincerely do not believe that Kirchhevel playing would have changed the outcome. Regardless, the head coach's decision was not about the present, but about the future and about the type of program he will run at the NCAA level. Even if I'm incorrect in my assessment and Kirch would have propelled the Icers to victory, Gadowsky is to be commended for a tough decision. "Success with honor," while slighly cliche in PSU circles, is not mere lip service. If success comes at the price of our principles, then we'd rather not have success.

One of my favorite photographs is of Steve Yzerman as the Red Wings legend stepped off of the ice for the final time in his career, following his team's elimination by the Edmonton Oilers in 2006. With one of Yzerman's skates on the ice and the other about to land off of it, it's literally his last moment as an active player. Here's my attempt at something equally poignant to represent the end of the Icers.


Let the record show that senior defenseman Dan Petrick, a local product who grew up with the program, was the last to exit the playing surface. Much like the baseball greats in the movie Field of Dreams who disappeared into a cornfield, he and his teammates, the Icers, are now a part of history after similarly disappearing behind a plastic curtain.

Other Game


Lindenwood press release // Box score

Behind two goals apiece from Mark Zeszut and Nick LePore, the Delaware Blue Hens earned their way back to the ACHA championship game for the first time since 2001 with a 6-3 win over Lindenwood. LU, on the other hand, will now miss the Murdoch Cup final for the first time since 2007 (a season that, incidentally and as mentioned, ended with an Oakland title).

In defeating the Lions, UD exorcised demons beyond simply not appearing in the penultimate game of the ACHA season for a decade. Twice in recent years (2008 and 2011), Lindenwood has defeated the Hens in the semifinals, with last year's defeat at Delaware's home Fred Rust Ice Arena coming as particularly stinging. The semifinal in 2012, though, belongs to the Hens, who managed to keep LU at arm's length throughout the game. Following a scoreless first period, Zeszut struck both first and second. From there, every time the Lions sliced UD's seemingly perpertual two-goal lead to one, the Hens had a quick answer - within 1:13, 4:05 and 1:08, to be specific. That's one mark of a champion, a designation Delaware will try to make official Wednesday night for the first time in program history.

Wednesday Tournament Schedule

3. Delaware vs. 13. Oakland, 7:30 p.m., West Rink

Final Tournament Placement

3. Penn State
4. Lindenwood
5. Ohio
6. Minot State
7. Oklahoma
8. Adrian
9. Arizona State
10. Liberty
11. Iowa State
12. Robert Morris (IL)
13. Illinois
14. Davenport
15. Central Oklahoma
16. West Virginia
17. Rutgers
18. Kent State
19. Drexel
20. Mercyhurst

Leading Tournament Scorers

                  Team   GP   G    A   Pts.
Jordan MacDonald  OAK    4    6    2    8
Bryce Johnson     PSU    3    2    6    8
Michael Longo     PSU    3    4    3    7
Adam Novack       OAK    4    4    2    6
Frank Matyok      OAK    4    2    4    6
Spencer Bonomo    ADR    2    4    1    5
Neeco Belanger    LIN    3    4    1    5
Colin Long        LIN    3    2    3    5

Dustin Hopfner    OAK    4    2    3    5
Jason Michaud     DEL    3    1    4    5
Chad Hudson       OKL    2    3    1    4
Travis McKinney   OKL    2    2    2    4
Niklas Bunnstedt  LIN    3    2    2    4

Grant Gorczyca    LIN    3    2    2    4
Jordan Spear      ADR    2    1    3    4
Craig Martin      OKL    2    1    3    4
Darrell Boldon    ADR    2    1    3    4
Taylor Holstrom   PSU    3    1    3    4
Steve Brancheau   LIN    3    1    3    4
Brandon Johnson   OAK    4    1    3    4

Leading Tournament Goalies

                  Team   GP  Rec.   SH   SV   Pct.  GAA
Justin Wisniewski KSU    1   0-0-1  65   63   .969  1.59
Phil Graveline    DAV    2   1-1-0  83   79   .952  2.02
Matt Toter        OAK    4   4-0-0  135  126  .933  2.14
S.J. Broadt       DEL    3   3-0-0  --   --   .---  2.30
Nick Clarke       ILL    1   0-1-0  30   28   .933  2.43
Mark Schacker     ASU    1   0-0-1  36   33   .917  2.48
Rob Borcky        WVU    2   1-1-0  74   69   .932  2.50
Tory Caldwell     UCO    2   1-1-0  72   66   .917  2.65
Nick Holmes       OKL    2   1-0-0  50   45   .900  2.68
P.J. Musico       PSU    1   1-0-0  23   20   .870  3.00

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nationals Day 3: PSU 6 vs. Oklahoma 3/Quarterfinals



For those who didn't see Sunday evening's quarterfinal between Penn State and Oklahoma, an easy way to relate it might be to compare it with the February 4th meeting between the same two teams. Match the first 35 minutes of this one to the first 55 of that one, then the next six to the last five and it's a convenient and quick explanation. The Icers were down and out, but charged back with pointed emphasis.

Some games, though, defy simple explanation. This was one.

A sluggish start was punished late in the first period, when Chad Hudson beat goalie P.J. Musico. Just three minutes later, Blake Martin recovered an errant pass near the Icers' blue line. He managed to keep it in the zone and feed Jesse Bryant down low. Bryant then went high for a 2-0 Sooners lead into the first intermission.

While Bryce Johnson did pull the Icers within one on a gritty rebound goal, it didn't go unanswered. With Chris Cerutti off on a cross-checking call, some great movement on the OU power play ended when Martin passed from the left point to Hudson, stationed underneath the right circle. The Texas native finished off the goal, and Penn State was once again on the ropes.

There was 8:45 left in the second period at the point of Hudson's second, and for decades, hockey scholars all over the world have struggled to explain what happened next: Seemingly out of nowhere, the Icers started clicking. In a big way. An Oklahoma team that had done a masterful job of smothering PSU to that point was suddenly under siege. The payoff came first when Michael Longo took it himself on a 2-on-1 and barely squeezed a shot through OU goalie Nick Holmes at the 16:34 mark, then with 38 seconds left when Johnson calmly collected a loose puck off of a scramble in front and potted his second dirty goal of the proceedings. Just minutes after many in the large crowd commenced consideration of their season eulogies (guilty), the game was tied at the second intermission.

A bizarre twist helped bring the Icers the rest of the way to victory. As time expired in the second period, Holmes head-butted PSU's Justin Kirchhevel, who had wandered into the OU end to compare chirps with the netminder. Kirch, as anyone would, fought back. The altercation drew a major penalty for Holmes and a double minor for the Icers' leading scorer. So the beginning of the third period brought a rare sight: a goalie in the penalty box, as required by rule for a major penalty (but not for a minor). Holmes' backup, Colin Fernandes, was forced into the game cold and rudely greeted by Tommy Olczyk and Dom Morrone, both of whom scored on Fernandes in his first 1:01 manning the crease while assisting on the other's goal. The Sooners actually killed off the one-minute PSU power play resulting from the Holmes-Kirchhevel incident, but the damage had already been done. A Longo empty-netter provided the final margin.

Penn State advances to the semifinals to meet 13th-seeded Oakland, Tuesday at 5:00 p.m.

Other Games



In a penalty-laden affair between Michigan-based GLCHL rivals, Oakland topped Adrian behind a pair of goals from Frank Matyok. The junior opened the scoring off of a faceoff 4:28 into the game, then scored on a power play point blast that somehow got through Matt Anderson about 10 minutes later. That second goal was significant because it began a three-goal Grizzlies swing that turned a 2-2 first-period tie into a 5-2 Oakland lead late in a second period that featured ten minor infractions, six against OU.

Adrian did score the last two goals of the game, including Darrell Boldon's on the man advantage with 29 seconds left, but the comeback remained uncompleted. Oakland was already the only one of the eight teams that played in Friday's first round to make the quarterfinals, and now they're a round beyond that.
"We are doing this together." Matyok stated. "Nobody in the league thought we would be here. We knew it all along this team started in the beginning of the year that we can make it this far by believing in each other and hard work."
Billy Balent assisted on the Grizzlies' final goal.


Mark Zeszut's goal nine minutes into a second overtime lifted Delaware to an exhilarating win over the Ohio Bobcats. But before the game became known for its length, its defining characteristic was quick responses.

Less than two minutes after UD's Kevin Miller tied the at one in the second period with a sharp-angle snipe on the power play, Zander Dover restored Ohio's lead on a deflection goal. Michael Piet made the game even again on a one-timer from Andre Menard, but the Bobcats' Michael Schultz (who finishes his career three points in back of the school's all-time scoring leader, current head coach Dan Morris) got it back on the next shift. Delaware finally became the answerer instead of the answered when Chris Galgano's second attempt from up high found its way through a crowd to the back of the net 1:12 after Schultz's goal. Finally, in the third period, Chris Volonnino scored to force overtime 1:37 after Josh Fodor had given OU its final lead of the game.

The period and a half of overtime included four successful penalty kills (two by each team), and plenty of other heart-stopping moments. Then this happened:



While there are still three games remaining in this year's championships, as things stand right now, Delaware has won the consensus "best game of the tournament" two years in a row. Last year's Hens won a quarterfinal game with Adrian 5-4 after Brandon Weiner scored twice in the final minute of regulation to force overtime, where Kevin Miller won it in the second extra period.



A second-period barrage from the second-seeded Lindenwood Lions proved too much for a late Minot State comeback in Sunday's closing quarterfinal match. In extending their winning streak to 20 games, LU stopped the Beavers' run at 20.
What started as a close battle in the first turned into an offensive showcase for the Lions in the second as they used their speed and crisp passing to score five goals, including two on the power play. The first of those power play goals came from Meletti with 15:56 left in the period with help from Joe Bostic and Steve Brancheau. Neeco Belanger lit the lamp at even strength just over two minutes later off of a feed from Colin Long, and Bostic scored 71 seconds after that on a pass from Cam Chinnery. With 9:04 left in the second, Niklas Bunnstedt buried the puck for the fourth goal of the period for the Lions assisted by Brancheau. Things would get chippy in the latter half of the second which resulted in a five-on-three power play opportunity for Lindenwood. Gorczyca took advantage as he scored with 7:18 left. Long assisted on the play which gave the Lions a 6-1 lead at the second intermission.

With a comfortable five goal lead, the Lions went into a defensive mode, but the strategy almost backfired as the Beavers started chipping away, scoring three unanswered goals in the final period to pull within two of Lindenwood. In the end, the margin was enough for the Lions as they added an empty net goal from Long with three seconds remaining to make the final score 7-4.
Tuesday Tournament Schedule

1. Penn State vs. 13. Oakland, 5:00 p.m., West Rink
2. Lindenwood vs. 3. Delaware, 8:00 p.m., West Rink

Final Tournament Placement

5. Ohio
6. Minot State
7. Oklahoma
8. Adrian
9. Arizona State
10. Liberty
11. Iowa State
12. Robert Morris (IL)
13. Illinois
14. Davenport
15. Central Oklahoma
16. West Virginia
17. Rutgers
18. Kent State
19. Drexel
20. Mercyhurst

Leading Tournament Scorers

                  Team   GP   G    A   Pts.
Bryce Johnson     PSU    2    2    4    6
Frank Matyok      OAK    3    2    4    6
Spencer Bonomo    ADR    2    4    1    5
Michael Longo     PSU    2    3    2    5
Dustin Hopfner    OAK    3    2    3    5
Chad Hudson       OKL    2    3    1    4
Adam Novack       OAK    3    3    1    4
Neeco Belanger    LIN    2    2    2    4
Colin Long        LIN    2    2    2    4
Travis McKinney   OKL    2    2    2    4
Jordan McDonald   OAK    3    2    2    4

Jordan Spear      ADR    2    1    3    4
Taylor Holstrom   PSU    2    1    3    4
Craig Martin      OKL    2    1    3    4
Darrell Boldon    ADR    2    1    3    4
Jason Michaud     DEL    2    1    3    4
Brandon Johnson   OAK    3    1    3    4

Leading Tournament Goalies

                  Team   GP  Rec.   SH   SV   Pct.  GAA
Matt Madrazo      PSU    1   1-0-0  26   25   .962  1.00
Justin Wisniewski KSU    1   0-0-1  65   63   .969  1.59
Matt Toter        OAK    3   3-0-0  97   91   .938  1.87
S.J. Broadt       DEL    2   2-0-0  --   --   .---  2.01
Phil Graveline    DAV    2   1-1-0  83   79   .952  2.02
Nick Clarke       ILL    1   0-1-0  30   28   .933  2.43
Mark Schacker     ASU    1   0-0-1  36   33   .917  2.48
Rob Borcky        WVU    2   1-1-0  74   69   .932  2.50
Tory Caldwell     UCO    2   1-1-0  72   66   .917  2.65
Nick Holmes       OKL    2   1-0-0  50   45   .900  2.68
Linus Ahgren      LIN    2   2-0-0  53   47   .887  3.00
P.J. Musico       PSU    1   1-0-0  23   20   .870  3.00

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Nationals Day 2: PSU 4 vs. WVU 1/Second Round



If history is any indication, we may be in for something special over the next few days.

Before dismissing the Icers' much-tougher-than-expected 4-1 win over West Virginia as your choice of a) underachievement, b) overachievement or c) how hockey goes sometimes, consider the following nationals openers from PSU history:
  • March 1, 2000: The Icers need third-period goals from Ryan Wick and Alon Eizenman to put away Illinois 5-2, back when the Illini were decidedly south of "feared."
  • March 1, 2001: In a similar type of game, second-seeded PSU let Kent State hang around until late Justin DePretis and Bobby Pate goals.
  • February 27, 2002: In the biggest on-paper mismatch of that year's tournament, 12th-seeded Drexel takes top-seeded PSU to the limit before falling 2-1.
  • February 26, 2003: Despite an 8-3 final score, the Icers struggle with heavy underdog Eastern Michigan, leading only 4-2 in the third period at one point.
After less-than-inspiring starts, each of those tournaments ended the same way - with one of the Icers' last four national championships. In this tournament's Icers debut, PSU struggled with a team it had beaten by a combined 14-1 in two January meetings. Perhaps by the time the show has run its course, March 3, 2012 will join the above list.

A strong early Penn State push in this second-round tilt with West Virginia abruptly ended with Tod Camara's power play goal for a 1-0 WVU lead with 7:59 remaining in the opening period, when he chipped Ken Bickell's point shot past Matt Madrazo. The Icers had dominated territorially until the too many men penalty that led to the advantage, and the Mountaineers, enlivened by the unlikely lead, started to find their legs and didn't seem particularly dissuaded by Michael Longo's power play goal off of a scramble in front of Mountaineer goalie Rob Borcky with just eight seconds remaining in the first period.

West Virginia did a masterful job all game long of waiting back and keeping the Icers' transition game in check, which has sort of become the book on how to play Penn State this year (blame Ohio for writing said book back in October). Borcky was also very good, stopping whatever got through.

However, it just took one mistake to undo two periods of a well-executed game plan. A muffed shot by the Mountaineers just under five minutes into the third period was astutely retrieved by Bryce Johnson, who started an odd man rush. A charging Brandon Russo was the beneficiary of Johnson's feed, and he buried to give the Icers the lead for the first time. The former St. Cloud State Husky was quite proud of the moment on Twitter following the game.


Another WVU mistake was punished, and some PSU insurance was gained, with 6:55 left in the game when Taylor Holstrom scored just seven seconds after Ken Bickell took a hooking penalty. Shortly after, Justin Kirchhevel matched Johnson in sauce slinging on the rush, with Mike McDonagh on the receiving end to deflect home the match's final goal.

With the win, the Icers move on to the quarterfinals, where No. 9 Oklahoma awaits at 5:00 p.m. Sunday.

Other Games



Goaltender Matt Anderson, a stout Adrian penalty kill and a second-period barrage keyed a 6-3 Bulldogs win over Liberty in the opening game of the second round.

Even after AC built a 4-1 lead late in that middle period, the margin was jeopardized by a 2:38 5-on-3 advantage for the Flames. Not only did Adrian kill it off, but Tristan Musser found a fresh-out-of-the-box Alex Norman for a shorthanded breakaway goal that was enough to withstand an abbreviated Flames rally in the third. From the Adrian recap:
#12 seed Adrian took down the #5 seed Flames with a five-goal second period which put the game away. Liberty had a 1-0 lead after one period after Jake Hannon scored at 7:34. The Bulldogs then got to work in the second. Spencer Bonomo scored the first of his three goals on the day at 17:49 and then Ryan Bachman gave AC a 2-1 lead at 13:40.

Adrian's Jordan Spear scored at 8:53 followed by Bonomo again at 6:47 and then a short-handed goal by Alex Norman with eight seconds left in the period. Spear led Adrian with four points including a goal and three assists.

Rick Turner's power play goal at 11:42 of the third made it 5-2 and then Ryley Egan scored at 6:28 to cut the lead to 5-3. Adrian put it away with 5:45 left as Bonomo's hat trick gave the Bulldogs a first-round win. Darrell Boldon also had three assists for the Bulldogs. Matt Anderson stopped 43-of-46 shots for a .935 save percentage for Adrian.
Anderson and two of his fellow PKers during the late second period 5-on-3.



Adam Novack buried the winner with 7:19 left in overtime to complete the biggest upset of the tournament so far, as 13th-seeded Oakland took down No. 4 Arizona State - one of the tournament favorites - 3-2. Said Novack of his golden goal:
"The Sun Devil player broke his stick. I tied the guy up on the wall and Macker (teammate Jordan MacDonald) come up with the puck. We were going two on two and we were going neck and neck with the defenseman and I was able to get wide of him and Mac (MacDonald) threw a nice pass. The goalie slid with me and I went back short side over his blocker."
The extra-period drama was only possible because of goalie Matt Toter's heroics to keep the Sun Devils at bay. Fresh off of a shutout of Mercyhurst in the opening round, Toter turned away 49 of 51 Sun Devil attempts, including every single one of them after the first period ended. Brandon Johnson and Dustin Hopfner scored in the second period for the Grizzlies to erase an early 2-0 hole and (eventually) force overtime.

The intensite of the ASU bench during the overtime period was ultimately unrewarded.



Ohio twice jumped out to three-goal leads, and twice survived subsequent Illinois rallies, as the Bobcats eliminated their CSCHL rivals to advance to the quarterfinals. Tyler Pilmore, Nick Rostek and Jonathan Pietramala represented the first OU barrage. Each scored in the first 10:38 of the game, sending Illini starting goalie Dan Rooney to the bench in favor of Nick Clarke.
At the onset of the second, Illinois came out with a more inspired effort. Another Schultz, Derek, who also wears number 10, broke the scoring drought for the Fighting Illini, sending one past the right blocker of Fedor Dushkin.

Later in the second, an unlikely strike from Matt Welch found twine to bring the Illini to within one. It was Welch’s fourth score on the year. On their heels, the Bobcats buckled down for a run that built their lead up once again.

Zack Barbis fired top shelf after splitting the Illini defense to put the lead at 4-2. Later in the frame, another skater got his fourth goal of the year. This time, it was John Luciana, who fired left side past Rooney to build Ohio’s lead back to three goals.
Illinois again trimmed the lead to one in the third period thanks to a pair of power play goals, but could get no closer, thanks in part to a boarding penalty while attempting to get Clarke off for an extra skater. The call negated the extra Illinois attacker, and OU held on for the win.



A pair of third-period goals from Ryan McDonald and Chris Volonnino snapped a 1-1 tie and propelled the third-seeded Blue Hens through to the quarterfinals over the defending national champions.

With the Panthers' Blake Dameroux in the box for tripping, UD defenseman Jason Michaud blasted a point shot wide off the end boards, allowing Christian Tasker to retrieve it and feed McDonald in front for the eventual game winner. The insurance came just under five minutes later when Volonnino powered Nick LePore's drop pass past Davenport goalie Phil Graveline. Well before that, the teams had traded opening period goals, as Michaud dented the scoresheet first, followed 1:54 later by DU's Zack Blumke finishing Phil Wendecker's centering pass.

Delaware's win wasn't an ordinary dethroning of defending champs. While the Panthers won the D1 title last season in their first year at that level, they also won D2 titles in 2008, 2009 and 2010. This defeat, then, was DU's first at an ACHA national championship tournament since the 2007 D2 national championship game.



Most tournament games between eighth and ninth seeds are close. This one was not. Oklahoma obliterated Iowa State behind a four-point effort from Travis McKinney and three more from Craig Martin.

McKinney notched half of his points in the first 3:20 of the game as the Sooners buried ISU early. His power play goal opened the scoring, and he set up Broderick Browne at even strength 1:28 later. Oklahoma chased Cyclone goalie Paul Karus before the first period ended on another man-advantage tally, this time from Troy Puente. Karus' replacement, Jared Anderson, wasn't treated any better as the Sooners rattled off second period goals from Martin, McKinney, Chad Hudson and Alex Jacobs to put the game completely out of reach. In all, OU was 4-of-6 on the power play after converting on the first four attempts.

Goaltender Nick Holmes stopped 19 of 21 for the Sooners in a largely stress-free outing.

Holmes spent much of the game observing action at the other end.



Seventh-seeded Minot State rallied from an early 2-0 hole against Robert Morris (IL) to win going away.

While Donald Iverson's first-period answer 1:35 after RMU scored their second was important, even more so was a dominant second period that saw the Beavers put four past Eagle goalie Andy DiCristofaro. Danny Urban tied the game on a rebound goal at the 7:07 mark, and markers from Cam McGeough, Josh Rutherford (on the power play) and Michael Jordan in the last 3:15 of the middle period put Minot firmly in control of things.

Robert Morris did make things a little interesting late. With the Beavers laying back and trying to kill off the entire third period, Tony Domico deflected Ryan O'Connell's point shot past Wyatt Waselenchuk to cut the MSU lead to two with 9:20 left. The Eagles kept good pressure on throughout much of the period but were unable to add a fourth goal before Jordan added insurance in the final minute of play to effectively end the tilt.



The Lindenwood Lions used bursts of offense early and late to topple an upset-minded Central Oklahoma.

When LU's Steve Brancheau and Joe Bostic scored in the first 1:38 of the game, it looked like UCO - which was coming off of a hard-earned OT win against Kent State in the opening round - might be blown out. Colin Long's power play goal for a 3-0 Lindy lead seemed to confirm that line of thinking.

But the Bronchos, as Icers fans know all too well, have an ability to hang with heavily-favored teams. Shane Khalaf answered Long on the very next shift to cut the lead to 3-1 after one period. Late in the second, UCO's Peter Kressner located his team's leading scorer, Donald Geary, coming off of the bench. Geary received Kressner's stretch pass and cashed in the resulting breakaway with a backhand between the pads of Linus Ahgren.

However, before the enormous upset could properly materialize, a bizarre twist doomed it. With 8:44 left, Lindenwood's Neeco Belanger shot on the Broncho net from center. What started as a harmless looking half dump-half shot took a tricky bounce in front and eluded UCO goalie Tory Caldwell for a back-breaking goal. Belanger added another three minutes later for the final margin.

Sunday Tournament Schedule

12. Adrian vs. 13. Oakland, 11:00 a.m., West Rink
3. Delaware vs. 6. Ohio, 2:00 p.m., West Rink
1. Penn State vs. 9. Oklahoma, 5:00 p.m., West Rink
2. Lindenwood vs. 7. Minot State, 8:00 p.m., West Rink

Final Tournament Placement

9. Arizona State
10. Liberty
11. Iowa State
12. Robert Morris (IL)
13. Illinois
14. Davenport
15. Central Oklahoma
16. West Virginia
17. Rutgers
18. Kent State
19. Drexel
20. Mercyhurst

Leading Tournament Scorers

                  Team   GP   G    A   Pts.
Travis McKinney   OKL    1    2    2    4
Jordan McDonald   OAK    2    2    2    4
Jordan Spear      ADR    1    1    3    4
Daniel Lamb       MSU    1    0    4    4
Spencer Bonomo    ADR    1    3    0    3
Adam Novack       OAK    2    3    0    3
Michael Jordan    MSU    1    2    1    3
Neeco Belanger    LIN    1    2    1    3
Dustin Hopfner    OAK    2    2    1    3
Craig Martin      OKL    1    1    2    3
Brandon Johnson   OAK    2    1    2    3
Darrell Boldon    ADR    1    0    3    3
Mike Evans        ILL    1    0    3    3
Frank Matyok      OAK    2    0    3    3
Jacob DeSano      OAK    2    0    3    3

Leading Tournament Goalies

                  Team   GP  Rec.   SH   SV   Pct.  GAA
Matt Toter        OAK    2   2-0-0  69   67   .971  0.90
Matt Madrazo      PSU    1   1-0-0  26   25   .962  1.00
S.J. Broadt       DEL    1   1-0-0  --   --   .---  1.00
Justin Wisniewski KSU    1   0-0-1  65   63   .969  1.59
Linus Ahgren      LIN    1   1-0-0  31   29   .935  2.00
Nick Holmes       OKL    1   1-0-0  21   19   .905  2.00
Phil Graveline    DAV    2   1-1-0  83   79   .952  2.02
Nick Clarke       ILL    1   0-1-0  30   28   .933  2.43
Mark Schacker     ASU    1   0-0-1  36   33   .917  2.48
Rob Borcky        WVU    2   1-1-0  74   69   .932  2.50
Tory Caldwell     UCO    2   1-1-0  72   66   .917  2.65
Matt Anderson     ADR    1   1-0-0  46   43   .935  3.00
Wyatt Waselenchuk MSU    1   1-0-0  27   24   .889  3.00

Friday, March 2, 2012

Nationals Day 1: First Round



The thirteenth-seeded Oakland Grizzlies used dominant special teams to dispose of an outclassed Mercyhurst in the opening match of the ACHA national championship tournament.

Following a strong first few minutes from the Lakers, OU turned an early shorthanded situation into momentum. Shortly after Alexander Hoffman's boarding penalty expired, Oakland gained a power play, and Jordan McDonald cashed it in for the opening goal. McDonald again factored into the scoring six minutes later when he pulled the puck from the boards to feed Billy Balent, who whipped out a filthy toe drag/bury combo to make it 2-0 at the break. From there, things got a little out of hand.
The second period saw the Grizzlies explode for five goals including a rocket on the power play by defenseman Dustin Hopfner.

Not to be outdone forward Adam Novack would fire a rebound shot into a wide open Lakers net for another power play goal.

MacDonald and Novack would also add a goal each for the Grizzlies later in the second period.

Midway through the second period forward Ethan Range would extend the Grizzlies lead to 5-0. Range would also score the lone Grizzlies goal in the third period.
In all, Oakland was 4-of-9 on the power play. The Grizzlies will now face No. 4 Arizona State Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.



A game Drexel squad gave defending national champion Davenport all they could handle before falling 4-1. After the Dragons dominated play through the first 16 minutes, the Panthers flipped on a switch while killing a late Jeff Slusser cross-checking penalty. Shortly after, with only 17 seconds left in the stanza, Ben Dykstra one-timed Brock Carlston's feed home from the high slot to complete the drastic momentum swing.

The score remained 1-0 until 5:00 into the second period, when Norm Farr was awarded - and converted - a penalty shot to make it 2-0. Farr had broken in on Drexel goalie Dan Pyne alone, but Dragons defenseman Mike Antoni came back and took his legs out (whether he successfully played the puck first to make the penalty shot a bad call is a matter of some debate, especially with Drexel partisans). Ross Denczi sliced the Panther lead in half off of a centering feed from Kyle Zoldy later in the middle period, but the Dragons would get to closer, as Dysktra added a second goal with 3:56 left to seal the win before an empty-netter closed the scoring.

Here are the thoughts of Davenport head coach Phil Sweeney:

"We had to do what we had to do to win the game. It wasn't the prettiest thing in the world but it's the national tournament and you're going to have games were the puck bounces over the stick or guys have breakdowns. To their credit, Drexel played us tough. They played their system, had odd-man rushes and [goalie Phil] Graveline came up big when he needed to."
Davenport, the 14th seed, will square off with No. 3 Delaware Saturday at 2:00 p.m.



Arguably the most anticipated game of the first round failed to live up to that billing as West Virginia cruised to a shockingly easy 5-1 win over Rutgers. The Mountaineers move on to the second round, where they'll play Penn State Saturday at 5:00 p.m.

Really, the only reason the score wasn't more one-sided was the efforts of RU goalie Brandon DeLibero. He stopped 15 of 16 West Virginia shots in the first period to keep the Scarlet Knights temporarily engaged and 32 of 37 overall. The Eers placed themselves firmly in control with two goals 1:36 apart early in the second from Christian Lewton and Sam Jarrett. Jarrett added a second goal in the third period, and Conor Frei also tallied to thwart any notion of a Rutgers comeback. The Knights' extremely potent top line, despite a second-period Matthew McDonald goal, was largely shut down by a nice defensive effort, and RU was unable to find a secondary attack.



If the Rutgers-West Virginia game was disappointingly non-competitive, this tilt more than made up for it. I mean, what else would you expect from a matchup of a team that lost to Penn State 13-1 one week ago (part of a 13 game losing streak overall) and one that beat the Icers in January?

Thanks largely to the efforts of Golden Flashes goalie Justin Wisniewski, who stopped 63 of 65 shots playing in his hometown of Strongsville, OH, the expected blowout became an unlikely classic. He and Central Oklahoma netminder Tory Caldwell traded saves through a scoreless first two periods. But when the ice tilted towards Wisniewski as the game went on and Broncho defenseman Tyler Benson walked into the high slot and roofed one over him with 15:50 left in the game, it looked like the end for the Flashes. The story, though, was just beginning.

In the extremely late stages of the third period, and during a scramble in front of the UCO goal, Caldwell pushed his net off and was busted for doing so a single second away from victory. Penalty shot, Kent State. Jeremy Melbye calmly buried it, forcing overtime, and forcing me to delete my queued-up final score tweet.

UCO dominated play for the first five minutes of the extra session, but KSU somehow rediscovered their legs and evened things out for a wild stretch of prime chances in each direction for the next seven. With 4:13 left though, Melbye - the hero of the recent past via his penalty shot - became a goat. His turnover deep in the KSU end went right on the stick of UCO's Patrick Higgins, who teed up teammate Corey Allen to blast home the winner and send Central Oklahoma to the second round, where they'll play No. 2 Lindenwood Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Saturday Tournament Schedule

5. Liberty vs. 12. Adrian, 10:00 a.m., East Rink
4. Arizona State vs. 13. Oakland, 11:00 a.m., West Rink
6. Ohio vs. 11. Illinois, 1:00 p.m., East Rink
3. Delaware vs. 14. Davenport, 2:00 p.m., West Rink
8. Iowa State vs. 9. Oklahoma, 4:00 p.m., East Rink
1. Penn State vs. 17. West Virginia, 5:00 p.m., West Rink
7. Minot State vs. 10. Robert Morris, 7:00 p.m., East Rink
2. Lindenwood vs. 15. Central Oklahoma, 8:00 p.m., West Rink

Final Tournament Placement

17. Rutgers
18. Kent State
19. Drexel
20. Mercyhurst

Leading Tournament Scorers

                  Team   GP   G    A   Pts.
Jordan McDonald   OAK    1    2    1    3
Jacob DeSano      OAK    1    0    3    3
Adam Novack       OAK    1    2    0    2
Ethan Range       OAK    1    2    0    2
Sam Jarrett       WVU    1    2    0    2
Ben Dykstra       DAV    1    2    0    2
Dustin Hopfner    OAK    1    1    1    2
Christian Lewton  WVU    1    1    1    2
Brandon Johnson   OAK    1    0    2    2
Alexander Hoffman OAK    1    0    2    2
Frank Matyok      OAK    1    0    2    2

Leading Tournament Goalies

                  Team   GP  Rec.   SH   SV   Pct.  GAA
Matt Toter        OAK    1   1-0-0  18   18   1.00  0.00
Tory Caldwell     UCO    1   1-0-0  31   30   .968  0.79
Phil Graveline    DAV    1   1-0-0  42   41   .976  1.00
Rob Borcky        WVU    1   1-0-0  26   25   .962  1.00
Justin Wisniewski KSU    1   0-0-1  65   63   .969  1.59

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End of the Road (Part II)


Part 2 of a three-part series previewing the ACHA Division 1 national championship tournament (Part 1).

In yesterday's post addressing Friday's first round, I predicted that Oakland, Davenport, West Virginia and Central Oklahoma will advance. How will they fare against the top twelve seeds in a sixteen-team second round? Let's find out.

5. Liberty (23-8-4) vs. 12. Adrian (25-13-1)

Saturday, 10:00 a.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Liberty: none, Adrian: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Liberty: 2010 (10th), Adrian: 2011 (5th)
Liberty: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Adrian: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

The first second-round matchup to be played might be the most intriguing, because it involves two teams that are capable of beating just about any team in the country. Penn State saw that characteristic in Liberty firsthand back in December, while Adrian has a win over No. 4 Arizona State and a one-goal loss to second-seeded Lindenwood on their resume. Of course, both teams have had a look at the reverse scenario as well - AC has lost to Eastern Michigan (in a shootout), while the Flames lost to Stony Brook.

Adrian, the GLCHL tournament champs, scores a ton of goals - nearly five per game - and a lot of them have something to do with Ryan Bachman, a sophomore from the Chicago area who is the fourth-leading scorer in the entire ACHA and tops among those at the tournament.

Ryan Bachman probably doesn't support Michelle Bachman as much as Liberty.

Liberty scores quite a few goals themselves, many coming off of a physical forecheck, and can answer the Bulldogs' star power with Brent Boschman, who sits just behind Bachman on the points leaderboard. Those players were prominent when Bulldogs and Flames met for two in Lynchburg back in October, with Boschman's three points fueling a 6-2 LU win before Bachman's side got revenge to the tune of 4-3 the next day.

For this one I'm expecting scoring, and I'm expecting a late Adrian power play goal to advance to the quarterfinals. I feel like the Bulldogs are a little underseeded, they're coming in on a roll, and they'll certainly be motivated after how their season ended last year in Delaware.

Pick: Adrian, 6-5.

4. Arizona State (28-5-1) vs. 13. Oakland (21-15-2)

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Arizona State: none, Oakland: 2007
Last Tournament Appearance: Arizona State: 2011 (10th), Oakland: 2011 (8th)
Arizona State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Oakland: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Because of their geographic isolation, many of you might not be aware of this, but Arizona State is good. Very good. National championship good. Consider their record against the top six seeds this season: 5-1-0, a mark that includes wins over each except themselves (naturally) and Penn State (PSU, incidentally, is a similarly good 6-2-0 against Ohio, Liberty and Delaware). Largely because of that, they cruise into Strongsville with the highest seed in program history.

Senior Mark Schacker, an ACHA all-star last season, gives ASU a solid foundation in net. Here's video of some of his teammates from a 7-3 win against Central Oklahoma this year.



I think the thing that strikes me there is that the guys stepping in that game weren't top scorers Dan Styrna or Kale Dolinski, but secondary guys Dave Jantzie and Patrick Rogan. Another mark of a great team. And lest you think that the Sun Devils are feasting on a parade of opponents on long road trips to Tempe, they're 9-2-1 outside of their home state, including wins over tournament teams Adrian, Liberty, Delaware, Davenport, Kent State (yeah, I know) and UCO.

In the end, too much talent for Oakland to handle, and I don't believe the Grizzlies' goalie rotation of Matt Toter and Corey Hrischuk is good enough to steal one.

Pick: Arizona State, 5-1.

6. Ohio (26-13-1) vs. 11. Illinois (16-16-1)

Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Ohio: 1995-1997, 2004, Illinois: 2005, 2008
Last Tournament Appearance: Ohio: 2011 (3rd), Illinois: 2010 (6th)
Ohio: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Illinois: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

If you're a fan of the "classic" ACHA, then this is the game for you. Two tradition-laden programs that are both on the exclusive list of those with multiple national championships (Penn State, North Dakota State and Lindenwood are the only others). Ohio has four, which is a big part of why they're generally regarded as the second most successful program ever. Illinois has only half that many to its credit, but they do have one thing OU doesn't: that 38-0-0 2008 team is the only one in ACHA history with a perfect record.

There's more that makes this game appealing, of course. The two teams are bitter CSCHL rivals. Furthermore, Illini coach Chad Cassel, who has built one of the ACHA's great programs since taking over in Champaign, is retiring after the season.
"I been doing this for 16 years,” Cassel said. "It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s time. I feel like I got one more good run in me here in the national tournament."
I'm not so sure that he does. I shouldn't need to explain Ohio to any Icers fan, but just in case: Michael Schultz, Tyler Pilmore, Brett Agnew, Nick Rostek. Expect to see those guys on the scoresheet a lot, and expect to be impressed by the team's defensive forwards as well. I mentioned that the Bobcats and Illini share a conference, so I'm sure you're wondering how their games went this year.



Specifically, 4-1 and 5-1 wins for OU at Bird Arena in early January. While Illinois will certainly play hard for their coach, that and neutral ice aren't worth a four-goal swing.

Pick: Ohio, 4-2.

3. Delaware (30-3-1) vs. 14. Davenport (21-19-0)

Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Delaware: none, Davenport: 2011
Last Tournament Appearance: Delaware: 2011 (4th), Davenport: 2011 (1st)
Delaware: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Davenport: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

I'm concerned about Delaware, for a few reasons.

For starters, they got a raw deal from a certain segment of poll voters and the ACHA rulebook. After finishing second in the final regular season rankings, they were bumped down to the third seed by a ridiculous ACHA rule that counts the votes of every coach for purposes of deciding who makes the tournament but only those of qualifying coaches to determine seeding. So the Blue Hens have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, and rightfully so, since the coaches in Strongsville don't regard them as highly as the larger Division 1 group.

What sounds like a technicality becomes much more significant when you consider that while second-seeded Lindenwood draws UCO or Kent State in the second round, UD might get the defending champs. Sure Davenport's not quite the same Davenport, but they do need to be considered capable of taking down the Hens - or just about anyone.

Delaware's also coming into this thing a little bit wobbly. After winning the ESCHL regular season championship, they were dispatched 7-2 by Rhode Island in the league playoffs. Backup goalie Nick Casella played in that game, and rumors that starter S.J. Broadt (one of the ACHA's best) has a broken foot are out there. All of it points to UD being extremely ripe for an upset. And really, you shouldn't be surprised if it happens. In fact, my first instinct was to call for it here, but after further contemplation, I think the Hens have talent and depth up front (Ryan McDonald, Christian Tasker, Kevin Miller, Andre Menard, and on and on...) to carry the day here regardless of the goaltender.

Pick: Delaware, 5-4.

8. Iowa State (28-9-5) vs. 9. Oklahoma (25-12-2)

Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Iowa State: 1992, 1999, Oklahoma: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Iowa State: 2010 (2nd), Oklahoma: 2011 (7th)
Iowa State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Oklahoma: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

After missing this tournament for the first time in program history, Al Murdoch's team had a nice bounceback year. Long-time ACHA followers know what that means:


Yep, the Cyclone Hockey Cheer Squad will be back at nationals. I'll let each of you form your own opinions as to whether that's a good thing or not. Whatever your take on hockey cheerleaders generally or these hockey cheerleaders specifically, I've always found it a little awkward when they're up in front of a sparse and non-responsive crowd, as happens when two light-traveling teams play each other.

More to the point of the on-ice product, ISU has spurned the tradition of Glenn Detulleo (he's still playing pro hockey, by the way) and are decidedly a defense-first team, just as they were when they made their surprise run to the 2010 national championship game. Back then, it was goalie Erik Hudson leading the way. This year's team 2.50 goals against average is largely due to Paul Karus, Hudson's understudy in 2010, but now the starter. Don't be fooled into thinking it's strictly a goaltending effort though - ISU has eight defensemen who played in either the NAHL or a Canadian Jr. A league. Among the highlights of this group's efforts: a 1-0 shutout of the Sooners on September 30th and a 2-1 win at Arizona State on November 5th. Jon Feavel scored the only goal of that Oklahoma game, and he's one to watch up front, as is J.P. Kascsak.

Regular TYT readers know that I consider Oklahoma one of the most talented teams in the ACHA, as they boast several former NAHLers of their own. Goalie Nick Holmes, a UCO transfer, is a stud, and Blake Martin, formerly of NCAA Division I Nebraska-Omaha, carries the mail up front. Shane Vorndran, who played a season and a half at ACHA Mercyhurst, is another of OU's top scorers. Yeah, they attract a lot of transfers too. Generally, the one-line assessment on the Sooners is that they're a team with a high ceiling, but one that can't stay out of the box. Martin was the poster child for that statement last year with a team-leading 143 penalty minutes in 38 games, but he's cut 70 percent from that number this year and the rest of the team is much improved as well.

While this will be one of the better games of the day, one that could go either way, I think Oklahoma's balance and a good game from Holmes get it done.

Pick: Oklahoma, 3-2.

1. Penn State (27-3-1) vs. 17. West Virginia (23-14-0)

Saturday, 5:00 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Penn State: 1998, 2000-2003, West Virginia: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Penn State: 2011 (11th), West Virginia: 2008 (14th)
Penn State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
West Virginia: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics


(Sorry, I'll save the serious analysis for the teams the Icers haven't beaten 8-0 and 6-1 this year. Or 13-2 and 9-0 if it's Rutgers in this game.)

Pick: Penn State, 8-2.

7. Minot State (25-6-2) vs. 10. Robert Morris (IL) (26-6-2)

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Minot State: none, Robert Morris: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Minot State: 2011 (9th), Robert Morris: 2011 (12th)
Minot State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Robert Morris: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Back when Minot wore a giant M on the front of their home sweaters, there was a very obvious comparison.


Of course, there's one glaring difference between the Beavers and Russell Crowe's band of misfits: when the New York Rangers come calling, Minot doesn't always show up to play. I've always thought this was a product of the Beavers' schedule, which tends to be a little sparse by necessity of geography. This year, they only played 19 games against other ACHA D1 teams, filling out most of the rest of their dates with nearby junior colleges. Often at the ACHA tournament, MSU would come out on fire, then drastically fade out within a couple of games. Last year that fade happened over the course of a single game, as Oakland appeared to strengthen late before upsetting the Beavers in overtime in the first round.

Before you assume that I'm going to go against Minot on that theory though, consider that outstanding goalie Wyatt Waselenchuk, leading scorer Josh Rutherford and their teammates may have already proven capable of the task in front of them. From January 26th through 29th, the Beavers played four games at Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma, and won all of them by a combined 15-2 score. I don't care who or what you are, or where you play, that's impressive.

Robert Morris has a pretty nice resume themselves (as tends to be the case with good teams coming from the always-tough CSCHL), and part of it includes going up to Minot in October and earning a split via a 4-3 shootout win. Goaltender Andy DiCristofaro sports a 1.83 goals against average, and he and his defense have proven they can shut down the best when on their game - see single goals allowed in games against Ohio and Adrian and two against in a game with Oklahoma for reference. Much like the Iowa State-Oklahoma game, I see a low-scoring affair that can go either way, but I'm giving this one to coach Wade Regier's side.

Pick: Minot State, 2-1.

2. Lindenwood (30-5-0) vs. 15. Central Oklahoma (15-22-1)

Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Lindenwood: 2009, 2010, Central Oklahoma: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Lindenwood: 2011 (2nd), Central Oklahoma: 2010 (4th)
Lindenwood: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Central Oklahoma: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

The Lions, as usual, come into the tournament as definite championship contenders - though probably not as the prohibitive favorites of the last several years. That's not to say that they're not extremely formidable with only four losses this season (three of which were to Oklahoma). All of those defeats have one thing in common: they happened a while ago. Rick Zombo's gang has reeled off 18 consecutive wins, including, most recently, a 6-4 win over Ohio at Bird Arena in the CSCHL championship game.
It was everything you would want a conference championship to be as both the Lions and Bobcats battled back and forth for most of the game. Lindenwood jumped out to an early lead as Steve Brancheau lit the lamp off a feed from Nick Carey just over two minutes into the first, but Ohio tied it with a power play goal midway through the period and then took a 2-1 lead to the first intermission with another goal with 8:17 left.

The Lions wasted no time in the second as Grant Gorczyca tied the game just 27 seconds into the period. Colin Long and Peppi Sipila assisted on the play. With 9:11 left, Lindenwood edged in front with a goal from Neeco Belanger assisted by Tobias Dahlstrom and Barclay Berner, but the Bobcats battled back to tie the game at 3-3 as they scored with only eight seconds remaining.

Defense prevailed through the first seven minutes of the third as neither team was able to find the back of the net, but Lindenwood capitalized with the man advantage when Brancheau scored on the power play from Tyler Bowman and Joe Bostic at the 12:45 left in the period. The key play of the game came two minutes later when Ohio was looking to tie the game on its own power play, but the Lions turned the tables when Niklas Bunnstedt broke free on a pass from Bostic and scored a short-handed goal with 10:36 left to give Lindenwood a 5-3 lead. The Lions extended that lead to three on the second goal from Gorczyca, assisted by Sipila and Bowman with 9:07 remaining. The Bobcats did get their fourth goal late in the third, but it wasn't enough as the Lions prevailed with the 6-4 win.
The Lions weren't a one-trick pony either, as they also plowed through the CSCHL (which includes OU, Iowa State, Robert Morris (IL), Illinois, Kent State and Indiana) unbeaten. Incidentally, in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, LU's record includes 4-0-0 against UCO, and only one of those games was closer than a three-goal margin. So yeah, I'm advancing Lindenwood. There's just too much there for a largely one-trick Bronchos squad.

Pick: Lindenwood, 5-1.

In tomorrow's finale, we'll go all the way from the quarterfinals through to the Murdoch Cup with the eight remaining teams: Adrian, Arizona State, Ohio, Delaware, Oklahoma, Penn State, Minot State and Lindenwood.