Monday, October 18, 2010

Weekend Observations: Central Oklahoma

A few random thoughts from the Icers' sweep of No. 16 Central Oklahoma this past weekend, since you can see so much more in person than you can through a grainy UStream video.

Penn State has maybe the deepest group of forwards I've seen, as all four lines are legitimately capable of generating offense. The top line of Chris Cerutti-Tim O'Brien-Taylor Cera was particularly deadly all weekend, but George Saad and Eric Steinour combined for two goals Friday, including the overtime winner (although that one was mostly Saad). Saad also was victimized by UCO goalie Nick Holmes several times.

An Icers trademark over the years has been a relentless forecheck, and this current group is certainly up to that legacy, particularly on the penalty kill, where the forwards have enough speed to make you work in your own zone without sacrificing on the back end. This was evident on the first goal Friday, where outstanding work by Cerutti ended with an easy goal for O'Brien.

However, I'm still not entirely sold on this defense group yet. Still too many turnovers, a couple of which ended up behind Teddy Hume, one of which ended a power play, and still not enough offense. I'll exempt Kevin Miller from that blanket statement, I thought he had a good weekend. I'll exempt Rich O'Brien from the offense part of it as well.

This was my first in-person look at the new hybrid icing rule, which allows for the traditional icing to be waved off if it looks like the icing/attacking team will win the race to the puck. I have to admit, I'm not a fan. The idea is that game flow will be improved with fewer whistles, but linesmen will still be able to whistle the play down to prevent big collisions and injuries. It's supposed to take the best from both icing worlds, but to me, it takes the worst. My understanding is that icing is to be called when the race is tied at the faceoff circles, but this wasn't always happening, and not blowing it dead there doesn't prevent the hits. Still, I'm willing to give it time for adjustment, as I think it's a good idea in theory. Besides, it was hilarious to hear fans unfamiliar with the rule yell at the linesman for "missing" an icing, so that by itself might be worth it.

While on the surface the three-goal total margin in revenge games against a team that had struggled with top competition might be a letdown, the flow of each game clearly favored Penn State. I think the Icers were their own worst enemy at times - for example, Friday night, the team clearly came out with guns blazing, hitting everything in sight, generating quality chances...but when none of those early chances found the back of the net, the team started pressing a little and got sucked into some of the after-whistle stuff. These were clearly games circled on the calendar, but too much emotion can be a negative, contrary to popular belief.

The physicality of both games wasn't done justice by the Collegian article - the Icers were clearly out for blood, and credit UCO for answering the bell, giving back some hits of their own, and getting under Penn State's skin on at least one occasion.

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