Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Palpable Concern

This season is definitely at a crossroads, and while I'm not going to do a Chicken Little post just yet, we're entering an absolutely crucial set of games from now through the end of the semester. Yes, it's only mid-November, and no the sky isn't falling. But it's cracked and looking kind of wonky, and could go at any time if things don't get righted quickly. Look at what we have laid out in front of us:
  • Two with Towson this weekend, one with Niagara to close out the semester on December 10th. It would be an unmitigated disaster if we didn't sweep these games...
  • ...sandwiched around a home weekend with No. 7 Delaware, which hasn't lost in regulation this season. This is very quickly becoming a series that might determine the way in which the season turns.
  • PSU opens the spring semester at Bird Arena, which has been pretty inhospitable to the Icers over the years. Ohio has already split at the Ice Pavilion.
  • Two more games each against Delaware and Rhode Island, which of course just outscored Penn State 9-1 for the weekend. Notably, both of these series happen during the World University Games, and Team USA hit Rhody hard - they'll be down their two best defensemen and two of their better forwards. The Icers will be without Tim O'Brien, Eric Steinour and possibly alternates Kevin Miller and Dan Petrick. Delaware doesn't lose anyone.
  • Two more with West Chester and four with Keystone Bobby Mo. All games we should win, but then again, the Colonials had more success against URI than did the Icers.
That's it - the games that are ultimately going to be our resume to a) make the final 16 (I'm not at all suggesting the unthinkable might happen just yet) and b) hopefully not have to play Lindenwood or someone equally imposing in the first round. It almost - almost - seems like given the 2011 portion of the schedule, the Icers need to close out 2010 with at least four wins, which of course means at least a split with Delaware.

For what it's worth, many Icers players and coaches seem to agree on the problem. Start with Tim O'Brien:
"If we’re going to come together as a team this is the perfect time to do so.”
Nick Seravalli:
“Right now we’re not playing well as a team together, and some of the older guys are trying to take too much responsibility when we should be playing as a team. We can’t have that. We have to want to play for each other.”
Paul Daley:
“We need to come together and play as a team every game and we know that going in, it’s just the matter of executing it.”
Josh Hand:
“They need to be a team in every sense of the word. They need to be friends on and off the ice. They need to be working for each other on and off the ice. We need to be a hardworking team that supports each other, and I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Okay then. Now that we're on the same page, let's get after a solution, eh? Yes, it's gotten that bad, a guy who's spent his entire life in Ohio and Pennsylvania is dropping "ehs" on you. As I mentioned in the wrap-up for the URI games last weekend, I think some consistency with the forward lines might be one place to start, particularly the middle two - it's hard to develop chemistry and play together when the deck's being shuffled seemingly every game. Hand's quote is a little worrisome, as it seems to imply some personality clashes within the team. Ultimately though, it has to be a matter of taking the advice of one famous Pennsylvanian:
"We must hang together, gentlemen...else, we shall most assuredly hang separately."

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