Monday, February 28, 2011

Marek Polidor is an Alumnus... why wouldn't he be featured in the alumni magazine, The Penn Stater? I caught this in the March/April, 2011 issue, which just hit my mailbox today. Here's the text of the write-up, since it's pretty hard to read from the scan (which is at the bottom of the post).

Marek Polidor

A hockey captain, born too soon for Penn State's jump to the big time.


Marek Polidor could have played Division I college hockey, but he came to Penn State instead. Were he a few years younger, he knows, he wouldn't have had to choose.

A senior forward and captain of the Penn State Icers, Polidor '10 Sci was good enough in high school to earn a D-I offer from the Air Force Academy. The western Pennsylvania native chose to stay closer to home. "I came to Penn State for the academics," he says. "Hockey was a bonus."

It was supposed to be, anyway: As a freshman, Polidor tried out for the Icers, one of the nation's best club programs - and got cut. "I'm still not sure how that happened," he says. Resigned, he played intramurals instead. But former Icers assistant coach Matt Bertani encouraged him to try out again, and Polidor made the team as a sophomore; he had a goal and an assist in an early season cameo against Navy, then cracked the regular rotation a month later and never left.

The reward for Polidor's perseverance came last fall, when he was named team captain. But another Penn State hockey announcement around that time got a bit more attention. "It's long overdue," Polidor says of the Nittany Lions' planned move to varsity status in 2012. "It's a great opportunity for the younger guys on the Icers, who will have a shot to play D-I. That's a goal every one of us had."

Polidor will miss that chance, but he'll hold onto his skates. He says Penn State's soon-to-be-built hockey arena "sounds incredible," and when the Icers move their annual alumni game to the new rink, it's unlikely anyone will be able to keep him off the ice.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekend Observations: Rutgers

Me, last weekend:
I foresee a whole bunch of taking anything good that happens against Rutgers next weekend and guessing whether it would've happened against Rhode Island.
Given the distinct lack of big-picture meaning to these games, let's start there. Two basic ways to look at it.
  1. Rutgers is a crap team who plowed an even worse conference and used the disgraceful autobid to bump poor Illinois from nationals. They weren't even ranked! I just wish the ACHA had actually followed those rankings with the seeding so they could lose by 15 to Lindenwood instead of by 10 to Davenport.
  2. Rutgers isn't as bad as you say, Mr. 1. They beat West Chester worse than we did half the time and scored some goals against Rhode Island. On paper and beyond the first couple guys, they look better than the Robert Morris team that beat us a couple weeks back. And they didn't just "win" that conference, they dominated it.
As you can probably tell from the more rational tone I gave the second point of view, I still kind of lean that way in spite of the two thrashings the Icers gave them. Please don't take this to mean that I'm calling them the 2002 Red Wings, but they are on par with teams PSU has struggled with this year, yet the Icers obviously didn't this weekend.

I may or may not be schizophrenic. Depends who you ask. Mr. 1 says no, Mr. 2 says yes.

(Over)simplified way to look at it: outside of Rutgers, the Icers have played 14 games against teams ranked from 15th through 31st in the most recent poll (including six against West Chester and Pitt, who are below Rutgers). In those games, PSU is 12-2-0 and averaging 5.64 goals per game while giving up an even 3.00. Rutgers is 26th in the poll, and we averaged 9.50 goals for, 2.00 goals against. Basically, PSU beat Rutgers worse than other teams similarly rated by the coaches.

Faulty reasoning? You may think so. But either way, I'm going to feel good this week, and you should too. Let's get into the reasons why - lots of credit to go around.

In a weekend of milestones like Tim O'Brien's becoming the 15th Icer ever with 200 points and marking the last home games of him and the other seniors, it was the so-called fourth line of Chris Pronchik (1 goal, 5 assists), Joe Zitarelli (2, 4) and Mike Broccolo (2, 2) that stole the show. Picking a favorite one of their goals is a little like picking a favorite jersey, but if I have to, I'll go with 5:43 of the second Friday. After a dump-in, all three gave the Rutgers D zero room to breathe and did a great job maintaining the zone - this is an effort goal. The eventual payoff came when Zitarelli won a battle behind the net with three Scarlet Knights converging, got the puck to Pronchik out front, who quickly moved it to all-alone Broccolo.

It feels like crediting the bottom six has become kind of a cliche in my write-ups, but hey, the shoe fits. Whatever problems may exist with the team, forward depth is not one of them. I thought the other half of the bottom six (Taylor Cera, Nick Seravalli and George Saad) had a pretty good, although overshadowed, weekend themselves.

Another possible cliche: saying nice things about the Carey Bell-Brian Dolan defense pairing, although I'm going to go about it a little differently this time. Rutgers' first goal Friday was not a shining moment for either of them. Bell got caught on a bad pinch, and Dolan, back by himself, fell trying to defend goal scorer John Beatrice. But each of them dusted themselves off like champs, and in fact, each had the chance to double their season goal output after that. Dolan's in particular was a beauty, because it came less than a period later and involved him driving the net, which of course involves a degree of risk assessment if you're a defenseman. Nicely done.

Speaking of defensemen, a nod to Dan Loucks is in order. The power play was 3-for-11 on the weekend (hey, we've done worse about other bad PK units), and he was a big reason why. I like the way he managed the point, and he seems to have a pretty heavy shot that he keeps low.

Chris Cerutti had a great weekend including a hat trick Friday, and doesn't get a mention until now. Ouch. He and his centerman (O'Brien) will obviously go a long way in deciding how the Icers fare next weekend.

Finally, how about senior goaltenders Teddy Hume and John Jay? Both were great in their likely last starts at Penn State. You can play the "easy win" card if you want, but it would mean that you didn't watch Jay's save with about 8:57 left in the first period Friday, or Hume's with 1:46 left in the first and 4:27 left in the third Saturday. Hume showed the form that got him to third on the all-time Icers wins list, and Jay made you wonder why he didn't get more of a look this year with some of the goaltending uncertainty.

Actually, that's not finally. Finally is once again offering my sincerest thank you to Steve and Barb Penstone for their work on the UStream broadcasts, as Saturday's was this season's last. Believe me, I've often considered the alternate reality where they don't exist. I probably don't even start TYT without the ability to watch the games, and I probably get frustrated and quit with a poor production (or one you have to pay for - twice if you need to re-watch it). Even if I do give it a go under those circumstances, it wouldn't be nearly as good, for obvious reasons. Great work this season, hope to say hi in Delaware!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tomorrow is Another Day

Tim O'Brien's two favorite things are watching Sidney Crosby and kicking ass. And Crosby's hurt.
Photo: Ian Bates

Senior weekend is here, adding some meaning to a pair of fairly meaningless games against Rutgers, specifically, the Ice Pavilion curtain calls for seniors Carey Bell, Taylor Cera, Teddy Hume, John Jay, Tim O'Brien, Marek Polidor and Chris Pronchik. This group of men has been a tremendous asset to the program, something that will undoubtedly continue to be the case as they make their way in this crazy world.

For one of them though, there's significance even beyond that to these games.
O’Brien, who has led the Icers in scoring the past three seasons, is just two points shy of hitting 200 for his illustrious career donning the white and blue sweater. The forward has been the catalyst to the Icers’ offensive attack this season, and has posted 22 goals alongside 18 assists, despite missing six games in January to represent Team USA in Turkey at the World University Games.
Not too shabby. I could go on and on about these guys, from Hume's status as one of the all-time great Icers goalies to Cera's grit to Pronchik's relentless penalty killing, but for me, the real Senior Day takes place March 9th in Newark, DE when we hoist the Murdoch Cup (right?). I'll save the teary farewells for then.

Right now, there are games to be played. For the team, it's a chance to stay sharp and tweak the systems. For me, it's a chance to get some good feelings going heading into nationals.

There is another team in these games too, believe it or not.

Way back when I thought Penn State would be stuck in the ACHA forever (August, 2010), Rutgers was the type of team I would always root for. Big school with a recognizable name, seems on the surface like they're fairly committed to their program, generally an asset to the ACHA in terms of both quality and credibility. Basically in the same vein as Penn State, Illinois, Arizona (back when they mattered), Arizona State, Iowa State, Delaware, Oklahoma and Rhode Island, except not quite as far along on the growth chart. Well, okay, maybe not Rhode Island unless you're a Lamar Odom fan, but they're a state flagship in New England, which has to count for something.

I abandoned my Plan for ACHA World Domination sometime around September 17, 2010 (I really need a nickname for that day) but still, it's nice to see that we're going to leave the thing in good hands. For all of its flaws, it's been a huge part of our program, and I'll probably always keep an eye on it.

Okay, enough of that, I'll save that post for next March.

The Scarlet Knights have certainly come a long way from the team the Icers last saw in January, 2000:
On Friday night, the Icers won their NLIT title-game berth with a dominating 12-5 victory against an overmatched No. 20 Rutgers team.

Penn State had the game well in hand from the outset, as goals by [Neal] Price, Todd Dakan, Mike Blevins, Greg Held and Paul Sealock staked the Icers out to a 5-0 late in the second. Rutgers answered on the power play before the intermission.
The third period brought an amazing outburst of scoring, 11 goals in all. Seven of those ended up in the Rutgers net, with McArdle, Sealock, Held, Dakan, Price, Brandon Cook and Alon Eizenman all finding twine for the Icers.

"The pucks just were going our way," Held said. "I think my line and the whole team played pretty well."

The only saving grace for Rutgers was the performance of goaltender Joe Azzarello. The senior managed to make 74 saves before being replaced in the third period. All in all, Penn State rifled 84 shots at Rutgers goaltenders.

"Goaltending has been one of our bright spots this season," Rutgers ice hockey coach Mike DeAngelis said. "But Penn State's just one of the best hockey programs in the country."
Somewhere between then and now, Rutgers went from being about as good as my math to being about as good as PSU's shot total that day, whatever it was. From that 1999-2000 season through 2006-2007, RU was a brutal 34-185-15, including a winless 2002-2003, and one-win seasons in 2001-2002 and 2005-2006. How an ACHA team survived a stretch like that, I'll never know.

Current coach Andy Gojdycz came to the rescue in 2006-2007, and the results have been nothing short of drastic. The program's first winning record in ten years in 2007-2008. A successful move from the ECHA to the new NECHL (where Gojdycz serves as commissioner), including regular season championships in 2008, 2009 (co-championship) and 2010. And once the NECHL autobid kicked in, Rutgers made its first-ever ACHA national championship tournament (in Division 1) last season, and hung in with Lindenwood a lot better than many teams do (8-3) before losing an OT heartbreaker to Canton for 15th place.

This season? More of the same. Actually, better than that - their 19-7-0 mark is their best winning percentage since moving to D1 in 1998-1999, and they tore through the NECHL with a 13-1-0 conference mark to earn a second consecutive ACHA autobid - they face No. 2 Davenport in the first round on March 5th - before falling to Syracuse in the conference tournament's championship game.

So in one sense, it's been a pretty successful season for the State University of New Jersey. In another, it's been a trying season, due to the passing of former captain Josh Esformes back in December.

My belated condolences go out to the Rutgers hockey community on their loss. Esformes sounds like a first-class guy from what I've read.

On the ice, the Scarlet Knights plowed through the adversity, thanks in large part to a forward group that runs two lines deep with big numbers. Super soph Jason Adams (20 goals, 45 assists) leads the way, followed closely by Matt Ruthberg (23, 29), Matthew McDonald (21, 26), Timmy Nakajima (11, 34) and Gil Schaffer (18, 25). The fist-pumping back end includes starting goalie Brandon DeLibero (3.54 GAA, 0.901 SV%) and defensemen Doug San Giacomo, TJ Fiorillo and Joe Ippolito, although non-Italians Will Bolinder and Jackson Udelsman do their part on the blue line too.

You might not expect it, but RU actually has a decent-sized track record playing PSU opponents. They opened the season with 8-3 and 8-5 losses at ESCHL champ Rhode Island, who of course, we'll be seeing next weekend. They've also played Niagara (6-5 win on October 2nd), West Chester (8-3 win on October 22nd) and Drexel (4-3 loss on January 21st). Those eight goals against URI, especially when held against the nine the Icers had in four games with the Rams, tell me they can score against anyone. Almost like a Robert Morris with a little more balance and a little more defense.

In other words, they're the perfect opponent for a weekend like this - they'll force us to be engaged, but without the pressure that comes from having anything at all on the line.

Outside Reading

VFTB's Steve Penstone dominates this space this week, as he did some fantastic work from up in Buffalo, site of the Pegula Day festivities.

It's a Great Day for Hockey - Part II - Contains video from the Pegula introductory press conference on Tuesday, as well as Steve's allotted one minute with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman - much credit is due his way for asking the "right" two questions with zero margin for error. Plus there's a picture of Rick Jeanneret, who is as clutch as they come. MAY DAY!

Miller Time - An interview with Ryan Miller that fortunately went a little better than this one. Who will be the first Penn Stater/Olympic hockey hero?

The New Era Begins in Buffalo - A dispatch from the Sabres-Thrashers game Wednesday night, complete with the pictures to prove it happened. Like this one.

Clearly, they're huge fans of mine.

Elsewhere, the official site informs us of something I did not know - PSU and Rutgers have a series history other than that 2000 game. And the Collegian fills us in on something else that may have slipped under the radar, given the events of last weekend: the ESCHL awards won by O'Brien, Matt Madrazo and George Saad.

Actual Recruiting News

Unless you're a fan of Niagara's program (I am, they're first-rate), recruiting is not generally something that's talked about in the ACHA. Whether that's due to lack of interest, lack of visibility, lack of media (which I suppose relates to lack of interest), lack of some of this stuff, all of the above, something else, whatever, I'm not sure. In the day, Icers recruiting news consisted of Joe Battista showing up at an early-year HMA meeting and listing players who would be joining the team that season. If we were lucky. And even then, unless you're a hardcore follower of Tier III junior hockey, those guys where just names scribbled on one of those Penn State hockey notepads to you.

Today, things aren't really that much different except when I get a stroke of freak luck, even with my being able to order pizza on my phone. Oh wait, I meant using the internet parts of my phone, not the calling people parts of my phone. Never mind.

Introducing 5'6", 155-pound Chris Van Damme, a senior center at Prairie Ridge High School in suburban Chicago (Crystal Lake, if you want to be specific).
Van Damme might have had a little more adjusting [than the other guy talked about in the linked article] because of the size discrepancy when he was a 5-0, 110-pound freshman. Still, with his speed he was able to score 29 points that season in Metro Central Division games.

Prairie Ridge coach Rick Rewiako is uncertain of the school record, but Van Damme has more than 220 career points, and that is only counting Metro Central games his freshman and sophomore seasons. The past two years, against an independent schedule that is more challenging, Van Damme has 62 and 66 points.

“Speed’s one of my main assets,” Van Damme said. “If I don’t have the puck, the speed is just as important to get it back or get open. I think I’ve improved mainly with controlling the puck and seeing the ice better. I feel like I’m more aware.”

Wolves coach Rick Rewiako said Van Damme served as a role model to other players in the program.

“He never missed a dry-land workout and didn’t miss a practice,” Rewiako said. “As a freshman, he was one of the smallest kids in the league, but he got in the gym and built himself up. The level of competition he brings every night is the best I’ve seen in our program.”

Van Damme and three other seniors, Andrew Sprouse, Mike Kurek and goalie Ryan Fichuk, are trying to take the Wolves for a deep [Amateur Hockey Association of Illinois] tournament run. Van Damme is the only one of the four to play four varsity seasons.

Van Damme likes Penn State and might play for the Nittany Lions club hockey team next year. Rewiako will miss watching Van Damme whirling around the ice like Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil.

“He’s hard to hit because he’s so shifty,” Rewiako said. “You can’t hit him because he’s fast, shifty and strong.”
Well, if you're 5'6", you'd better be able to skate, and you'd better work hard. Or be able to double as a goalie/enforcer.

If I didn't jump on this, I should be fired from blogging.

I'm actually kind of disappointed, because the kid just played in a tournament out my way. Way to be a couple weeks late on the article, Mr. Stevenson. And place spelling next to economic growth on the list of things Cleveland is bad at.

Anyway, best of luck at AHAIs Chris, hope to see you at Penn State next year!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The CCHA Conundrum

This College Hockey News story, which disclosed that Penn State might begin conference play in 2013-2014, a year earlier than planned, hit on Monday. It was treated as news for some reason, even though the Daily Collegian crew reported more or less everything in that article back on February 7th.

The CHN story contained quotes from Joe Battista, including these:
"We don't want to put ourselves at a competitive disadvantage by joining a league too early, but we're part of a bigger picture here. Change is never easy. I think ... if you're looking at the opportunities we have to grow the sport and maximize the exposure, having Penn State and the brand that it brings with it, is a positive thing."

"Michigan has long-standing rivalries (in the CCHA) and they've tended to dominate, so it will push a lot of people outside their comfort zone. I understand, I empathize, but I believe in my heart any time you can add another nationally recognized school to the mix, it can only in the end mean good things. There may end up being smaller conferences that come out of this, which means more opportunity for automatic qualifiers."
A little bit brutal with the honesty, but ultimately, hard to argue with the points made. Unfortunately, and predictably, this once again drew the wrath of some in the NCAA establishment who feel like Penn State is destroying college hockey as we know it.

This Penn State hockey guy Battista obviously doesn't understand D1 hockey. Simply has a woody for the BTHC, doesn't care he's ruining CCHA.
Where was all this concern for the CCHA when UNO decided take the talents of its up-and-coming program to the W?

Can you smell what JoeBa's cooking? Clearly a diabolical scheme to reduce DI hockey to six teams. Or he's just looking out for his school's best interests. One or the other. 

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: Big Ten hockey is bigger than Joe Battista, bigger than Penn State and even bigger than hockey for that matter. Battista himself implied as much in that CHN piece:
"When it's all said and done, any of the members of the Big Ten know their conference affiliation on an athletic department basis is what allows their athletic departments to function. That revenue sharing from television and tickets is what pays for a lot of other sports. So that allegiance to the conference is important."
Basically, quit making us a scapegoat when all we really did was a) want an NCAA program and b) accept a large donation to make it happen. The Big Ten hockey impetus comes from the Big Ten university presidents and athletic directors, a majority of whom are not named Graham Spanier or Tim Curley. And it's not an entirely flawed line of thinking either, as the Big Ten in other sports has enabled us (collectively) to dominate the list of wealthiest athletic programs.

For the little that it's worth, I'm on record as being against Big Ten hockey. If you visit the link in the last sentence, you'll see that I have concerns about the future of the small programs and PSU's competitiveness in a meat grinder conference with some of college hockey's most storied programs.

But at the same time, I recognize that it's pretty much inevitable and that it's also the stated preference of PSU administration, so I might as well learn to like it. Part of that process: doing something that may get me killed, at least metaphorically - openly questioning the impact of the departure of the Big Ten schools on the rest of CCHA. Let's take a look at attendance for the schools most consider to be the primary victims of the situation, the CCHA leftovers outside of Notre Dame and Miami.

Since I don't have room to give very descriptive headings, the first column is actual 2009-2010 attendance. The second is the 2009-2010 attendance minus Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State, while the third is an extrapolated total based on the average from the second column and the number of home games from the first column. The format is Total Attendance/Home Dates (Average).

My source for all data is USCHO. I used last season instead of this season because the data for this year isn't complete just yet.

             2009-10 Actual      Minus B10      Extrapolated

N. Michigan  56102/19 (2953)  48867/17 (2875)  54625/19 (2875)

Alaska       51965/19 (2735)  45628/17 (2684)  50996/19 (2684)

W. Michigan  43078/18 (2393)  32844/14 (2346)  42228/18 (2346)

LSSU         37029/16 (2314)  26880/12 (2240)  35840/16 (2240)

BGSU         35248/16 (2203)  24457/12 (2038)  32608/16 (2038)

Ferris State 32355/20 (1618)  24230/16 (1514)  30280/20 (1514)

Forgive me for not seeing a drastic difference there, especially outside of the bottom two. Yeah, Michigan and to a lesser extent Michigan State and Ohio State are name programs that are a better-than-average road draw. They are not, however, keeping otherwise doomed programs afloat, at least not at the gate.

Take it a step further. The adult single-game tickets at these schools range in price from $10 to $20. Multiply each school's price by the change in total attendance, and you get gate receipt losses ranging from $11,890 (Lake Superior) to $31,680 (Bowling Green). Keep in mind that this number is inflated - surely, the cheaper student, youth and senior tickets are part of the ticket sales, and season tickets are generally sold at a discount too. Unfortunately, I don't have access to percentages of each type of ticket, so I'm erring on the other side of the argument. Another factor would be the scheduling agreements with the Big Ten schools mentioned by Battista in the CHN article which, again, mitigates the impact of the transition.

I realize that any financial hit at all is hard to stomach, especially when you're already stretched pretty thin, but let's face it, if $20,000 per year breaks your program, you probably weren't long for this world anyway. Don't forget that - even if Penn State and the Big Ten never happen, what were your odds on Bowling Green still being around in ten years? And even if they do survive, what are their hopes of being competitive at the highest levels? Or giving the university any kind of return on its investment other than the opportunity to gaze longingly at banners commemorating seasons constantly drifting further and further into the past?

That last paragraph probably sounds pretty callous, but you know I'm right. The Big Ten is not bringing big money and program disparity to college hockey. Not in a world where Wisconsin pulled in 316,014 fans at roughly $18 a pop last year (that's $5.7 million in ticket sales alone - Alaska was best from the table above, with an inflated number of $987,335). And certainly not in a world where the CCHA leftovers have a combined three trips to and one win in the NCAA tournament in the last decade. Don't tell me they would mind a better crack at an autobid.

I'm not naive, I know there are other pieces to the puzzle. Big Ten hockey probably impacts the CCHA television deals with Comcast and CBS Sports - only six of 44 CCHA regular-season television games this season did not involve a Big Ten school, for starters. Maybe a frustrated donor backs out. Problem is, I can't predict any of those things and neither can you. All we can do is sit back, watch things unfold (another thing we can't do: control any of this) and hope for the best for all of the schools I've named here, because it's my sincere hope to see every current DI program not only survive, but thrive. They're a vital part of what makes college hockey special, and without them, something important would be lost.

Head Coach Candidate: Greg Carvel

Seventh in a series taking uninformed, uneducated guesses at the candidates to become the first head coach of Penn State's NCAA men's team. Previously: Icers coach Scott Balboni, Denver coach George Gwozdecky, Pittsburgh Penguins assistant Tony Granato, Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley, Wisconsin women's coach and American hero Mark Johnson, Nebraska-Omaha hockey czar and former coach Mike Kemp.

After my last post HCC post on Mike Kemp, I hit a wall of sorts. At this point, I've more or less addressed all of the "obvious" candidates - the ones who have popped up in speculation even more baseless than what I do (let's keep that front and center - I've had inside information roughly twice in my life), the ones who have experience starting a program, et cetera. Plus, I feel like I've hit most current NCAA coaches on that pretty thin line between "set for life at a top program" and "not good enough for my taste."

So how do we get from here to the inevitable end of this series? By scouring NCAA assistants, NHL assistants and junior coaches for additional candidates. College experience (playing or coaching), upward career trajectory and some reasonable measure of success are musts.

It was one such search that led me to Greg Carvel, an Ottawa Senators assistant since 2004.

Carvel's college experience:
At St. Lawrence, Greg was a Phi Beta Kappa scholar, ATO brother, a captain of Saints hockey, and an Academic All-American hockey player. In four seasons at St. Lawrence from 1989-90 to 1992-93, he recorded 124 points (37-87) and 87 penalty minutes in 124 games, and was voted to the ECAC all-rookie team and named best defensive forward in 1992-93. He was a government major who also minored in math.
Academic emphasis? Check. Now, to be fair, I can't pull grad rates from that imaginary college program where he was a head coach, but the guy has a master's degree (in sports management, from UMass in 1996) in addition to everything listed above, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I've always had kind of a soft spot for St. Lawrence, ever since they narrowly escaped Wayne State 3-2 in 1999-2000 - the same season the Icers defeated the now-defunct Warriors 5-2 - then advanced to the Frozen Four.

Since this is a college hockey blog, let's throw his full stats in, just to be thorough.
Season   Team                      Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM
1989-90  St. Lawrence University   ECAC   29    5   16   21   16
1990-91  St. Lawrence University   ECAC   29    6   15   21   18
1991-92  St. Lawrence University   ECAC   34   12   22   34   23
1992-93  St. Lawrence University   ECAC   32   14   34   48   30

During those last two seasons, Carvel was property of the Pittsburgh Penguins, as he was selected by the Pens in the long-gone NHL Supplemental Draft in 1991. He never did play in the NHL though, instead spending a year in the Swedish first division with Ostervala.

Carvel seamlessly moved back across the pond and into a suit, first as an assistant coach and assistant athletic director at Canterbury School in New Milford, CT, then as an assistant coach at Amherst College. This early foray into hockey operations was successful enough for Carvel to get a job as Director of Hockey Operations for the AHL's Lowell Lock Monsters in 1997. Keep in mind that he's 27 at this point and holding down an important position in the second-best league in North America. Oh, and he helped start that particular AHL franchise, which was in the playoffs in year one. Pretty impressive.

The then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim agreed, making Carvel their scouting coordinator in 1999 and adding the responsibilities of a video coach in 2002. Anaheim's draft picks during Carvel's run in scouting include Jordan Leopold (a month after he was hired, assign credit as appropriate), Ilya Bryzgalov, Martin Gerber (in the eighth round, not bad for a serviceable goalie), Joffrey Lupul, and most significantly, franchise cornerstones Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Thanks to some good drafting and other shrewd personnel moves (getting Jean-Sebastien Giguere for a second-round pick in 2000, to name one), the Mighty Ducks went from a team that had one playoff series victory in their entire history to getting within one game of the Stanley Cup in 2003.

Carvel parlayed this success into another promotion, this time to full assistant coach in 2003-2004. However, that only lasted one season, before new Ottawa head coach Bryan Murray (formerly general manager of the Ducks) hired him away. Leaving proved to be a smart decision, as a contract dispute between the Ducks and head coach Mike Babcock during the 2004-2005 NHL lockout brought turnover to Anaheim's coaching staff.

Babcock's glare can melt the brains of those who don't pay him fair market value.

The run with the Senators has been kind of a mixed bag, to say the least. Let's put it all out there - record, division standing, playoff finish.

2005-2006: 52-21-9, Northeast Division championship, second round of the playoffs
2006-2007: 48-25-9, second in Northeast Division, Stanley Cup Finals
2007-2008: 43-31-8, third in Northeast Division, first round of the playoffs
2008-2009: 36-35-11, fourth in Northeast Division, missed playoffs
2009-2010: 44-32-6, second in Northeast Division, first round of the playoffs

This season, after that brief resurgence, Ottawa has bottomed out to 19-31-9 at the moment, and is in full-on rebuild mode, including the recent trades of Mike Fisher (better known as Mr. Carrie Underwood) and Brian Elliott.

So what happened? One popular explanation is that superstars Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley, who fueled the Sens rise to the top of the Eastern Conference, became too expensive relative to the salary cap, and the supporting cast suffered, causing that first dip after the trip to the finals. That situation was corrected with the trade of the disgruntled Heatley just before the 2009-2010 season, and Ottawa bounced back. This has been sort of a lost season, where everything from the suicide of assistant coach Luke Richardson's daughter to an injury to Spezza has helped derail the season. To be honest though, it's pretty hard to point to a single problem (or three or four) when the team is 29th in the league (of 30) in goals for and 28th in goals against.

Regardless, it seems as if Carvel has avoided most of the blame, at least to this point. He's survived through the coaching regimes of Murray, John Paddock, Murray again, Craig Hartsburg and current head man Cory Clouston (in Anaheim, he went through Hartsburg, Guy Charron and Murray before Babcock). Well, to be fair, he's avoided blame from his bosses. Maybe not from Sens fans (link rated R).

So what's his coaching philosophy? Straight from Carvel:
"Playing for [Joe Marsh at St. Lawrence] and being team captain were most instrumental in preparing me for this profession. [Marsh] was a players' coach who coached with emotion and cared for his players and their development as athletes, students and young men. Serving as captain during my senior year helped me discover leadership skills that have allowed me to be successful as a hockey coach at the highest level."
In the final analysis, there's a lot to like here - NHL credibility, but with the likely educational emphasis it's often assumed that pro coaches lack. An extremely diverse background for his age that includes connections in hockey-rich New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut. If the issues surrounding the Ottawa Senators' struggles since 2007 can be explained by non-Carvellian factors, the only other drawback to his candidacy is that he has zero experience as a head coach. Anywhere, at any level. But hey, everyone has to do it for a first time at some point, and if the guy can coach, the guy can coach. If he's Ottawa Junior Canadiens-era Scotty Bowman, I'm going to be okay with that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Who Own the Sabres?

The guy pictured to the right. No, really, I'm serious this time. After a drawn-out process that took nearly three months from initial rumor to press conference, Terry Pegula was formally introduced today as the new guy in charge of the forty-year-old franchise.

I'll pass most of this post off to the letter from Pegula posted on the Sabres' website, but as someone who watched today's press conference... wow. I can't articulate this well enough to do it justice, but Pegula is a man whose passion for the game exceeds even his rather large bank account. That's not new information for Penn Staters, but it was reinforced in spades today. He got choked up while calling Sabres legend Gilbert Perreault his hero, and discussed the lengths he went through to pick up choppy radio broadcasts of games. He promised the City of Buffalo Stanley Cups, with an s. He made it clear that no expense will be spared in winning those Cups ("if I want to make money, I'll drill a gas well," he quipped at one point). He even found a way to work in a Joe Battista name drop, which always plays with me. You can watch all of that for yourself right here.

You have a great one, Sabres fans. Be excited.
Dear Sabres Fans,
It is my pleasure to introduce myself to the great fans of the Buffalo Sabres and the entire Western New York community. On behalf of my entire family, I want to let you know that we are extremely excited to become a part of the rich history and tradition of the Sabres.
From 1980-1998, I was sitting next to you in your seat at both the Memorial Auditorium and HSBC Arena as a season ticket holder. As a longtime Sabres fan, I have followed all of the great players that have represented our city. Along with each player and fan, we have all shared one have the Buffalo Sabres name inscribed on the Stanley Cup. I am committed to bringing that long awaited championship to the Sabres and the best fans in the National Hockey League.
We are also committed to enhancing our fan experience at HSBC Arena. For over four decades, our fans have embraced the team and have worn our team colors with pride. It is my goal to continue to provide our community with a reason to cheer and build on the tremendous support that has brought the organization to where it is today.
See you on game day...
Terrence M. Pegula

Polling the Masses

In my e-mail today and presumably because of my Nittany Lion Club membership, I received a link to a survey concerning Penn State hockey. I've reproduced the questions below, and also shared how I answered each, just for discussion's sake.

How did you first learn the news that Penn State would begin to compete at the NCAA Division I level in Men's and Women's Ice Hockey?  

Choices given were, television, radio, traditional newspaper, online newspaper, social media, did not previously know, and other. I answered "social media" because Twitter was my initial source both for the rumors that built up over the late summer, and for details surrounding the actual announcement. To give a complete answer, Twitter just linked me to articles on websites, but it was the gateway.

Have you attended a collegiate or professional ice hockey game within the last five (5) years (yes/no/other)?

Yes, I've been known to attend a hockey game once in a great while.

Would you be interested in learning more about Penn State Ice Hockey season tickets or other options in the new Pegula Ice Arena (yes/no/other)?

Yes, of course.

Please indicate which of these possible Penn State Hockey ticket options at Pegula Ice Arena you would be interested in purchasing or receiving more information about?  (Choose all that apply)

Options were season tickets, club seat tickets, loge box tickets, luxury suite tickets, none of the above and other. I have no idea what the difference is between loge box tickets and luxury suite tickets. I assume if you can afford them, you know the difference. I chose season tickets and club seat tickets.

When considering the purchase of tickets for any sporting event, what are the factors that most influence your decision?  (choose up to 5)

The selections for this one were seat location, ticket price, opponent, parking location, parking price, game start time, day of week, anticipated team success, quality of food service, customer service level of venue staff and other.

If you don't go to an event because the hot dogs are a little rubbery, I sincerely feel sorry for you. My considerations when attending a sporting event essentially boil down to a) Do I like the team and/or want to see the game for some other reason? b) Is there a scheduling conflict that would prevent me from going? and c) Am I broke? With that in mind, I chose only start time, day of week and ticket price.

Of the items you indicated were important to you, would you please rank in order of importance? (1= most important)

This question was populated with my selections from the last question, obviously. Since I'm fortunately not broke most of the time, I put that last, with day of the week first and start time second. I'm not really sure what they plan on doing with this information, since college hockey is generally on a pretty consistent Friday night-Saturday night schedule, with few exceptions.

As it relates to the allocation of new season tickets for Penn State Hockey, would you favor a plan that offers first priority to current Ice Hockey (Penn State Icers) season ticket holders?

Yes. One thousand times yes. I hope and expect that those who have paid their dues and supported Penn State hockey before it became chic to do so on September 17, 2010 are taken care of. This would obviously be a big part of that.

As it impacts the seating location in the new Pegula Ice Arena, would you favor a plan that season ticket locations be allocated based upon NLC membership points?

This was an interesting question that had four answer choices, plus "other." One - my selection in accordance with the explanation to my last answer - was that NLC members should get priority after Icers season ticket holders. The other choices were giving NLC members first priority, first-come/first-served after Icers season ticket holders and first-come/first-served only. I want to see the Icers season ticket holders go first, but as someone with a decent number of NLC points, I definitely think that should give me a spot in the line.

Please tell us the approximate distance from your home to State College/University Park.

Choices were within 25 miles, 26-50 miles, 51-100 miles, 101-150 miles, 151-200 miles and 201-500 miles. If you're more than 500? Tough luck. Fortunately for me and according to MapQuest, Medina, OH is 237.5 miles from University Park.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

ESCHL Championship: Rhode Island 4, Delaware 3

For the second straight day, Rhode Island used a huge second period to survive a late rally - except this time for the ESCHL playoff championship and with formidable Delaware on the opposite bench.

The Blue Hens struck first when Jason Michaud capitalized on an Alan Dionne turnover from just underneath the top of the circle 2:40 into the game. Robert Beggi answered 14:04 later, finishing a nice passing play with Devin Sheehan and Jay Dupras, to close the first period at 1-1.

Rhody's second period barrage came from David Macalino, Dionne (on a 5-on-3) and tournament MVP Shawn Tingley. Ryan McDonald stopped the bleeding with five minutes left in the second at the end of a textbook breakout, and Kevin Miller pulled UD within one early in the third, but the Blue Hens would get no closer despite controlling play for much of the late second and third periods.

While the Icers did not participate in the final - snapping PSU's run of ESCHL playoff titles at three - George Saad, Tim O'Brien and Matt Madrazo all received honors in the postgame ceremony. O'Brien was named first-team all-ESCHL, Madrazo was second-team all-tournament and Saad won the conference's Sportsmanship Award. Congratulations to the three of them, as well as to URI for adding the playoff championship to the already-won regular season crown. See you guys in Newark in two Saturdays...

The less popular angle to the Rhode Island trophy picture.

ESCHL Semifinals: Delaware 3, Penn State 1/Rhode Island 5, West Chester 4

VFTB highlights // PSU press release // UD press release // Box score

Well, that sucked.

I don't know of a nice way to describe what happened Saturday afternoon, so I'll just get straight to the point: the Icers were outworked, out-talented, out-coached and pretty much out-everythinged today by Delaware. We didn't look like a team that was the least bit interested in building on some of the successes of this semester, and unless something changes drastically in the next two weeks, the trip to nationals is going to be just as quick as the one to the ESCHL playoffs. As it stands, I'm not the least bit worried about missing a Penn State game as a result of my having to come home from Delaware on Travel Monday to take a midterm.

It wasn't always this ugly. Just 4:02 into the game, Dan Loucks took out Connor Moore behind the Penn State net. Marek Polidor then collected the loose puck and fired possibly the only stretch pass all afternoon that worked from his own goalline. After deflecting off the Delaware defense at center, it found a somehow-onside Chris Cerutti behind everyone, and Cerutti finished like he's been known to do from time to time. Good to have you back, Chris.

This concludes your summary of the Icers' offensive effort Saturday. Following the goal, the game looked a lot like the beginning of the Robert Morris-West Chester first-round game where the dominant team, inexplicably, was trailing. That fun only lasted until 7:41 of the second period, when a Zack Reubel dump-in took a strange bounce and was misplayed by Matt Madrazo. Thus ended the Icers only chance of winning the game, which more or less amounted to hoping Madrazo - who was outstanding otherwise - somehow made that paper-thin lead hold up.

That's not to say there weren't chances, although they were few and far between. On one such chance with 2:25 left in the second, Kurt Collins and Chris Pronchik used a blue line turnover to start a 2-on-1. Reubel hustled back from the opposite side and a combination of his nice play and some of the opposite from the Penn Staters foiled that effort. Just 25 seconds later, a deflected David Conte shot found the stick of Kevin Miller (the Delaware one), and Miller beat Madrazo with what would prove to be the game winner.

The Icers' last best chance to tie it up came with 8:55 left when Tim O'Brien took a pass just to the side of the net and attempted to stuff it in. O'Brien and several teammates thought he had scored, but it was immediately ruled that the puck had not crossed the line before coming to rest underneath Blue Hens goalie SJ Broadt. A power play with 1:44 left, combined with Madrazo being pulled, added some late drama, but ultimately it only led to an empty netter to supply the final margin.

So what's wrong with the Icers? In the chat room that's part of the UStream broadcasts, a couple of long-time fans hit on a couple problems today that I probably haven't examined here enough.
5:21 icersfan: sad that they don't seem to be communicating on the ice, this is what happens
5:22 icersfan: and if they play like this at natty's it will be one and done

5:23 sox88: you're right fan i attribute it to coaching though, you mix up pairings if somethings not working or change a d system that and where's the captain's putting fire into the players
5:24 icersfan: I agree soxs, but this has been a season long issue, it should have been fixed by now
5:25 edhume3: They lost some good coaching when Bill Downey left.
5:25 icersfan: mind you it is getting worse, ya gotta wonder if the NCAA move has something to do with it
5:25 icersfan: I hate to see them go out like this
5:27 icersfan: ed your right the loss of Downey was not good
5:27 sox88: agreed on both accounts, plus i seem to recall we had alot more asst vol coaches around too, i certainly miss Doc and Darren's help

5:30 sox88: and btw if it is a season long problem which it is makes it even more a coaching issure
5:30 sox88: issue sorry
5:31 icersfan: I think it has been a season long issue sox
5:32 sox88: agreed
5:33 icersfan: not sure what happened with coaching this year, not as good as in the past
5:35 sox88: you brought up the whole DI thing as a distraction and that could be the case to an extent with everyone wondering whats going to happen to the team
5:37 icersfan: True, maybe I am more correct than I thought
The volunteer assistant thing is something that had never even crossed my mind before, but it strikes me as a valid point - the numbers and quality probably aren't where they have been in the past. Probably more a testament to Joe Battista's magnetism than anything else. I like what I've seen from Josh Hand, so I'm not ready to say that Downey's departure caused all of this inconsistency. The NCAA transition has undoubtedly given us a giant bullseye and probably has created some tension with the underclassmen.

It's probably not a simple answer, and that answer may include all or none of those things. As of right now though, it looks like we'll have a nice, long offseason to figure it out.

Are there any positives? Well Madrazo, as mentioned. Although I once doubted it, I think he can be an equalizer at nationals against teams that, quite frankly, are better than us. The fact that this game wasn't 5-1 or 6-1 is entirely attributable to him. Also, both Cerutti and Taylor Cera returned from injuries - let's hope that some of the awfulness was due to the slightly reshuffled lines that resulted, which of course is something that can be fixed over the next couple weeks. Until we know one way or another, I foresee a whole bunch of taking anything good that happens against Rutgers next weekend and guessing whether it would've happened against Rhode Island.

Speaking of, there was another ESCHL semifinal played Saturday...

Rhode Island's explosive second period that featured goals from four different players over a span of 10:02 helped the Rams survive a late West Chester rally and win 5-4. With the victory, Rhody advances to face Delaware for the ESCHL playoff championship at 1:00 p.m. Sunday.

Those four goals, from Kyle Krannich, Jaryd Coleman, David Macalino and Justin Krute came after West Chester took a surprising 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite being outshot 16-6. And they, together with a Robert Beggi tally early in the third, were enough to counter three Golden Rams ginos in the last 20:07 of the game.

Friday, February 18, 2011

ESCHL 1st Round: West Chester 4, Robert Morris 2

The West Chester Golden Rams stormed out to a 4-0 lead late in the second, and the goaltending of Randy Japchen ensured that it was enough in a chippy 4-2 win over Robert Morris in the first round of the ESCHL tournament at the University of Rhode Island's Brad Boss Arena Friday night.

Japchen stopped 36 of 38 shots and was particularly effective early on, after WCU took a 1-0 lead 50 seconds into the game when Michael Kozza created a neutral zone turnover and finished the breakaway chance he started. The Colonials dominated play for stretches after that, carrying into the second period, and it looked for quite a while like the narrow lead might be short-lived.

However, three Golden Rams shots beat Robbie Fallick in the second period to put the game out of reach. First, Steve Meade skated down the right wing and scored from the circle early. Chris Doyle then slammed home a rebound a few minutes later, and Steve Meade deflected Gordon Nicholson's feed in to make it 4-0 with 33.5 seconds left in the period.

RMU made a game comeback bid, scoring just 13 seconds later when the ubiquitous Bryan Chiavetta found Luke Bennett on a transition goal, and Bennett scored a second goal on the power play 4:00 into the third. But it went no further, thanks to both Japchen and fatigue, as the fact that the Colonials only play two lines seemed to catch up with them as the game wore on.

West Chester now advances to the semifinals to face host Rhode Island tomorrow night (full schedule below the picture).

West Chester's Bob McInerney reminded Beau Roeder of Robert Morris' rank of 93rd among regional universities in the north, which is worse than his school's 84th.

Here's the remaining schedule for the ESCHL tournament.

Saturday, February 19th
Delaware vs. Penn State, 4:00 p.m.
Rhode Island vs. West Chester, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 20th
PSU/UD vs. WCU/URI, 1:00 p.m.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

SpESCHL Weekend

The Eastern States Collegiate Hockey League tournament gets underway at Rhode Island's Brad Boss arena tonight. Before we go any further, the schedule:

Friday, February 18
First Round:
No. 5 West Chester vs. No. 4 Robert Morris, 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, February 19
No. 3 Penn State vs. No. 2 Delaware, 4:00 p.m.
WCU/RMU vs. No. 1 Rhode Island, 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, February 20
PSU/UD vs. WCU/RMU/URI, 1:00 p.m.

I think it's fair to say that the conference has never been this balanced at the top. Penn State went 3-4-1 against Delaware and Rhode Island. Delaware went 3-3-2 against Penn State and Rhode Island. Rhode Island went 6-2-0 against Penn State and Delaware but needed overtime or a shootout in three of the six wins.

Below is a quick look at each ESCHL team and where they stand headed into the weekend. Along with the requisite paragraph-ish per team, I've included their chances of each possible tournament outcome. These are based on the ACHA computer rankings (the no-goal-differential version) done by some site that does a lot of these types of things and is linked on the ACHA website. Part of the explanation of those rankings reads:
[Team] A rated .01 ahead of [Team] B can be interpreted as saying that if these two teams played exclusively against each other, A's predicted winning percentage is 1 percentage point higher than B's (i.e. A's predicted winning percentage vs. B would be .495, B's against A would be .505).
I took them up on that and multiplied out the predicted win percentages against each opponent on the way to the championship. Where the opponent is unknown, I weighted it by the likelihood of each possible team making it to the round in question.

Yeah, I'm a nerd. I also have an uncanny ability to avoid doing work by any means necessary, which is why I've linked my posts concerning the Icers' games with each team, rather than take the trouble to, you know, come up with something new instead.

1. Rhode Island (28-4-1, 12-4-0 ESCHL)

Semifinal loss: 21.5%
Final loss: 41.8%
Championship: 36.7%

Ramchargers (11/12/2010)
Weekend Observations: Rhode Island (11/15/2010)
Since Last Time: Rhode Island (2/4/2011)
Weekend Observations: Rhode Island (2/6/2011)

I don't think I fully appreciated Alan Dionne and Dan Lassik until I had the chance to follow them closely with the World University Games team. If there was a Norris Trophy in the ACHA, there's a decent chance they'd be two of the three finalists - and their absence for WUG is the biggest reason I'm not completely convinced of any meaning to the Icers' three-point alumni weekend against the Rams beyond the poll credibility PSU desperately needed.

Put those two guys together with a forward group led by Shawn Tingley, Kyle Krannich and David Macalino and a steady goaltending tandem of Andrew Marks and Paul Kenny, and you have yourself a pretty good team (one the Icers aren't done with after this weekend). Oh, and they're on home ice. And as top seed, they have a pretty easy path to the championship game. And I tried to qualify their season record against PSU and Delaware above to make it sound not quite as good. Basically, they're the deserving favorites.

2. Delaware (28-4-2, 11-3-2 ESCHL)

Semifinal loss: 43.5%
Final loss: 21.9%
Championship: 34.6%

Hen-d of the Semester Showdown (12/3/2010)
Weekend Observations: Delaware (12/5/2010)
Since Last Time: Delaware (1/28/2011)
Weekend Observations: Delaware (1/30/2011)

The Hens actually have the best power ranking in the ESCHL, but they take a hit on the percentage from having to play both Penn State and likely Rhode Island (specifically, there's 78.5% chance of seeing URI in the title game) while the Rams only face one of the Big Three.

Not much has really changed with Delaware since last time we saw them, which makes sense, because it wasn't that long ago. They're still ridiculously deep (12 players with 20 or more points, guys with two points per game who can't crack the lineup), and they still don't like us. They did stub their toe against Liberty on February 5th, proving once again that pink jerseys, while generally for a great cause, mean you're probably losing the game.

Delaware 7, Penn State 2, in case you forgot.

3. Penn State (20-9-1, 10-5-1 ESCHL)

Semifinal loss: 56.5%
Final loss: 19.7%
Championship: 23.8%

Penn State has never lost a game in the conference tournament since its inception in 2007-2008 (that's all three championships if you're keeping score) but will not be favored to build on that statistic - the Icers enter this thing as the number three seed, both in terms of the ESCHL standings and in terms of the power rankings.

I think it's fair to say that I have no idea how we'll do. Delaware's up first, and we split with them in December, then again in January. Flip a coin. Rhode Island would be the likely championship game opponent, and while they destroyed us on their ice back in November, PSU grinded out a win and a shootout a couple weeks ago with both teams pretty shorthanded. Flip another coin. The power ranking percentages, by the way, pretty closely follow my more simplistic coin flipping (which of course gives you 50%, 25%, 25%, respectively). The Icers have been playing with a decided sense of purpose since the second weekend in January, but with the trip to Newark now booked, does that soften the intensity level just a little bit? We'll see.

I'll deftly merge my usual pregame "Outside Reading" feature in at this point. First off, Steve Penstone checked in with Josh Hand and Tim O'Brien this week. Both interviews were conducted before the Icers learned that they had in fact made the ACHA tournament, so feel free to take them in the "we'll laugh about this someday" spirit. And to the question I raised in the last paragraph, both also seem to be taking this weekend pretty seriously, an attitude that hopefully includes the rest of the room as well. It's certainly not the big one, but why not win them all?

Good week for Collegian coverage too, particularly with today's look at ACHAs and goaltending column, as well as yesterday's piece concerning the Icers' underdog status. I've tried to give Mr. Barton and Mr. Garcia enough credit for their outstanding work this season, but I want to toss some to the photography staff too - look at the picture of Matt Madrazo in the second link. That's pro.

4. Robert Morris (16-15-0, 5-11-0 ESCHL)

First-round loss: 30.0%
Semifinal loss: 50.7%
Final loss: 14.3%
Championship: 5.0%

Colonial Times (1/13/2011)
Weekend Observations: Robert Morris (1/16/2011)
Since Last Time: Robert Morris (2/10/2011)
Weekend Observations: Robert Morris (2/13/2011)

Penn Staters learned first-hand last weekend that you can't be flat-footed against these guys or Bryan Chiavetta and Luke Bennett will run your show. That said, score a bunch of goals and give up more is still their modus operandi. But that said, they have beaten every team in the conference this year except Delaware. If Robbie Fallick takes out a few star players on opposing teams, it just may be enough for the Colonials to make some noise this weekend.

Here's a re-enactment of the incident I just referenced, with George Saad played by Paul Newman. Okay, obviously, it's from Slap Shot and (legal disclaimer) you know what that means re: the language. If you're an idiot, blast it at work, and get fired/sued for creating a hostile work environment, it's not my fault.

5. West Chester (11-20-1, 2-14-0 ESCHL)

First-round loss: 70.0%
Semifinal loss: 27.7%
Final loss: 2.2%
Championship: 0.1%

Less Than Golden (11/5/2010)
Weekend Observations: West Chester (11/7/2010)
Since Last Time: West Chester (1/20/2011)
Weekend Observations: West Chester (1/23/2011)

Sorry Kenny, I don't make the rules. Well, okay, I make the rules, but not the power rankings. 0.1 though? Ouch. That seems harsh even if I was making fun of them, and I'm not. And I had to round up to get there. Really though, the Golden Rams, 31st in the power rankings, probably didn't need any more obstacles in their way for purposes of this little exercise. An extra game the rankings say they only have a 30 percent chance of winning, for example.

A positive? Okay, I can do that. The power rankings don't account for the fact that they turned over a third of their team halfway through the year, and since then, WCU has held their own - 2-6-0 against the ESCHL this semester including a win against Rhode Island, and only two of the six losses were by more than two. More specifically, they split with Robert Morris, Friday's opponent, and with URI, Saturday's opponent should they win. It's extemely unlikely they'll get further than Saturday, but don't count them out just yet.

For more on the WCU perspective, check out the Golden Rams Hockey blog's post on the ESCHL tournament. Actually, it's pretty well on point for everyone else too.

A Gross Injustice

Abby Miller is suddenly free on March 10th.
Amidst the excitement of the Icers qualifying for their record 20th consecutive ACHA national championship tournament, all is not right in the world of Penn State hockey. 

The Lady Icers finished 9th in the final Women's Division 1 poll released today, one solitary point behind No. 8 Michigan and therefore one solitary point out of ACHA national tournament contention. That, in and of itself, is not the issue - after all, someone has to be the first team out.

Back on January 28th, the date of the last poll, things were a little different, with PSU fairly secure in the top eight:

7. Penn State 113 points, 8-7-1 record
8. Massachusetts, 102, 4-8-3
9. Liberty, 90, 6-3-3
10. Michigan, 87, 8-10-0

Vital pieces Rossi (top) and Vaughan.
So what happened between January 28th and February 17th? Well, for one thing, the World University Games happened. The Lady Icers sent as much personnel over to Turkey as anyone - four players and a head coach. And not just any four players either, as both goaltenders, Heather Rossi and Katie Vaughan, were included in that group. And thanks in large part to the efforts of those two, forward Denise Rohlik, defender Lindsay Reihl and coach Mo Stroemel, the first-ever women's WUG team finished fourth. A pretty decent endorsement for the level of hockey played in the ACHA if you ask me, something for which every coach, player and fan in Women's D1 should be thankful.

Meanwhile back home, the Lady Icers predictably struggled while a series of non-goalies took turns between the pipes. First, it was leading scorer Carly Szyszko helping PSU to a 5-1 win over California (PA). However after that, No. 2 Robert Morris (IL) and then-No. 3 Michigan State came calling, and the results weren't pretty. As those games progressed, Szyszko gave way to Julie Horn, who then gave way to Lindsey Shuler.

Once the WUG contingent returned, the team bounced back into form, earning a road win and tie against always-tough Liberty. The tie was particularly tough to swallow though:
Allie Rothman called Liberty’s game-tying goal with one second left in the third period of Saturday night’s game a “really unfortunate goal.”

“I don’t know what happened, but there was no one on that girl,” the freshman defender said about the goal scorer.

Head coach Mo Stroemel said Liberty pulled its goalie in an attempt to tie the Lady Icers and the Flames fired a shot from the side that was deflected into the net.

“We let down right at the end, and we didn’t attack the shooter, and we gave her a shot,” Stroemel said.
Was that one second the difference between being in and being out? Maybe. But it shouldn't have been. Szyszko after the Robert Morris games:
“Everyone knows our situation...when Heather and Katie are gone, it’s big.”
Evidently everyone doesn't know. Just another reason I can't wait to be rid of the ACHA's garbage after next year. Giving the men's team a tougher road to the national championship (in my opinion) for some unstated and probably nonsensical/arbitrary reason is one thing. Kicking the women, a proven top-eight team when they have a goalie, out of the tournament altogether essentially for sending too many players to WUG to represent their country (and help the ACHA look good) is simply obtuse.

Update: The Collegian got some team reaction to the snub, mostly from Rossi and fellow senior Amanda Yost.

ACHA Tournament Pairings Announced (Updated)

Yesterday afternoon, the ACHA tweeted (in three parts: 1, 2, 3) the pairings, schedule (for the first day) and bracket (sort of) for the national championship tournament, set to begin March 5th at the University of Delaware. They then followed up with the much-more-complete PDFs of the bracket and schedule early this morning. If you can't read the following adaptation of the bracket PDF, scroll down for most of the same information (minus the heavily-butchered PSU logo) in text form. Or click on the link two sentences ago, either way is good with me.

Saturday, March 5th

No. 3 Ohio vs. No. 14 Canton, 10:00 a.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
No. 6 Minot State vs. No. 11 Oakland, 11:00 a.m., Gold Arena

No. 2 Davenport vs. No. 15 Rutgers, 1:00 p.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
No. 7 Rhode Island vs. No. 10 Penn State, 2:00 p.m., Gold Arena

No. 1 Lindenwood vs. No. 16 Slippery Rock, 4:00 p.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
No. 8 Arizona State vs. No. 9 Oklahoma, 5:00 p.m., Gold Arena

No. 5 Delaware vs. No. 12 Robert Morris (IL), 7:00 p.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
No. 4 Adrian vs. No. 13 Stony Brook, 8:00 p.m., Gold Arena

The Fred Rust Ice Arena is an Olympic-sized (200' x 100') sheet, while the Gold Arena is NHL-sized (200' x 85').

Sunday, March 6th

Ohio/Canton vs. Minot State/Oakland, 10:00 a.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
Davenport/Rutgers vs. Rhode Island/Penn State, 1:00 p.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
Lindenwood/Slippery Rock vs. Arizona State/Oklahoma, 4:00 p.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena
Delaware/Robert Morris (IL) vs. Adrian/Stony Brook, 7:00 p.m., Fred Rust Ice Arena

The consolation games for Saturday's losers (9th, 11th, 13th and 15th place games) will all take place in Gold Arena at 11:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Which teams go where on Sunday won't be decided until teams start to lose games on Saturday.

Semifinals and Championship

After a day off Monday for 12 of the 16 teams to blow town, teams are re-seeded for the semifinals, which take place Tuesday, March 8th at 5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. at the Fred Rust Ice Arena. The championship game is Wednesday, March 9th at 7:00 p.m., also at Fred Rust.

Payday Memorabilia: 1992 ICHL Championship Banner

The ESCHL tournament gets underway tomorrow, but today, we're going back in Icers history to their conference home from 1984-1992. Of course, I'm speaking of the International Collegiate Hockey League (ICHL), also affectionately known as the "Iron League" after the league the Hanson Brothers supposedly came from in Slap Shot. You can probably deduce the intensity level of the games against teams like Buffalo, Buffalo State and Erie CC from this moniker. The "I" part of the conference's name, in actuality, came from Niagara College in Welland, ON and Conestoga College in Kitchener, ON.

Penn State plowed through this conference with a 14-1-1 record - the best ever in ICHL regular-season play - to earn the title in 1991-1992. The clincher took place against Erie on February 8th, a 6-1 decision that was satisfying on many levels.
[The Icers avenged] several disappointments in recent years. Penn State had lost last year's regular season title to Erie by a point. They had also lost, 7-6, in overtime to the Kats this season on Jan. 4. In that game, Coach Joe Battista was upset with several marginal calls that went Erie's way.
The tie in that record was against Niagara exactly one week after the loss to Erie, so that 2-1-1 record over two weekends was the closest thing to adversity Penn State faced during the regular season ICHL schedule. With the top seed in hand for the conference tournament, fifth-place Buffalo State (5-11-0) was the opponent, but things didn't go quite as well there.
The result was a 5-4 controversial loss for Penn State that ended its hopes of leaving the league with a championship. The team will be leaving the ICHL to join another league next season. Icer Coach Joe Battista also failed in his quest to become the first ICHL Coach of the Year to win a ICHL Championship in the same year.
Why "controversial?" The Icers trailed 5-4 in the waning seconds of the game, then...
Dave Murphy scored what appeared to be the game-tying goal with one second remaining. The ensuing celebration was stifled when the referee waved off the score, ruling that the net was dislodged before the shot went into the net.

After an seemingly endless debate involving referees, coaches and players, it was ruled that the net was intentionally knocked off by a Buffalo State defenseman. In the National Hockey League, such an infraction would result in a goal for the scoring team. But not in the college game.

"Knowing the rules, you have got to give the defenseman credit," Battista said. "He did what he had to do to win. I don't teach my players to win that way."

Penn State was thusly awarded the penalty shot.
And of course, why would it be controversial if the penalty shot was successful?
[Andy] McLaughlin took the puck at center ice, skated to his right. He reversed his direction, cut across mid-ice and attempted to juke the goalie with a backhand shot to the left side of the net. Economou never bit, and the puck died amidst his pads. The red light never flashed. No goal. The Bengals' celebration begun.
One unusual quirk of those days: this season-ending game took place after Penn State had already finished third at the first national championship tournament under the ACHA banner (incidentally, this was also the only time PSU hosted nationals). This odd timing led to situations like 1989, when the Icers skipped nationals to focus on the ICHL tournament - can you imagine that happening today? The tactic proved successful, as PSU won their only other ICHL title, this one of the tournament variety, on home ice against Buffalo 8-6 after twice overcoming two-goal deficits in front of a raucous, standing-room-only crowd.

So what of the actual banner? Well, there's a reason I waited until the end to talk about it. I assume they were given to members of the team or something. I have no idea though. A bunch of years later, someone found a box of them somewhere, and they sold them at a game. I bought one. It measures about 9.5" x 17.5" and is made of a felt-like material that may actually be felt for all I know about fabric. Riveting stuff there.