Monday, January 30, 2012

Praise the Lordo

Sioux Falls Stampede defenseman Joseph Lordo has committed to Penn State for 2012, according to a USHL release.

Joseph Lordo

Sioux Falls Stampede (USHL)
5'11", 185 pounds
St. Louis, MO
DOB 1/28/1991

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM

2008-09  STL Amateur Blues 18U  Mdgt   38    4   13   17   70
2009-10  St. Louis Bandits      NAHL   38    0    9    9   73
2010-11  Sioux Falls Stampede   USHL   59    3    7   10   79
2011-12  Sioux Falls Stampede   USHL   34    3    9   12   73

Since the release is short, here's the whole thing (other than the last paragraph, which simply lists the other USHLers committed to PSU).
The Sioux Falls Stampede announced that defenseman Joseph Lordo will play collegiate hockey next season at Penn State University.

Lordo, who turned 21 on Saturday, has appeared in all 34 games for the Stampede this season and collected 12 points (3g, 9a) and 73 penalty minutes while also serving as a team captain. It already surpasses his point total from his first USHL season in which he posted 10 points (3g, 7a) in 59 games for Sioux Falls last year. The St. Louis, Missouri native was selected by the Stampede in the 2010 USHL Entry Draft.

Lordo will be part of a Penn State University program next season that competes for the first time as NCAA Division I. They are scheduled to play as an independent school before joining the newly-formed Big Ten Conference for the 2013-14 season.
Hockey recruiting, much like in any other sport, is based largely on connections and Lordo is no exception. He came up on the St. Louis Amateur Blues with previous commit David Goodwin, and the two were also teammates (for one game, anyway) with the St. Louis Bandits in 2009-2010. For the last two years, they've clashed as USHL opponents - one a high-scoring center, the other looking to stop him from scoring. Both were selected in the 2010 USHL Entry Draft, although Goodwin (2nd round, 25th overall) went much higher than Lordo (18th round, 266th overall).

That's hardly turned out to be an accurate measure of their relative worth. Lordo, as mentioned, is the Stampede's captain and a mainstay on the team's blueline. He's come on offensively of late, scoring 11 of his 12 points this season in the last 17 games. He also carries a -2 rating, no small achievement on a 12-20-2 team that's -36 in the goals for-goals against statistic.

Lordo looks to shut down a guy in a hideous pinstriped jersey.

The Stampede wasn't always a cellar dweller. In Lordo's rookie USHL campaign, Sioux Falls finished a robust third place and advanced to the league semifinals before losing to eventual champ Dubuque. Lordo's three playoff goals trailed only Kyle Rau (a Florida Panthers draft pick now tearing it up at Minnesota) and Connor Reilly (who now plays alongside Curtis Loik with the BCHL's Penticton Vees and is set to join the Gophers next season). Incidentally, two of the three markers came against fellow commit Matt Skoff as the Stampede put down he, Tommy Olczyk and Sioux City in the first round.

In short, he'll add further all-around stability to a defense corps that is quickly filling up with some of Guy Gadowsky's best recruits so far. Lordo joins Mark Yanis, Luke Juha and Connor Varley in their quest to help Penn State surprise some teams right out of the gate this fall.

Three Stars: January 23-29

3. On the Fly, Jan. 28: Down 4-0, UCF Edges ‘Bama 5-4

It was tougher than expected, but the Ice Lions won a 17th game in a row and moved one step closer to an autobid to the ACHA national championship tournament with a win over Rowan Saturday night. The game was also notable for a milestone reached by the team's captain.
Chalk up another memorable moment for Penn State’s Jim Recupero. The Ice Lions senior recorded the 100th point of his career in Penn State’s 5-3 victory over Rowan in a DII Mid-Atlantic College Hockey game.

This milestone point, an assist on Penn State’s first goal, comes on the heels of Recupero’s outstanding performance for the ACHA DII Selects in a five-game European tour during the semester break. Recupero was the Selects’ leading scorer.

As for the game, “Real sloppy first two periods for us, but [we] came out hard in the third [period] as we spent the first 10 minutes of that period in their zone,” said Sylvain Theriault, Penn State assistant coach.

The victory was the Ice Lions’ 17th in a row and improved their season record to 22-2-0-0 and their MACH North Division record to 10-0-0-0. They’re ranked second in the ACHA DII Southeast Region.
2. Working on a Building
(Centre Daily Times)

This creatively-titled article is probably the most thorough response to the Board of Trustees' approval of Pegula Ice Arena. Just because they're related to common questions, a couple of clips are in order.
No official ground-breaking has been set. In addition to digging into the current parking lot to tap into utilities, the turf of the former Bigler Field — a new one has been erected across University Drive for the lacrosse teams — is being torn up. [Joe] Battista said everything is ahead of schedule, digging should begin sometime in February, and an official ceremony will be held in early spring. A steel framework should be in place by the time football season rolls around and the building is expected to open in September 2013.
Remember how the arena used to cost $75 million and now it costs $89 million?
Battista, however, did not stop with the Pegulas, having raised close to $105.5 million to fund the arena and the men’s and women’s programs.
Great, problem solved. Now if only Penn State had a Board of Trustees willing to ask questions or engage in any kind of debate whatsoever...and even if those questions were already asked and answered outside of the board's meeting January 20th, where is the transparency we were supposed to be getting?

1. Penn State Pegula Ice Arena to be LEED Certified
(Mass Media Musings)

Speaking of the probably already know about this post because you went to Lady Icer Abbey Dufoe's blog the last time I plugged it, loved it, and subscribed. If you didn't, I'll just assume that you weren't reading TYT three weeks ago. So for all who are new here, this post is her reaction upon learning that Pegula Ice Arena is to be LEED certified.

Now for my reaction: I realize that this isn't a popular opinion in Penn State hockey circles, but the money used to build the arena came from something that causes a whole host of environmental concerns, as one might expect when it involves pumping a bunch of things like benzene, lead, methanol and boric acid into the ground and hoping nothing bad comes of it (Terry Pegula is no exception). The least we can do is make said arena as environmentally friendly as possible, so here's hoping we find somewhere else to trim when the cost overruns start to pop up.

Best of the Rest


Last week, IcersGuy from Black Shoe Diaries informed me that Curtiss Patrick, recently named to the Icers' Hall of Fame for this year, appears in NHL 09 as a free agent. So I pulled out my copy of the game and took a picture of his player bio. Crazy stuff. By the way, while his 66 overall rating doesn't sound like much, it does beat Guillaume Latendresse's brother Olivier.

Nanooks’ Karr working on organizing new WCHA
(Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

Ready to mine some news from the News-Miner? Buried in this article is a disclosure that Penn State has committed to play in the 2014 Brice Alaska Goal Rush, hosted by Alaska (the good Alaska, Fairbanks). This would mark Guy Gadowsky's return to the school he coached from 1999-2004 and makes all kinds of sense for that reason alone. Well, there is one other reason: the NCAA game limit exemption (specifically, games in Alaska don't count against it).

The Goal Rush is a season-opening tournament (this season, it was won by the hosts on October 14th and 15th, 2011) so this wouldn't be next season or the season after, but the season after that. Feel free to forget all about this so you can get excited again when it's officially announced.

Rasmussen leads the way for Storm'N'Sabres

Josh Brandwene is after Kendra Rasmussen, who is about to become the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of the Sartell/Sauk Rapids (MN) high school program. In 23 games this year, she leads the Storm'n Sabres in scoring with 26 goals, 14 assists and has her team on top of the Central Lakes league with a 10-1-0 conference record. Also in the running for Rasmussen are Quinnipiac and a handful of Division III schools.

Bierwirth helps Raiders right ship
(Hillsborough Beacon)
The Hillsborough High School senior defensemen is heading to Penn State University next year, where he’s unsure if he will be able to play for the Nittany Lions as they go into Division I hockey. Bierwirth is trying to extend his final scholastic season as long as he can, and that means pushing the Raiders toward the year-end state tournament.
Yeah, good luck with that.

Ohio Bobcats vs. Penn State Nittany Icers
(Taehoon Kim Photography)

An OU-centric (but still outstanding) collection of photos from Friday and Saturday.

Hockey aims to claim elusive D2 title

Meet D2 nationals hosts Florida Gulf Coast University, which also doubles as the team keeping the Ice Lions from the top spot in the southeast region.

Solution for sites in sight

It seems like there's a lot of momentum for revisiting the Big Ten tournament format, which presently calls for the teams seeded third through sixth to play a campus-site best-of-three first round, with the winners meeting the top two seeds at the No. 1 seed's rink for single-elimination semifinals and finals.

I like the neutral site idea. Unless it's played in St. Paul, MN every year. Then I hate it. I don't normally root for anything productive to happen in the NCHC, but I do hope that they swoop in and steal that particular venue. The Big Ten would then be forced to Chicago or somewhere that doesn't force the conference's easternmost team to travel to its westernmost outpost every year for the tournament. Yay. Also, a word of caution as we proceed through all of this: never believe anything out of Barry Alvarez's mouth.

MSUM athletic director says hockey is 'so close'

In case you were wondering, Minnesota State-Moorhead hasn't given up on trying to start a Division I hockey program. Oh right, you weren't wondering. Sorry about that.

For you, coach

With good reason, numerous Icers and Lady Icers shared pictures of the backs of their buckets last week.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

W: Penn State 5-2 vs. Liberty 1-3

Descoresie? Defoursie.
Ranked 12th at the conclusion of the fall semester, the Lady Icers since then (and bolstered by incoming transfers Taylor Gross and Jess Desorcie) have pumped out wins against NCAA Division I Sacred Heart, then-No. 5 Rhode Island and then-No. 1 Northeastern. So naturally, it was a little upsetting when Friday's poll showed that the payoff for that effort was but one spot in rankings. Against that backdrop of disrespect though, a rallying cry emerged among a steeled team: "kick in the door."

Desorcie took an enthusiastic first kick Saturday afternoon against new No. 5 Liberty, staking PSU to a 2-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game. She finished the natural hat trick at the tail end of a hitting from behind penalty to Liberty's Madison Fischer with 11:07 left in the second period. A fourth goal with nine minutes remaining polished off the final result. The goals gave Desorcie 12 in just seven games since arriving from NCAA Division III Connecticut College.

In hockey, the ultimate team sport, nobody ever does anything alone, and Desorcie - as good as she is - is no exception. With her the whole way were linemates Gross (who scored the other PSU goal and assisted on three of Desorcie's) and Tess Weaver (who assisted on all five Lady Icer goals).

It can be said every week but Katie Vaughan was also outstanding, making 24 saves while surrendering only Carly Peleshok's second-period goal that trimmed the PSU lead to 3-1.

Hockey, like life, isn't perfect though. Sometimes all the kicking in the world can end with mixed results, as happened when Liberty came back to win 3-2 on Sunday. Katharine Gausseres, a tremendous two-way Lady Icer, answered Laura Del Monte's power play goal midway through the first to tie the game at one. Over the next 30 minutes though, Liberty would jump out to a 3-1 lead - enough to withstand Weaver's goal on the advantage in the third period. The Flames, the alleged favorites, had escaped the Ice Pavilion with a split, despite Penn State's being in control for large portions of the game according to observers (PSU enjoyed a 33-23 shot advantage).

If a tie is like kissing your sister, a weekend "tie" has to feel about the same. Maybe a little worse with a bid to the ACHA national tournament on the line. Still, the big picture hardly looks that dire. While the team's record is 8-13-2, it's 7-5-0 against ACHA competition. Furthermore the team, as currently constituted, has gone 3-3-0 this semester against the current No. 2, No. 4 and No. 5 teams in the ACHA (scoring three more goals than it has given up in the process). PSU has clearly proven worthy of the top five, even if the polls haven't reflected that yet.

The good news is that there are remaining chances to change minds. Next weekend brings a return trip to No. 4 Northeastern for a third and a fourth game against the Huskies in a 16-day stretch. The Lady Icers play the last of ten games in New England (all in a span of 16 total games) February 10th and 11th against No. 6 Massachusetts. The next home games are February 18th and 19th against Vermont, but by then, the bids to nationals will have already been awarded to the top eight teams in the February 17th ranking. Until that though, there's just one thing left to do.

Keep kicking.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

M: Penn State 4 at Ohio 1

The Icers took their final leave from Bird Arena with a 4-1 triumph over Ohio Saturday night. With the victory, Penn State moved to 21-3-1 (20-2-1) this season and clinched a season sweep of the Bobcats for just the second time in the 30-year series history. Friend of TYT IcersGuy tells it like it was.

The Icers turned to Matt Madrazo for the Saturday night game. But a little over two minutes into the game, a Ohio slapshot from the point would be deflected behind Madrazo, giving the Bobcats an early 1-0 lead. The Icers would pick up the offensive pressure, however, and George Saad would wrist home a goal to tie the game at 1-1. Late in the period, the Icers would finally break through on the powerplay, as Pete Sweetland would get his first goal as an Icer, giving Penn State the 2-1 lead. The second period mirrored Friday night's second period, where both teams would get powerplay but fail to convert. With 6:25 left in the period, Saad would benefit from falling behind the play, as he would end up with a breakaway and his second goal of the game. Not wanting to get swept, the Bobcats came out with the energy and pressure to start the period. But the defense and Matt Madrazo would not be beat, keeping it 3-1 Icers. Late in the period, the Icers would crack the Bobcats pressure, and Justin Kirchhevel would score on the breakaway, putting the icing on a 4-1 Icers victory and a season sweep of the Bobcats.

Coming out of this weekend, there's little to discuss as good/bad/otherwise for this team. This really just means that the team has continued their solid play from the past few weekends. Credit to the Bobcat penalty kill, which was very aggressive and disrupted the Icers' power play 14 out of 15 times. (Of course, that one Icers powerplay goal ended up being the game-winner on Saturday.) But outside of a lackluster powerplay, the Icers looked solid offensively - finding ways to sustain pressure and get quality opportunities against a solid Ohio team. The defense did well to shut down most of the OU chances, and kept their turnovers to a real minimum. And both goaltenders played outstanding to hold the Bobcats to just one goal each game. In fact, in the four-game season sweep for the Icers, they outscored Ohio, 18-6.

Friday, January 27, 2012

M: Penn State 2 at Ohio 1

In a chippier-than-anticipated affair, Penn State (20-3-1) used two third period transition goals from Taylor Holstrom to outweigh a Zach Barbis first-period tally for Ohio (21-10-1). Barbis' goal, from in front of a gaping cage and set up by a Michael Schultz feed that caught the defense napping, held up for 34:47 of the game. That frustrating chunk of time was punctuated by missed opportunities and Icers power plays that ended prematurely due to PSU penalties, mostly after whistles (both teams finished without a goal in eight attempts at an advantage). Just as it started to look as if the Bobcats might muddle their way to 1-0 upset, Rich O'Brien's stretch pass found Holstrom streaking in to level the game with 12:09 left. Holstrom again proved dangerous in the open ice just under eight minutes later when he buried the winner at the conclusion of a spectacular end-to-end rush. P.J. Musico turned in a quiet but outstanding effort in goal, stopping 18 of 19 OU attempts.

The two teams will square off again Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Icers' final tilt at Ohio's Bird Arena.


Ohio may or may not win either of the final two installments of the best rivalry the ACHA has ever seen, Friday and Saturday evening at OU's Bird Arena. However, they've already won in one regard: retrospectives on the series (acknowledging my own role in that as someone who meant to do a sweeping history and didn't). Rather than be bitter about it, I thought I'd share some of what's come from their side - including interviews from current coach Dan Morris, former coach Craig McCarthy, and a brilliant video that captures the intensity and significance of the rivalry.

McCarthy: the lost Schrute brother?

The (OU) Post also checked in with a nice piece today that includes quotes from new Icers Hall of Famer Bill Downey, as well as Morris, McCarthy and forward Nick Rostek from the Bobcat side of things. Oh, and scoop alert:
Though Penn State will be moving up and Ohio will remain in the ACHA, the rivalry with the Bobcats is not quite over. Ohio will travel to State College, Pa., for two games next season, tentatively scheduled for February 2013.
It certainly won't be the same then, not with the gap between the two teams that will (hopefully) be evident, but it's still nice to hear that OU will grace the Ice Pavilion in its final season as Penn State hockey's primary venue.

Finally, a few of my favorite OU-themed TYT posts. I love that I've been around long enough now to do "best of" stuff when I slack off.

Payday Memorabilia: Ohio Jersey (October 27, 2010)
Payday Memorabilia: 2003 ACHA National Tournament Souvenirs (January 6, 2011)
Breakout Past: Penn State vs. Ohio, 3/15/2009 (August 18, 2011)
Breakout Past: 1990 National Championship Banner (September 8, 2011)
"Anytime We Beat Them" (October 20, 2011)

"Exactly What I Was Looking For"

Sarah Wilkie stands out as one of the more intriguing recruits of Josh Brandwene's 2012 class. She's presently a three-sport star at Williston Northampton - a prep school in Easthampton, MA - excelling in field hockey and lacrosse as well as ice hockey. But it was time spent in a fourth sport, figure skating, that developed a lot of Wilkie's strong points as a hockey player, including skating and puck movement. Despite her status as a first-year player next season, look for Wilkie to also bring a healthy dose of leadership to what will be a very young inaugural Division I team.

The Ashby, MA product recently found time somewhere between hockey and lacrosse practices to answer a few questions.

Thank You Terry: How did you get into hockey in the first place?

Sarah Wilkie: I figure skated until about seventh grade. I did synchronized skating and individual, I was very competitive with that. But my family is all hockey players - my cousins played hockey, my dad played hockey, my brother played hockey growing up. Two of my uncles played Division I college hockey. We’re all really big hockey fans, so when I decided to give up figure skating. It seemed like a natural transition, I wanted to try something new and something I’ve been around for my whole life but had never really tried. I also had the skating down, so I went to a few clinics. It was pretty casual at first, but I loved it automatically.

[Note: Sarah’s uncles are Greg Wilkie, who played at Vermont from 1975-1979 and David Wilkie, a Providence Friar from 1981-1985. David’s time at PC was notable for Frozen Four appearances in 1983 and 1985 as well as its overlap with Lou Lamoriello’s coaching career there, which ran through 1983.]

TYT: How did you end up at Williston? There are a lot of good prep schools up there, why them?

SW: I knew that I wanted to play college hockey, I was in love with the sport, and I knew that going to a public school or a private school in my area wouldn’t really prepare me enough, so my parents and I started looking at a lot of prep schools. I got in touch with the coach here, Coach Talbot came to visit and everything, it’s a really good fit for me in every category. Hockey is a great fit, academics, socially, the size of the school, location, so it was a pretty easy decision and I’ve had four great years.

TYT: In the Penn State release, Coach Brandwene called you a “student leader.” What kind of extracurriculars are you involved with?

SW: For the past two years, I’ve been a proctor in the girls’ freshman dorm, which is like an RA for prep school. I captain my three varsity sports, I’m a member of the disciplinary committee, and I’m the editor of the yearbook this year.

TYT: What would you say is your favorite or best moment in hockey to this point?

SW: This year we played Tabor Academy [on January 7th] and we had a breast cancer Pink in the Rink game. It was just an amazing game, we beat them 5-0, one of our biggest rivals, and we raised over $1000 for breast cancer. It was a huge game, everyone was so excited, and it was a great win.

Williston's raising money to fight breast cancer is one of Wilkie's favorite hockey memories.

TYT: You’re the captain, so how would you describe your leadership style? Are you more of a lead by example type or do you get vocal in the room?

SW: I wouldn’t say I’m incredibly vocal, I’m more - when I’m getting ready for a game, I’m more of like a focused player and slightly more quiet in the locker room before a game. I do try to lead by example and when it comes to being on the ice, I’m a lot more vocal, I talk with my teammates and get everyone going.

TYT: Your team’s playing really well right now, you guys have only lost one game since December 17th, if I counted right, 11-1-2 since then (now 11-2-2), with that one loss at the Exeter Tournament. What’s been going right for you guys?

SW: At the beginning of the season we struggled a little bit learning the systems and learning to stick with them and play inside of them. So we’ve built a lot of camaraderie and have been working together very well. We’ve faced some adversity the past two weeks with illness, we’ve had a lot of girls sick and with injuries and concussions. But it’s been really great facing adversity and working through that, so it’s kind of been a little motivating for us.

TYT: Any kind of goals personally or as a team the rest of the season?

SW: We’re coming into a big week, we’re playing Westminster on Wednesday, one of our biggest rivals, and Hotchkiss on Saturday. One of our biggest goals is to beat Westminster, we beat them once in a shootout at the Nobles Tournament [on December 17th]. We really hope we can do that again, and we definitely want to make the playoffs and go as far in the playoffs as we can. [Note: Westminster defeated Williston 4-2 in that game on Wednesday.]

TYT: Do you ever stop for two seconds just to think about how crazy your schedule is? I’m actually kind of new to following women’s hockey, so I didn’t know that you guys - you’re all playing for two teams, five games in a weekend, things like that.

SW: When I was looking to go to prep school and I finally got to Williston, the coolest thing I thought was you just walk to practice. You don’t drive an hour there, an hour back. Every day, you’re just walking to practice and it’s no hassle at all. It’s just so nice. There’s a rink down the street from me where I can go skate whenever I want, there’s a gym and everything, it’s really nice. That’s one thing I like about being at a prep school, because everything is so close around you and you can definitely make better use of your time. It’s still busy, but a different kind of busy. You don’t miss the car time.

TYT: Okay, let’s talk about Penn State. Who recruited you, was it Coach Brandwene or one of the assistants?

SW: Coach Brandwene. He had been coaching up here at a prep school (Kingsford Oxford School), so he was very familiar with my school and with my coach and I talked to him a lot. I actually came in for a visit over summer, and after I visited, it kind of kick started the recruiting, and I was talking to him a lot more frequently after that. After the NAHA Labor Day Tournament, I kind of knew by then that Penn State was definitely where I wanted to go.

TYT: Were there specific reasons to help you make that decision?

SW: I really liked the atmosphere on campus. I know a lot about the history of the sports programs there, and I was really excited about being able to be included in that. I just know the overwhelming excitement there is on campus, and I really liked the idea of being able to be a part of something so big and so prestigious. The new program, being a part of that will be a great honor too. I was just so excited for that and it will be really awesome, after I play my four years and graduate, to be a part of the history there.

Wilkie was all smiles on signing day, supported by (from left) mother Tracey, a Penn State alumna, brother Ryan, who also attends Williston, and father Eric.

TYT: Were there other schools you were looking at though?

SW: Clarkson, (Division III) St. Anselm, Holy Cross and Union College. I went to a lot of other schools, at first I thought I was looking for a small school but through all my visits figured out exactly what I was looking for.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

First Ballot

The Icers have announced the 2012 Hall of Fame class, and quite simply, it's a great one. Here are the official bios on each, along with my thoughts (in italics).

Scott Balboni - Assistant Coach (1997-1999, 2002-2006), Head Coach (2006-2011)

Scott Balboni played four-years at Providence College and was part of the 1996 Hockey East Championship team in his senior year before graduating with a degree in Business Management. The next season, he joined the Penn State coaching staff as an assistant to then Head Coach Joe Battista and was an integral part of building the teams that won 5 of 6 ACHA National Championships from 1998 to 2003. He earned the Jerry Fry Service Award in 1998 before taking a brief hiatus from being an assistant in 1999. He returned to the team in 2002 and then succeeded Battista as the 11th Head Coach of the Icers in 2006. As head coach, he amassed a record of 150 wins and 34 losses, was named ACHA Coach of the Year in 2007, and ESCHL Coach of the Year in both 2009 and 2010. Balboni was also an assistant coach for Team USA at the World University games in 2009 and 2011 and will be the Head Coach next year in Slovenia.

He currently resides in the State College area and is Co-Owner and President of Hat Trick Group, Incorporated and an Insurance Consultant at Frost and Conn.

I'm not sure that Coach Balboni's role in Penn State hockey history will ever be fully appreciated, but induction is a nice start. Hindsight might call his role in his time as head coach that of a caretaker while Joe Battista was off raising a bunch of money, but that's not fair. The two had nearly identical winning percentages, which shouldn't really be all that surprising considering Balboni's vital role in the most successful stretch the Icers have ever seen.

He also once dropped one of the five funniest jokes I've ever heard, but I can't publish it, sorry.

Dick Merkel - Forward (1971-72)

Dick Merkel, along with Jim Hodgson, was the first captain in Icers’ history in the 1971-72 season. “Merk”, as he was called, was a team leader on the ice netting 18 goals and assisting on 10 more in the team’s 19 games and off the ice as an Assistant Coach all while a member of the Geophysics Faculty. Despite the pleading of then Head Coach Larry Hendry, “Merk” played just one season for the nascent hockey program as he left Penn State to begin his career in the oil and natural gas industry in 1972. He was the first Icer to have previously played Division 1 hockey as he played at Saint Lawrence University before graduating with a degree in Physics in 1964. He went on to play semi-pro hockey for the Lake Placid Roamers before coming to Penn State to pursue a post-graduate degree. He completed his Masters and Doctorate in Geophysics in 1967 and 1970, respectively.

He is currently the Petrophysical Advisor for Newfield Exploration located in Denver, Colorado. He and his wife Judy have four children: Pete, Leslie, Chris and Trish.

I don't have the pleasure of being familiar with Merkel on any kind of firsthand basis. In the course of doing this blog though, I've come to have a renewed appreciation for the struggles of Penn State hockey's pioneers - both in the 1930s and 40s as well as those who founded the club program in the 70s. In order to write this blurb, I re-read a couple of old Collegian articles, and just from that you can get a sense of the hard work that went into getting the program on its feet - equipment, as one example, had to be acquired from places like Ithaca, NY and Pittsburgh. Merkel, as a former DI player and a star performer, helped lend instant credibility to the organization.

Scott Curry - Defenseman (1998-2002)

A native of Burlington, Massachusetts, Scott Curry came to Penn State in 1998 and made an immediate impact as a hard-hitting defenseman earning Rookie of the Year honors in his freshman year. He continued his steady performance the following season earning the Joe Battista Award for Defensive Player of the year and an ACHA All-Tournament Honorable Mention during the Icers’ “Magic City Miracle” Championship run in Minot, North Dakota. In 2001, Scott was selected as an Assistant Captain on Team USA at the World University Games in Poland – the first time players from the ACHA were selected for this honor. Also beginning that season, Scott became one of only a handful of Icers to wear the captain’s “C” for two seasons, sharing it with Alon Eizenman during his Junior year and Kyle Jordan during his senior year. During those two seasons, he was also an ACHA Academic All-American while pursuing a degree in Communications with an emphasis in Advertising. He capped his Penn State career with yet another All-Tournament Honorable Mention, ACHA All-American Third Team designation and his third ACHA Championship ring in 2002.

He is currently Director of Core Marketing for the American Council on Exercise in San Diego, California, where he resides with his wife, Lisa and daughter Sienna with a second daughter expected in May.

I really can't say enough about what a first-class guy Curry is. He was a two-year captain, but he was just one of those guys who exuded "leader," with or without a letter. I can't really explain that quality with great specificity, but I can illustrate it. After he was named to that first ACHA World University Games team, my friend Tim approached him with a USA Hockey puck. He signed it (using the number 14 that he wore in the WUG), then without being asked, tracked down the other Icers picked for the team (Mike Blevins, Josh Mandel and Greg Held) and got them to sign too. A simple gesture on some level, but still a high-character move.

Curtiss Patrick - Defenseman (2000-2004)

One of three players from the Patrick family to don a Penn State jersey, Curtiss patrolled the Icers’ blue line aggressively and exhibited a very physical style of play in all of his four years. The Shavertown native began his career in the 2000-01 and was second on the team in plus/minus at plus-31. Also during that season, he began a trend that would continue his whole Penn State career in leading the team in penalty minutes. He currently is the all-time leader in that category with 325. Curtiss scored the game-winning goal against Illinois in the 2002 ACHA National Championship Game and during the tournament, was not on the ice for a single, even-strength goal against. During his Junior season, he was named an Assistant Captain and garnered several awards including the Norm Hutchinson, Players’ Player Award, ACHA All-Tournament First Team designation, ACHA Academic All-American and ACHA First Team All-American. He also represented Team USA at the World University Games in Italy with Head Coach Joe Battista. Curtiss was named team captain for his senior season and earned the Defensive Player of the Year award and his second ACHA First-Team All-American designation. He signed with the Johnstown Chiefs after the 2004 ACHA National Tournament and was invited to the Pittsburgh Penguins Tryout Camp the next season. Curtiss went on to play professional hockey for the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the AHL.

He completed his degree in Communications/Advertising in 2008 and is currently a web designer and interactive developer for Quest Fore based in Pittsburgh. He currently lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife Erica and two sons, Connor and Ethan.

The entire Patrick family was really a source of tremendous pride for all of us, a connection to one of the legendary names in hockey history. But far from riding on coattails, Curtiss carved out his own niche as a fantastic d-man and one of the great characters on the team. Here's a story that proves he was more than just his family's legacy, published in the May 11, 2009 Hockey News: "Last season my family and I drove the four hours to Hershey to watch the AHL Penguins battle the Bears. After the game my two sons persuaded my wife and I to take them to the Pens bus. We informed the boys the players would probably want to be left alone after losing the game, but to my surprise we were met by an enthusiastic Penguins player named Curtiss Patrick, of the same Patrick family famous for its tremendous hockey achievements. Curtiss was more than happy to corral his teammates over to autograph pucks and talk hockey for a few minutes. The Patrick family is to hockey what the royal family is to England. My sons will never forget meeting one of the game's true ambassadors."

Bill Downey - Forward (2000-2004), Assistant Coach (2009-10), Director of Hockey Operations (2011-Present)

Bill Downey began his Penn State career with a bang scoring four goals in his first game of ACHA competition against Villanova and finished his freshman year fourth on the team in scoring. Bill continued to light the lamp with three hat tricks in his sophomore season. His 2 goals and 2 assists at nationals garnered him an ACHA All-Tournament Honorable Mention. He also received the Tammy Smith, Unsung Hero Award that season – an award he would also gather the following year. In his Junior season, he reached the 100 point mark as an Icer, a second ACHA All-Tournament Honorable Mention, the Cecil and Trudy Smith Improvement Award and was a member of Team USA at the 2003 World University Games in Italy along with Curtiss Patrick and Head Coach Joe Battista. As team captain in his senior year, he received the Norm Hutchinson, Players’ Player Award, an ACHA All-Tournament Second-Team and Third-Team All-American designation. Bill completed his Penn State career – as a player – with 57 goals and 102 assists in 134 games played never missing a game due to injury. Immediately following the 2004 ACHA National Tournament, Bill signed his first pro contract with the Johnstown Chiefs of the ECHL, scoring the game-winning goal in his first game. After graduating with a degree in Economics, he was invited to the 2004 Pittsburgh Penguins Training Camp and ultimately went on to play 2 seasons between the ECHL and UHL. In 2008, he returned to Penn State as an assistant coach and earned the Jerry Fry Service award in 2009 and the Vance McCullough Award of Excellence in 2010. After two seasons, Bill took the position of Director of Hockey Operations at Harvard but was brought back to Penn State to fill that same position last summer.

He and his wife Amy are expecting their first child this summer.

As great of a player and a coach as Downey was, it's pretty fun to think that his biggest contributions to Penn State hockey might still be ahead of us. He was obviously an integral part of putting the Citizens Bank Park game on January 3rd together, and every indication is that awesome will be the norm during his time as director of hockey ops. Along with all other Icers who played professionally, I took a lot of pride in having a guy from our humble little club program make a mark in the pros first as a player, then as an ECHL assistant in 2007-2008.

I posted this once before, but since it was well before anyone read TYT, I'd now like to brag about how I own Downey's Wheeling Nailers jersey.

Linda Jordan - Icers Booster Club (1998-Present)

Even with two sons having played for the Icers, Linda Jordan has been more than just your typical "Hockey Mom". After moving to the area from Minnesota, she immediately became a member of the Icers Booster Club when her oldest son, Kyle, was in his rookie season. At the request of Coach Battista, Linda began working with Ruth Markle and another Hall of Famer Maxine Schollenberger on the day-to-day operations of the Booster Club - particularly in merchandising. She served as Merchandise Chairperson overseeing sales at home games, online and at the hockey camps for a decade. She has also served as Booster Club Vice President for nearly five years. In 2003, one year before her youngest son Keith joined the team, she was awarded the Jerry Fry Service award. Linda's other contributions included Alumni Weekend organization, updating team history and contacts, Booster Club liaison to the Hockey Management Association, and basically anything else that Coach Battista, Coach Balboni or their staff needed. In 2007 she received the Vance McCullough Award of Excellence and the Icers Booster Club "7th Man" Award for her continued dedication to Penn State Hockey.

Linda divides her time between State College and their house in Saint Petersburg, Florida where she continues to work on stained glass creations - one of which was presented as a gift to Terry and Kim Pegula.

In observing programs around the ACHA, I've found that identifying the class of the group goes well beyond wins and losses on the ice - although Jordan certainly helped in that regard with fantastic playing progeny. But really the mark of an elite program, to a large extent, lies in the peripherals and the Icers recognize this through the Hall of Fame. Fellow 2012 inductee Steve Penstone puts out a first-rate broadcast, 2007 inductee Rodney Martin puts out a first-rate website, and Jordan obviously meets that same standard in terms of merchandising and the booster club. Having a top program, especially when an athletic department isn't running everything, is a "total package" situation, and Jordan has been a huge part of that.

As a guy who occasionally had to man the merchandise stand during games, I maybe didn't have a full appreciation for that aspect of things at the time (it's really hard to see the game from there), but we've always had lots of nice stuff.

Steve Penstone - Play-by-Play Announcer (2002-Present)

Toronto native Steve Penstone called his first game for the Penn State Icers on October 25th, 2002. For the past 10 years, he has been the voice of Penn State Hockey on the web and the radio. Steve was a recipient of the Icers Booster Club’s “7th Man” Award for his tireless efforts in promoting Penn State Hockey and bringing the games live to the fans. For the past two seasons, he has included video webcasting of the games with the help of his “executive producer” – his wife, Barb. Despite having to overcome a litany of technical issues and non-ideal broadcast conditions, Steve has been a consummate professional in providing some of the best broadcasting in the ACHA.

Steve currently resides in Centre Hall and is employed part-time at the All-Sports Museum and Penn State Golf Course.

As often as I can, I try to point out that while I probably could do this blog without Steve, it wouldn't be nearly as good. Watching the games (and listening to them before I started TYT) is vital to my understanding how the team is doing and without that, I'd be copy/pasting Collegian articles and box scores. Of course, it's not just the fact of the broadcast itself - as someone who has watched most of the teams out there doing broadcasts, I can promise you the quality far surpasses anyone else. I've always had the utmost respect for his ability to pull off a broadcast by any means necessary, but didn't fully appreciate what he goes through on a weekly basis until I tried covering games in person myself (and that was just for a laptop/internet connection, I can't even imagine the rest).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Max Gardiner: A Minnesotan's Take

To be sure, Guy Gadowsky is bringing in several very good recruits this fall. But in much the same way as Tommy Olczyk's last name meant that his arrival overshadowed four former Division I players this year, Max Gardiner's status as an NHL draft pick (as well as his formerly playing for The U - as it's called up there - one of the meccas of college hockey) all but ensures that he'll draw the most interest of next year's class.

So with that in mind, TYT brought in a guest blogger who has seen Gardiner play beyond his highlight reel from Minnetonka High to give you an idea of what to expect when he hits campus next season. Enjoy!

Hello Penn State fans and congratulations on getting both a Division I hockey team and state of the art arena! My name is Nathan Wells and I cover University of Minnesota hockey for SB Nation Minnesota, as well as doing many other things. In that role I've had the opportunity to watch Penn State’snewest recruit Max Gardiner and thought it would be nice to give a first-hand idea of how he plays.

It goes without saying, as Kyle mentioned in his excellent write-up, that the 6’3”, 190 lb forward is best-known for being the younger brother of Anaheim first-round pick and present Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner. At one point, however, Max was seen as the better brother but that’s not the case today. The two don’t share similar styles and while Jake’s excellent skating and vision has led him to the NHL, Max’s skating held him back during his one season at Minnesota.

In fairness to Gardiner, he was rushed by the Gophers. The plan initially was that he would spend a year between high school and college playing in the USHL but was brought in at the last moment after Josh Birkholz was suspended and subsequently left for the WHL. That season would have made a difference because Max ended up being down on the Gophers depth chart in a year key to his development.

When he did play, Gardiner was usually on the fourth line but still spent a good portion of the year battling for playing time. He worked hard but eventually it became apparent that Max was a guy who didn’t have the talent to supplant anyone in the top-six (even without Zach Budish for most of the year with a knee injury, the Gophers had three experienced seniors and first-round pick Nick Bjugstad up front) and didn’t flourish in a bottom-six role.

The two main reasons for that were skating and decision-making. The WCHA is a grind for freshmen and things which worked in high school do not work in college. For some players it is the size difference and while Max is lanky and has room to fill out, that wasn’t an issue compared to his skating not being at the same level as other players. There were many times when Gardiner would try to do something which got him by in high school (i.e. skate the puck through open ice, make an extra pass) but college defensemen would be able to easily stop.

There were also times when his decisions led to defensive lapses or taking out-of-position penalties and with other players having better two-way play, Gardiner spent more and more time in the press box.

At the same time there also are many positives about Max’s game which shouldn’t be overlooked. He has good hands, an okay shot and is a solid playmaker to the point where he’s an asset on any team if used in the right position. Gardiner can make others around him better, works hard and knows how to use his size to his advantage. Although I wouldn’t say he’s a power forward in the traditional sense – Max plays a more finesse game and isn’t as physical as one would think – he is a guy who understands the game well.

In short, there are plenty of tools to work with but Gardiner has not developed into a complete player. From speaking with a couple scouts who have watched him play for Dubuque, they agree that he doesn’t play with the same edge that other players Max’s size do. If given a top-six opportunity, which is very possible with Penn State after not being the case at Minnesota, I can see Gardiner doing big things in college as a playmaker and integral piece on a team. However, he still needs to evolve from being a one-dimensional player as others have caught up to Gardiner’s skills and he was unable to embrace a more gritty, lunch pail style of play.

I hope that helps. If anyone has any questions that I didn't answer, feel free to ask in the comments or on Twitter (my handle is @gopherstate), Thanks again and good luck with Max and the world of Division I hockey.

Commit Cycle: January 24 (Men)

Casey Bailey

Omaha Lancers (USHL)
6'3", 195 pounds
Anchorage, AK
Class of 2012
DOB 10/22/1991

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. Sioux City          L 2-3  1   0   1   2 [box score]
1/21  vs. Omaha               W 3-2  0   1   1   2 [box score]

Bailey's strong first half got him named to the Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog's Mid-Season Western Conference all-star team.

Related stories:
Mid-Season All-Stars (Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog)

Kenny Brooks

Tri-City Storm (USHL)
6'2", 195 pounds
Las Vegas, NV
Class of 2012
DOB 12/11/1991

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/17  at Lincoln              L 0-7  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/20  vs. Waterloo            L 2-4  0   0   0   4 [box score]
1/21  vs. Waterloo            W 3-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Brooks was held off the scoresheet, but the Storm ended a six-game losing streak Saturday against the Black Hawks...he was an honorable mention to the Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog's mid-season Western Conference all-star team.

Related stories:
Mid-Season All-Stars (Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog)

Max Gardiner

Center/Left Wing
Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
6'2", 175 pounds
Minnetonka, MN
Class of 2012
DOB 5/7/1992

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/19  vs. Team USA            L 2-3  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/20  at Cedar Rapids         L 2-7  0   1   1   0 [box score]
1/21  vs. Indiana             W 5-4  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Gardiner's Saints are now 20-10-3, third place in the Eastern Conference.

David Glen

Spruce Grove Saints (AJHL)
6'0", 175 pounds
Fort Saskatchewan, AB
Class of 2012
DOB 2/14/1991

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/17  at Fort McMurray        W 2-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]
1/21  vs. Camrose             W 2-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/22  vs. Lloydminster        W 2-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]

The league-leading Saints won three games last week, all by 2-1 scores and all in overtime or a shootout...Glen, however, is pointless in his last six games - his longest drought of the season...he last scored a goal on December 9th.

David Goodwin

Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
5'9", 187 pounds
St. Louis, MO
Class of 2012
DOB 2/27/1992

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/18  at Sioux Falls          L 3-4  1   1   2   0 [box score]
1/20  at Omaha                W 3-2  1   0   1   0 [box score]

Goodwin has been on a tear of late, scoring in six of his last nine games, with 10 points in that span...he joined Bailey as a forward on the Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog's Western Conference all-star team.

Related stories:
Mid-Season All-Stars (Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog)

Luke Juha

Vernon Vipers (BCHL)
5'11", 180 pounds
Mississauga, ON
Class of 2012
DOB 3/9/1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. Trail               W 5-3  -   -   -   - [box score]
1/21  at Westside             L 1-3  -   -   -   - [box score]

Juha (broken hand) remains on injured reserve.

Reed Linaker

Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
5'9", 165 pounds
Edmonton, AB
Class of 2012
DOB 11/4/1991

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. St. Albert          W 4-3  -   -   -   - [box score]
1/21  vs. Olds                L 2-4  -   -   -   - [box score]

Linaker (knee) is still on the long-term shelf.

Curtis Loik

Penticton Vees (BCHL)
6'1", 205 pounds
North Vancouver, BC
Class of 2012
DOB 4/23/1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. Westside            W 4-0  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/22  vs. Prince George       W 3-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]

The CJHL's top-ranked team has not lost since November 5th, a span of 25 games.

Eamon McAdam

Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
6'2", 180 pounds
Perkasie, PA
Class of 2013
DOB 9/24/1994

Date  Opponent               Score SA GA  Sv% GAA

1/20  at Tri-City            W 4-2 26  2 .923 2.00 [box score]
1/21  at Tri-City            L 2-3  7  3 .571 8.79 [box score]

McAdam won for the first time since November 18th over Brooks' Storm but was pulled the next day after falling behind 3-1 29 seconds into the second period.

Jonathan Milley

Right Wing
Pembroke Lumber Kings (CCHL)
6'4", 220 pounds
Ottawa, ON
Class of 2012
DOB 5/8/1991

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/17  at Cumberland           W 4-1  -   -   -   - [box score]
1/20  at Hawkesbury           L 1-2  -   -   -   - [box score]
1/22  vs. Smiths Falls        W 4-1  -   -   -   - [box score]

Milley (sports hernia) took another step towards an eventual return by skating with equipment last week.

Bo Pellah

Langley Rivermen (BCHL)
5'11", 150 pounds
New Westminster, BC
Class of 2014
DOB 5/25/1995

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/21  vs. Coquitlam           W 5-4  0   1   1   2 [box score]

The Rivermen snapped a six-game skid against Coquitlam...head coach Steve O'Rourke cites the team's development philosophy this season as part of its struggles, saying "We've taken a patient approach. We could have traded guys and panicked, and not let these guys develop. We look at some of these kids, like [rookie defenceman] Bo Pellah, [Valik] Chichkin, and [Nicholas] Gushue, all of them could still be playing midget hockey. Put these guys on any major midget team and they're all-stars."

Related stories:
Slumping Rivermen's playoff hopes sinking (Langley Advance)

Zach Saar

Right Wing
Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
6'5", 200 pounds
Plainwell, MI
Class of 2012 or 2013
DOB 6/22/1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. Youngstown          W 2-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/21  vs. Youngstown          L 6-8  0   1   1   2 [box score]

In a game characterized by large scoring swings, Saar's power play assist Saturday helped Des Moines recover from a 3-0 deficit and eventually tie the game at three...the Phantoms scored the next four goals, however...Saar will attempt to impress NHL scouts at the USHL/NHL Top Prospects Game Tuesday night.

Related stories:
Big Buccaneer forward ready to display his talents for NHL (Des Moines Register)

Matt Skoff

Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
6'0", 186 pounds
McKees Rocks, PA
Class of 2012
DOB 7/23/1991

Date  Opponent               Score SA GA  Sv% GAA

1/18  at Sioux Falls         L 3-4 29  3 .897 3.08 [box score]
1/20  at Omaha               W 3-2 29  2 .931 2.00 [box score]

Skoff had a much-needed bounce-back week especially in his team's upset of first-place Omaha, which stopped a personal five-game losing streak.

David Thompson

Chilliwack Chiefs (BCHL)
6'2", 187 pounds
Glen Mills, PA
Class of 2013
DOB 5/19/1992

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/19  at Prince George        L 2-5  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/20  at Prince George        W 4-2  0   1   1   2 [box score]
1/22  vs. Westside            T 3-3  0   1   1   5 [box score]

A fight with Westside's Peter MacIntosh left Thompson a goal short of a Gordie Howe.

Connor Varley

Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
6'0", 190 pounds
Lansdale, PA
Class of 2012
DOB 6/3/1992

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. Youngstown          W 2-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]
1/21  vs. Youngstown          L 6-8  0   1   1   2 [box score]

Varley's assist Saturday, like Saar's, came during the Buccaneers' rally to tie the game at three with a trio of goals in the first 4:45 of the second period.

Thomas Welsh

Salisbury School (Prep)
6'0", 195 pounds
Toronto, ON
Class of 2013
DOB 2/1/1995

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/18  at Trinity-Pawling      W 9-2  0   0   0   - [box score]
1/21  at Kent School          W 1-0  0   0   0   - [box score]

12-3-0 Salisbury is No.6 in's ranking of Division I prep teams.

Mark Yanis

Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
6'2", 195 pounds
Grosse Pointe Woods, MI
Class of 2012
DOB 5/26/1994

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

1/20  vs. Team USA            W 4-3  1   0   1   4 [box score]
1/21  vs. Team USA            L 4-5  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Yanis' center-point blast on Friday tied the game against the NTDP in the third period, helping the Jacks to a late win...he was named an honorable mention to Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog's mid-season Eastern Conference all-star team.

Related stories:
Mid-Season All-Stars (Unofficial USHL Hockey Blog)