Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Mark Your Calendar (But Not on July's Picture)

Since September 17, 2010, I've spent the last 16 months obsessively looking for minutiae. Part of that is my personality. But most of it is a desire to verify 8,000 times over that yep, this is all in fact happening, through the most minor indications of varsity status imaginable. So when I received my 2012 Nittany Lion Club calendar Tuesday, what do you suppose was the first thing I did?

Click for larger size.

Beauty, eh? Good representation of both men's and women's teams too.

Okay, so we got the decidedly out-of-season month of July. I can live with that... especially since hockey is also included during October. See, those sly folks at the NLC (surely with assists to Messrs. Battista and Downey) snuck the following under the list of home athletic events that appears to the left of each month:
Fri. 12 Men's Ice Hockey vs. American International College
(First Home Series as a Varsity Team)
Sat. 13 Men's Ice Hockey vs. American International College
(First Home Series as a Varsity Team)
A scoop from just about the most unlikely source imaginable. Speaking of unlikely, when you've fantasized about attending the first NCAA home series (you do do that, right?) did you ever imagine AIC on the other bench? Me neither.

Upon further inspection though, it's a savvy choice for the simple reason that the Yellow Jackets present what could be considered the best chance for PSU to win against a DI team in the highly-anticipated home opener.

AIC is in its ninth year in its present conference, Atlantic Hockey. In that time, their best season was 2007-2008's 8-23-5 mark. They fared slightly better in AHA's forerunner, the MAAC, making it all the way up to 12-16-4 in 1998-1999. The Yellow Jackets have finished dead last in the AHA in each of its first eight years, although they do sit 10th of 12 this season so far. When you're decidedly the worst program in DI's only mid-major conference, you probably have a decent claim on being the worst program in all of DI (Alabama-Huntsville may - understandably, and for reasons beyond its control - have a claim there as well, but then again, they weren't supposed to be around next season).

I could go further, but that would be mean. In short, the school of 1,200 in Springfield, MA is not particularly good at DI hockey. What's more, with an average attendance of 222 in a rink about the size of the Ice Pavilion, AIC is not in a great position to demand a return visit or to have an issue with a small venue.

Adam Pleskach's two shorthanded goals are tied for seventh-best in Division I.

Head coach Gary Wright is in his 28th season at AIC (only Boston University's Jack Parker has been in his position longer among DI head coaches), and will only lose four seniors from his roster for season number 29. Prominent among returnees will be Adam Pleskach, a junior forward who wears an A and has led the Jackets in scoring in each year on campus, including this one so far. Workhorse goalie Ben Meisner will also be a senior when he visits Penn State, and he has shutouts of Brown and Robert Morris to his credit this season.

Following the AIC home-opening series, PSU will travel to Rochester, NY for the RIT Brick City Homecoming Game, which will take place on October 20th (I've previously said - several times - that the game will be on the 15th, which was a rather dumb error on my part since 2011's game was on that date - sincerest apologies). Here is the updated list of 2012-2013 games with known dates, opponents and locations.

10/12/2012 vs. American International
10/13/2012 vs. American International
10/20/2012 at Rochester Institute of Technology (Blue Cross Arena)
10/30/2012 at Fredonia State (NCAA DIII)
11/23/2012 at Union
11/24/2012 at Union
2/22/2013 at Wisconsin
2/23/2013 at Wisconsin

Joe Battista said back in October that PSU will play around 20 or 22 DI games next season. There are seven such games listed above, and Michigan State (dates unknown) along with a holiday tournament at Robert Morris (dates and opponents unknown) will eat up four more slots.

Incidentally, the supposed end of days on December 21st was not listed on the NLC calendar. It's worth acknowledging though, since many of us assumed it would come before varsity hockey was played at Penn State.

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