Wednesday, February 29, 2012

End of the Road (Part II)

Part 2 of a three-part series previewing the ACHA Division 1 national championship tournament (Part 1).

In yesterday's post addressing Friday's first round, I predicted that Oakland, Davenport, West Virginia and Central Oklahoma will advance. How will they fare against the top twelve seeds in a sixteen-team second round? Let's find out.

5. Liberty (23-8-4) vs. 12. Adrian (25-13-1)

Saturday, 10:00 a.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Liberty: none, Adrian: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Liberty: 2010 (10th), Adrian: 2011 (5th)
Liberty: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Adrian: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

The first second-round matchup to be played might be the most intriguing, because it involves two teams that are capable of beating just about any team in the country. Penn State saw that characteristic in Liberty firsthand back in December, while Adrian has a win over No. 4 Arizona State and a one-goal loss to second-seeded Lindenwood on their resume. Of course, both teams have had a look at the reverse scenario as well - AC has lost to Eastern Michigan (in a shootout), while the Flames lost to Stony Brook.

Adrian, the GLCHL tournament champs, scores a ton of goals - nearly five per game - and a lot of them have something to do with Ryan Bachman, a sophomore from the Chicago area who is the fourth-leading scorer in the entire ACHA and tops among those at the tournament.

Ryan Bachman probably doesn't support Michelle Bachman as much as Liberty.

Liberty scores quite a few goals themselves, many coming off of a physical forecheck, and can answer the Bulldogs' star power with Brent Boschman, who sits just behind Bachman on the points leaderboard. Those players were prominent when Bulldogs and Flames met for two in Lynchburg back in October, with Boschman's three points fueling a 6-2 LU win before Bachman's side got revenge to the tune of 4-3 the next day.

For this one I'm expecting scoring, and I'm expecting a late Adrian power play goal to advance to the quarterfinals. I feel like the Bulldogs are a little underseeded, they're coming in on a roll, and they'll certainly be motivated after how their season ended last year in Delaware.

Pick: Adrian, 6-5.

4. Arizona State (28-5-1) vs. 13. Oakland (21-15-2)

Saturday, 11:00 a.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Arizona State: none, Oakland: 2007
Last Tournament Appearance: Arizona State: 2011 (10th), Oakland: 2011 (8th)
Arizona State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Oakland: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Because of their geographic isolation, many of you might not be aware of this, but Arizona State is good. Very good. National championship good. Consider their record against the top six seeds this season: 5-1-0, a mark that includes wins over each except themselves (naturally) and Penn State (PSU, incidentally, is a similarly good 6-2-0 against Ohio, Liberty and Delaware). Largely because of that, they cruise into Strongsville with the highest seed in program history.

Senior Mark Schacker, an ACHA all-star last season, gives ASU a solid foundation in net. Here's video of some of his teammates from a 7-3 win against Central Oklahoma this year.

I think the thing that strikes me there is that the guys stepping in that game weren't top scorers Dan Styrna or Kale Dolinski, but secondary guys Dave Jantzie and Patrick Rogan. Another mark of a great team. And lest you think that the Sun Devils are feasting on a parade of opponents on long road trips to Tempe, they're 9-2-1 outside of their home state, including wins over tournament teams Adrian, Liberty, Delaware, Davenport, Kent State (yeah, I know) and UCO.

In the end, too much talent for Oakland to handle, and I don't believe the Grizzlies' goalie rotation of Matt Toter and Corey Hrischuk is good enough to steal one.

Pick: Arizona State, 5-1.

6. Ohio (26-13-1) vs. 11. Illinois (16-16-1)

Saturday, 1:00 p.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Ohio: 1995-1997, 2004, Illinois: 2005, 2008
Last Tournament Appearance: Ohio: 2011 (3rd), Illinois: 2010 (6th)
Ohio: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Illinois: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

If you're a fan of the "classic" ACHA, then this is the game for you. Two tradition-laden programs that are both on the exclusive list of those with multiple national championships (Penn State, North Dakota State and Lindenwood are the only others). Ohio has four, which is a big part of why they're generally regarded as the second most successful program ever. Illinois has only half that many to its credit, but they do have one thing OU doesn't: that 38-0-0 2008 team is the only one in ACHA history with a perfect record.

There's more that makes this game appealing, of course. The two teams are bitter CSCHL rivals. Furthermore, Illini coach Chad Cassel, who has built one of the ACHA's great programs since taking over in Champaign, is retiring after the season.
"I been doing this for 16 years,” Cassel said. "It’s been a lot of fun, but it’s time. I feel like I got one more good run in me here in the national tournament."
I'm not so sure that he does. I shouldn't need to explain Ohio to any Icers fan, but just in case: Michael Schultz, Tyler Pilmore, Brett Agnew, Nick Rostek. Expect to see those guys on the scoresheet a lot, and expect to be impressed by the team's defensive forwards as well. I mentioned that the Bobcats and Illini share a conference, so I'm sure you're wondering how their games went this year.

Specifically, 4-1 and 5-1 wins for OU at Bird Arena in early January. While Illinois will certainly play hard for their coach, that and neutral ice aren't worth a four-goal swing.

Pick: Ohio, 4-2.

3. Delaware (30-3-1) vs. 14. Davenport (21-19-0)

Saturday, 2:00 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Delaware: none, Davenport: 2011
Last Tournament Appearance: Delaware: 2011 (4th), Davenport: 2011 (1st)
Delaware: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Davenport: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

I'm concerned about Delaware, for a few reasons.

For starters, they got a raw deal from a certain segment of poll voters and the ACHA rulebook. After finishing second in the final regular season rankings, they were bumped down to the third seed by a ridiculous ACHA rule that counts the votes of every coach for purposes of deciding who makes the tournament but only those of qualifying coaches to determine seeding. So the Blue Hens have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, and rightfully so, since the coaches in Strongsville don't regard them as highly as the larger Division 1 group.

What sounds like a technicality becomes much more significant when you consider that while second-seeded Lindenwood draws UCO or Kent State in the second round, UD might get the defending champs. Sure Davenport's not quite the same Davenport, but they do need to be considered capable of taking down the Hens - or just about anyone.

Delaware's also coming into this thing a little bit wobbly. After winning the ESCHL regular season championship, they were dispatched 7-2 by Rhode Island in the league playoffs. Backup goalie Nick Casella played in that game, and rumors that starter S.J. Broadt (one of the ACHA's best) has a broken foot are out there. All of it points to UD being extremely ripe for an upset. And really, you shouldn't be surprised if it happens. In fact, my first instinct was to call for it here, but after further contemplation, I think the Hens have talent and depth up front (Ryan McDonald, Christian Tasker, Kevin Miller, Andre Menard, and on and on...) to carry the day here regardless of the goaltender.

Pick: Delaware, 5-4.

8. Iowa State (28-9-5) vs. 9. Oklahoma (25-12-2)

Saturday, 4:00 p.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Iowa State: 1992, 1999, Oklahoma: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Iowa State: 2010 (2nd), Oklahoma: 2011 (7th)
Iowa State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Oklahoma: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

After missing this tournament for the first time in program history, Al Murdoch's team had a nice bounceback year. Long-time ACHA followers know what that means:

Yep, the Cyclone Hockey Cheer Squad will be back at nationals. I'll let each of you form your own opinions as to whether that's a good thing or not. Whatever your take on hockey cheerleaders generally or these hockey cheerleaders specifically, I've always found it a little awkward when they're up in front of a sparse and non-responsive crowd, as happens when two light-traveling teams play each other.

More to the point of the on-ice product, ISU has spurned the tradition of Glenn Detulleo (he's still playing pro hockey, by the way) and are decidedly a defense-first team, just as they were when they made their surprise run to the 2010 national championship game. Back then, it was goalie Erik Hudson leading the way. This year's team 2.50 goals against average is largely due to Paul Karus, Hudson's understudy in 2010, but now the starter. Don't be fooled into thinking it's strictly a goaltending effort though - ISU has eight defensemen who played in either the NAHL or a Canadian Jr. A league. Among the highlights of this group's efforts: a 1-0 shutout of the Sooners on September 30th and a 2-1 win at Arizona State on November 5th. Jon Feavel scored the only goal of that Oklahoma game, and he's one to watch up front, as is J.P. Kascsak.

Regular TYT readers know that I consider Oklahoma one of the most talented teams in the ACHA, as they boast several former NAHLers of their own. Goalie Nick Holmes, a UCO transfer, is a stud, and Blake Martin, formerly of NCAA Division I Nebraska-Omaha, carries the mail up front. Shane Vorndran, who played a season and a half at ACHA Mercyhurst, is another of OU's top scorers. Yeah, they attract a lot of transfers too. Generally, the one-line assessment on the Sooners is that they're a team with a high ceiling, but one that can't stay out of the box. Martin was the poster child for that statement last year with a team-leading 143 penalty minutes in 38 games, but he's cut 70 percent from that number this year and the rest of the team is much improved as well.

While this will be one of the better games of the day, one that could go either way, I think Oklahoma's balance and a good game from Holmes get it done.

Pick: Oklahoma, 3-2.

1. Penn State (27-3-1) vs. 17. West Virginia (23-14-0)

Saturday, 5:00 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Penn State: 1998, 2000-2003, West Virginia: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Penn State: 2011 (11th), West Virginia: 2008 (14th)
Penn State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
West Virginia: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

(Sorry, I'll save the serious analysis for the teams the Icers haven't beaten 8-0 and 6-1 this year. Or 13-2 and 9-0 if it's Rutgers in this game.)

Pick: Penn State, 8-2.

7. Minot State (25-6-2) vs. 10. Robert Morris (IL) (26-6-2)

Saturday, 7:00 p.m.
East Rink

National Championships: Minot State: none, Robert Morris: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Minot State: 2011 (9th), Robert Morris: 2011 (12th)
Minot State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Robert Morris: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Back when Minot wore a giant M on the front of their home sweaters, there was a very obvious comparison.

Of course, there's one glaring difference between the Beavers and Russell Crowe's band of misfits: when the New York Rangers come calling, Minot doesn't always show up to play. I've always thought this was a product of the Beavers' schedule, which tends to be a little sparse by necessity of geography. This year, they only played 19 games against other ACHA D1 teams, filling out most of the rest of their dates with nearby junior colleges. Often at the ACHA tournament, MSU would come out on fire, then drastically fade out within a couple of games. Last year that fade happened over the course of a single game, as Oakland appeared to strengthen late before upsetting the Beavers in overtime in the first round.

Before you assume that I'm going to go against Minot on that theory though, consider that outstanding goalie Wyatt Waselenchuk, leading scorer Josh Rutherford and their teammates may have already proven capable of the task in front of them. From January 26th through 29th, the Beavers played four games at Oklahoma and Central Oklahoma, and won all of them by a combined 15-2 score. I don't care who or what you are, or where you play, that's impressive.

Robert Morris has a pretty nice resume themselves (as tends to be the case with good teams coming from the always-tough CSCHL), and part of it includes going up to Minot in October and earning a split via a 4-3 shootout win. Goaltender Andy DiCristofaro sports a 1.83 goals against average, and he and his defense have proven they can shut down the best when on their game - see single goals allowed in games against Ohio and Adrian and two against in a game with Oklahoma for reference. Much like the Iowa State-Oklahoma game, I see a low-scoring affair that can go either way, but I'm giving this one to coach Wade Regier's side.

Pick: Minot State, 2-1.

2. Lindenwood (30-5-0) vs. 15. Central Oklahoma (15-22-1)

Saturday, 8:00 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Lindenwood: 2009, 2010, Central Oklahoma: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Lindenwood: 2011 (2nd), Central Oklahoma: 2010 (4th)
Lindenwood: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Central Oklahoma: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

The Lions, as usual, come into the tournament as definite championship contenders - though probably not as the prohibitive favorites of the last several years. That's not to say that they're not extremely formidable with only four losses this season (three of which were to Oklahoma). All of those defeats have one thing in common: they happened a while ago. Rick Zombo's gang has reeled off 18 consecutive wins, including, most recently, a 6-4 win over Ohio at Bird Arena in the CSCHL championship game.
It was everything you would want a conference championship to be as both the Lions and Bobcats battled back and forth for most of the game. Lindenwood jumped out to an early lead as Steve Brancheau lit the lamp off a feed from Nick Carey just over two minutes into the first, but Ohio tied it with a power play goal midway through the period and then took a 2-1 lead to the first intermission with another goal with 8:17 left.

The Lions wasted no time in the second as Grant Gorczyca tied the game just 27 seconds into the period. Colin Long and Peppi Sipila assisted on the play. With 9:11 left, Lindenwood edged in front with a goal from Neeco Belanger assisted by Tobias Dahlstrom and Barclay Berner, but the Bobcats battled back to tie the game at 3-3 as they scored with only eight seconds remaining.

Defense prevailed through the first seven minutes of the third as neither team was able to find the back of the net, but Lindenwood capitalized with the man advantage when Brancheau scored on the power play from Tyler Bowman and Joe Bostic at the 12:45 left in the period. The key play of the game came two minutes later when Ohio was looking to tie the game on its own power play, but the Lions turned the tables when Niklas Bunnstedt broke free on a pass from Bostic and scored a short-handed goal with 10:36 left to give Lindenwood a 5-3 lead. The Lions extended that lead to three on the second goal from Gorczyca, assisted by Sipila and Bowman with 9:07 remaining. The Bobcats did get their fourth goal late in the third, but it wasn't enough as the Lions prevailed with the 6-4 win.
The Lions weren't a one-trick pony either, as they also plowed through the CSCHL (which includes OU, Iowa State, Robert Morris (IL), Illinois, Kent State and Indiana) unbeaten. Incidentally, in the out-of-conference portion of the schedule, LU's record includes 4-0-0 against UCO, and only one of those games was closer than a three-goal margin. So yeah, I'm advancing Lindenwood. There's just too much there for a largely one-trick Bronchos squad.

Pick: Lindenwood, 5-1.

In tomorrow's finale, we'll go all the way from the quarterfinals through to the Murdoch Cup with the eight remaining teams: Adrian, Arizona State, Ohio, Delaware, Oklahoma, Penn State, Minot State and Lindenwood.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

End of the Road (Part I)

Part one of a three-part series previewing the ACHA Division 1 national championship tournament.

At some point within nine days of today, the Icers will be no more. Stop and let that one sink in for a moment.

In an instance of less-than-perfect symmetry, the Icers' history will not end at the Ice Pavilion or even arenas Bird, Brad Boss or Fred Rust. Instead, the site will be a venue in which Penn State has never played - the Hoover Arena in Strongsville, OH, site of the 2012 ACHA Division 1 national championship tournament. Following one of the tournament's games (hopefully, the last one), PSU will exit the ice, along with the ACHA, and the NCAA era will officially be underway.

So let's learn a little bit about the showcase that will serve as the Icers' official farewell. Who else will be competing, you ask? With the field expanded to 20 teams this season, it's probably easier to talk about who won't. Of teams which played for the title in 2009, 2010 or 2011, it's a pretty brief list, most of which is based in the Keystone State: Penn State Berks, Canton, Duquesne, Real Robert Morris, Slippery Rock, Stony Brook, West Chester and, of course, Rhode Island, the only certifiable big fish of the group. Also not present, thankfully: consolation games.

Just about every other ACHA Division 1 program that matters will be there. Those seeded 13th through 20th will play each other on Friday, with the winners meeting the top 12 for a round of 16 on Saturday. Saturday's victors advance to Sunday's quarterfinals, and following an off day Monday, the semifinals and championship game will be on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In a manner similar to last year (Part I, Part II), I'm going to frame my tournament preview around predictions, although I'll split this one into three due to the enlarged field. Last year, I got the final four correct. This year, I'll try to not screw it up from that point. For this first post, we'll get warmed up with Friday's largely dispensable first round, featuring a few teams that would not be here under the old system.

13. Oakland (21-15-2) vs. 20. Mercyhurst (19-10-2)

Friday, 11:30 a.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Oakland: 2007, Mercyhurst: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Oakland: 2011 (8th), Mercyhurst: 2006 (16th)
Oakland: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Mercyhurst: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Straight away, Mercyhurst has never won an ACHA tournament game of consequence, and I don't see that changing this year in their first appearance in six years. Many of you saw them at the Ice Pavilion a few weeks ago, and while they can be dangerous generating turnovers on the forecheck, the ECHL champs were clearly unable to compete with a Penn State, or for that matter...

Oakland on the other hand, despite being fairly new to Division 1 (after a nice run in D2, including a pair of national titles) have become well entrenched. They Will McMahoned the Icers to a championship in their first season at the level and have since established themselves as a solid program that makes the show most years, even if they haven't come close to duplicating the success of five years ago. This season's team is probably on that same type of trajectory despite being the regular season champs of a tough GLCHL that includes defending champ Davenport and Adrian. Here's OU coach Jeremy Bachusz on what to expect from top scorers Anthony Colizza and Billy Balent, along with the rest of his team.
"We're a puck possession team in the offensive zone. That is what we do best when we are able to establish our forecheck. Defensively we have been working on trying to transition the puck out of our zone a lot faster then we have and try not to bring the puck back in because that is where we get ourselves into trouble. We have definitely been stressing that throughout this second half here in trying to get our guys moving forward out of our defensive zone."
Pick: Oakland, 6-1

14. Davenport (21-19-0) vs. 19. Drexel (22-11-0)

Friday, 2:30 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Davenport: 2011, Drexel: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Davenport: 2011 (1st), Drexel: 2003 (9th)
Davenport: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Drexel: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Remember that time Davenport won the ACHA Divsion 1 national championship? It was last year, but it seems much longer ago in light of the Panthers' uncharacteristic struggles this year, which include a loss to Michigan-Dearborn. Seriously, who loses to Michigan-Dearborn in 2012?

It's really quite easy to explain: the team has been decimated by departures. Only defensemen Adam Gillikin, Jonathon Frank, Phil Tesoriero and Bo Jacobs, forwards Phil Wendecker, Ben Dykstra and Jeff Slusser and goalie Phil Graveline remain from the overtime win over Lindenwood in last year's title match. Even coach Paul Lowden quit to focus on his duties as athletic director at the school, leaving former assistant Phil Sweeney in charge. Not surprisingly, it's the carryover players (plus freshman forward Mason Bollinger) doing most of the heavy lifting for DU this season.

Drexel? I'd love to talk more about you, especially since this is your first nationals trip since the Icers' last championship (2003) but you haven't updated your website since last year. You also lost to the Ice Lions this season. Get under the bus.

Pick: Davenport, 7-1

16. Rutgers (17-6-4) vs. 17. West Virginia (23-14-0)

Friday, 5:30 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Rutgers: none, West Virginia: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Rutgers: 2011 (16th), West Virginia: 2008 (14th)
Rutgers: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
West Virginia: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

This is unequivocally the game to watch on Friday, for the simple reason that the winner will advance to play the Icers. It also doesn't hurt that it may be the most competitive of the bunch, between two programs that are most likely on their way up the ladder. I like the Mountaineers goalie, Rob Borcky, and feel like he's one of the better mid-major tendys out there. Rutgers counters with a great top line of Matthew McDonald, Jason Adams and John Beatrice.

I'll be honest though: it rubs me the wrong way that the Scarlet Knights have been nationals-bound since November, when they clinched the NECHL regular season title to go with the league's autobid. Unless dealing with the 1976-1977 Montreal Canadiens (rest assured, this Rutgers team is not those Habs), that's so early that it's suspect. Given the lowly stature of RU's league and schedule, they've really had very little incentive to win - once they got in, they were going to be seeded somewhere between 15 and 20 regardless of how they played the last three months. West Virginia, on the other hand, went 12-2-0 in the CMHA and didn't wrap things up until a three-game weekend sweep of Duquesne, Slippery Rock and Pittsburgh February 10-12. I'm going to go with the team that has needed to win games this calendar year, the one that has Lady Icer Kate Christoffersen's brother on the team (senior defenseman Matt), and the one that lost to the Icers by fewer goals in the regular season.

Pick: West Virginia, 5-3.

15. Central Oklahoma  (15-22-1) vs. 18. Kent State (16-21-1)

Friday, 8:30 p.m.
West Rink

National Championships: Central Oklahoma: none, Kent State: none
Last Tournament Appearance: Central Oklahoma: 2010 (4th), Kent State: 2010 (11th)
Central Oklahoma: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics
Kent State: Roster // Schedule/Results // Statistics

Central Oklahoma, as Penn State knows all too well, is a quality program capable of an upset. The reason? Despite their geographic isolation from most of the rest of the ACHA, they battle test themselves. Don't be fooled by the record - UCO has played the top five 12 times this season, and came away with two wins (the shootout win over PSU on January 6th joined a shootout win over Arizona State on October 28th). Certainly, the Bronchos will be huge underdogs if they advance to play Lindenwood, but if they do happen to sneak one out, it will be a little less surprising than an upset in most 2-15 matchups. Defense is a little bit of a concern with a team goals against well north of three, but Donald Geary (below) tends to make up for that. His 19 goals far and away lead a team that only has two players with a double-digit number in that category.

Despite Kent State's status as Akron's (my other school, for those who don't know by now) archrival in everything besides ACHA hockey, I sincerely like the Golden Flashes. With the exception of games against Penn State, I root for them every time out, which will include this game. Since I live in the area, I've been known to pop over and watch them from time to time when it doesn't conflict with the Icers or Akron's ACHA D2 team. All of that said, they have no business being in this tournament and the honorable course may have been to decline their host autobid, as similarly train-wrecky John Carroll did in 2009. Evidence? Sure. They're on a 13-game losing streak. In 23 games this season against tournament teams, they've been competitive three times. Of course, one of those times was a 4-3 win over UCO at the D1 showcase back in October. Still, pass. Andrew Gazdak and Justin Phenney will be vital if KSU is to prove me wrong.

Pick: Central Oklahoma, 6-2.

Tomorrow, I'll toss Oakland, Davenport, West Virginia and Central Oklahoma into the second round with the top twelve to predict how that will shake out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

W: Penn State 3 vs. Massachusetts 2 / Penn State 1 vs. Rhode Island 4 (ECWHL Playoffs)

Saturday box score // Sunday box score

The ECWHL championships, both regular season and tournament, are decided on the ice. While some may argue that the ACHA qualifies as well through its annual national tournament, the Lady Icers' conference enjoys the following characteristics:
  • Its membership is determined before the season.
  • Every member knows and understands the requirements to win it.
  • Those requirements are the same for each member team.
It sounds simple, but in that simplicity lies its beauty: win enough games and you're guaranteed to win the whole thing. We expect that reality from competitive sports, largely because real life offers plenty of ambiguity, slanted playing fields, and general unfairness. Life crept into sports and struck Penn State hard in the wee hours of February 16th, when the ACHA announced that through some inconsistent application of its stated national tournament selection criteria, Massachusetts will compete for the ACHA and Penn State will not.

It's not sports-rule airtight, but one life rule was subsequently applied by the Lady Icers: keep kicking through adversity and good things generally happen. The reaction served the team well though a sweep of Vermont February 18th and 19th that clinched the ECWHL regular season title with a 7-2-1 record. It also served them well through the league's tournament on Saturday and Sunday, beginning with Saturday's semifinal against that same Massachusetts team that unjustly holds the last bid to ACHAs.

Despite being shorthanded for 30 percent of the first period with no power play time, PSU outshot UMass 10-9. They almost escaped to the dressing room unscathed, but the Jaramillo sisters - the ACHA's answer to the Lamoureux sisters, I suppose - teamed up for the game's first goal. Raschelle from Chelsea made it 1-0 Massachusetts after 1, although more than anything, it made the Lady Icers' big scoring line mad. Jess Desorcie tied the game up just 18 seconds into the second, assisted by Taylor Gross. Desorcie then returned the favor by setting up Gross for a 2-1 PSU lead 5:17 after that.

Sarah Oteri, who scored three of the four UMass goals during a series between the teams February 10th and 11th, leveled things once again early in the third period. A problem for some, but only if you don't have Big Game Tess Weaver on your team. As she so often does, Weaver scored the decider on an assist from Gross with 4:36 remaining. It was Weaver's fourth game winner of the season, a number that also includes the triumph over NCAA Division I Sacred Heart and a win at then-top ranked Northeastern in January.

However life, and adversity, crept back into sports and hit the Lady Icers - hard - two more times. Senior captain Sara Chroman broke her ankle late in the second period of the game - an unfortunate conclusion to a great run as the epitome of "outstanding student-athlete." The uncertainty and injustice of life may be a theme of this post, but I still have every confidence that the real world will nevertheless treat Chroman extremely well. She's certainly earned it. Jess Desorcie, who scored 19 (!) goals this semester after coming over from NCAA Division III Connecticut College, also suffered her own ankle injury in the first period of the ECWHL championship game against Rhode Island and was lost for the duration. She, however, will be back, presumably in a key role on Penn State's inaugural NCAA team.

Without two vital players, the slim hopes of defeating a tough Rhode Island team were not realized, as the Lady Icers fell 4-1 to end the season 13-14-3-1 and 12-7-1-0 in the ACHA, along with the ECWHL regular season championship. There's really no point in reliving the final, but it's worth observing that the lone PSU goal was scored by Elizabeth Denis, the geoscience Ph.D. student and former Brown player, who jumped on the top line in Desorcie's place. She's a great story if you're not familiar, and while NCAA rules prohibit her from being a part of the varsity team next year, I hope to be able to follow her with the new incarnation of the women's club program.

For the time being though, it's on to an offseason that's sure to be full of intrigue. In 2012-2013, Penn State will dive headfirst into a College Hockey America that includes Mercyhurst, one of the nation's best programs, as well as quickly-rising Robert Morris and old ACHA rival Lindenwood. And from what I understand, both the CHA and NCAA championships are won on the ice (it doesn't get much more objective than PWR and autobids, does it?). I, for one, can't wait.


The Lady Icers' season ended yesterday with a loss to Rhode Island in the ECWHL championship game. And I'm upset. Not so much about the game result, it was still a great season, but about the fact that I still don't know the final score - I think it was 4-1, but that's unconfirmed - or countless other pieces of information about the team from throughout the season.

First, a confession: both this blog and myself are pretty new to women's hockey. Other than a couple of Lady Icers posts, TYT's involvement with the women's game last season was largely via the World University Games, which featured four Penn State players and a coach on Team USA. Through the offseason and into this year, I've tried to expand things to include game recaps, tracking recruits and other stories as they come up. It's still a work in progress, and I sincerely apologize for any mistakes I've made in learning along the way.

Despite some struggles, I've been having a blast writing about it and I'm glad I took on the extra work. I have nothing but respect for the passion the players have for hockey - before college, a typical schedule is something like five games on the weekend with a club team, back to class during the week and a couple more games with a school team. You don't go through that unless you love the game. Every once in a while when I'm up late writing a post and feeling sorry for myself, I think about that brutal schedule. And I think about some of the senseless marginalization and flat-out hatred they receive (go on Twitter and track people addressing @girlhockeyprobs if you don't know what I mean - here's one example). That's not even considering practice, the weight room, team-building activities...basically, everything the men do on top of it.

Finally, I think about the treatment the Lady Icers received from Penn State sports information and media outlets this season. Or, more to the point, haven't gotten.

One caveat before I go further: while I don't know for sure, I suspect that a lot of the basic SID functions (social media, for example) are presently being performed by members of the coaching or support staffs. None of the following criticism is directed at them because quite frankly, they have other things to do and shouldn't be burdened with these activities in the first place. Everything below is placed squarely at the feet of athletic communications and those that hand them marching orders. That said...

I'm sometimes amazed that I was even able to write a post about the Lady Icers. Think about what I was given to work with from an roster that took more than a month to add transfers Jess Desorcie and Taylor Gross and a bare-bones schedule that only includes the final scores of completed games (even that was taken down literally the day after the season ended, as I discovered when I tried to use it for reference). And...well, that's pretty much it.

News-wise, we did get a release for the signing class during the early period and 6:56 of Josh Brandwene on video, but other than that, there has been absolutely nothing specific to women's hockey since early September when the program officially joined College Hockey America for next year (sorry guys, doing a copy/paste on the Pegula Ice Arena stuff you were doing for the men anyway doesn't count). Since September 17, 2010 - donation day - only five print releases were unique to the women's hockey program. Quite frankly, I would have preferred that the old Lady Icers site stayed up, because it was much more informative.

There was no reliable way to follow games in progress. The Icers, and even the Ice Lions, have UStream channels webcasting games. For the Lady Icers, there were family members of players at the games and on Twitter, if I was lucky (thanks again to Rob Reihl, who really helped out a ton in that regard). Unless, of course, PSU was playing at Neumann, a 3,000-student school that provides live video, or at SUNY-Potsdam, a 4,500-student school that provides live stats. There's really no excuse for gigantic PSU to be outhustled by schools like that on any kind of administrative point.

Varsity status or not, athletic communications took over the responsibility to cover women's hockey this season. And this season was an unequivocal failure in that regard.

The previously-reliable Collegian has dropped the ball as well. After fairly consistent coverage last year and early this year - Christine Newby did a great job last season, but has moved over to the men's beat - only six women's hockey articles have been published since November 7th. It took beating an NCAA Division I team to get a game recap, but don't bother looking for any others this semester.

One had to work extremely hard to follow this team on more than the most superficial of levels, and that's a shame. I hope my increased attention helped someone, somewhere, but I still get frustrated thinking about how much better my work could have been.

Essentially, I scraped by on box scores submitted to the ACHA website and to (when an NCAA team was involved). Except when they didn't get submitted, in case you're wondering why I never did a post about the Cortland series back in November (or why I don't have anything up for this past weekend yet). Unfortunately, it's simply not realistic for me to make it into State College as often as I'd like. It doesn't mean I don't want the information, though.

Yes, I understand that I'm talking about what was still a club team, and I'm sure most (hopefully all) of these issues will be rectified next year. I'm particularly excited for the America One-College Hockey America deal that will include streaming of all PSU home games and in-conference road games next season, even if it involves making tough choices every weekend.

By the way, know who else was a club team this year? Men's hockey. And I didn't see any hesitation on the part of sports information to latch on to that team when it suits their purposes. They dispatched people to Philadelphia to shoot pictures and video of the outdoor game. They work at getting Guy Gadowsky plenty of radio spots. This in spite of the fact that the Icers have done an outstanding job disseminating information on their own for years, without the athletic department's duplication of effort. (Rather ridiculously, the men's team has two different official Twitter accounts - @HockeyValley and @PSUMensHockey - giving game updates.) I'm not asking for treatment equal to that, just a small bit of that synergy everyone boasted about when Brandwene was introduced as head coach.

These women, especially the seniors and any others that won't be on the varsity team, deserved that much. And they were let down by those charged with promoting them.

Division 2 National Tournament Field Set

Following a weekend of regional playoffs, the field for the ACHA Division 2 national championship tournament is now set.

Previously, on February 13th, bids for the tournament - to be played in Fort Myers, FL from March 16th through 20th - were given to the first and second ranked teams in each of D2's four regions. That group included the now 27-2-0 Ice Lions, who finished second to Florida Gulf Coast University (the nationals host) in the Southeast Region. The eight teams in each region ranked 3rd through 10th then had to play down to two per region on Saturday and Sunday to fill out the rest of the 16-team invite list. Here's how they'll be grouped in pools for the tourney, including their regional designation (W = West, C = Central, NE = Northeast, SE = Southeast) and rank within that region.

Pool A:
Arizona State (W1), Michigan State (C2), UMBC (SE3), New Hampshire (NE4)

Pool B:
William Patterson (NE1), Utah State (W2), Lindenwood (C3), Virginia Tech (SE4)

Pool C:
Florida Gulf Coast (SE1), Northeastern (NE2), Colorado State (W3), Michigan (C4)

Pool D:
Grand Valley State (C1), Penn State (SE2), Siena (NE3), Northern Arizona (W4)

The Ice Lions will play each of their Pool D opponents once over March 16th, 17th and 18th. If PSU finishes with the best record in the group after the round robin, they will advance to the semifinals on March 19th to take on the Pool B winner. The championship game is March 20th.

While the tournament's structure makes a meeting between MACHA rivals Penn State and UMBC unlikely, the two teams will play one week prior to the tournament, on March 10th, to decide the MACHA playoff championship. UMBC beat Liberty on February 19th to win the league's South Division title while the Ice Lions took down Rider 4-1 to win the North Division.

Three Stars: February 20-26

3. Pegula Ice Arena Construction - Feb. 22

Here's a quick look at the PIA site as it appeared last Wednesday, on day three of blasting. You're welcome for my linking directly to YouTube and bypassing Tony Mancuso.

2. Icers' Jensen inspired by his mom's cancer
(The Daily Collegian)

Simply put, a must read from Christine Newby on defenseman Nate Jensen's motivation to become involved with THON - his mother.

1. Icers Primer: The ACHA Tournament (Part 1, Part 2)
(Black Shoe Diaries)

IcersGuy is in the midst of a fantastic ACHA national championship tournament preview over on BSD. The first installment of the TYT version drops tomorrow, but while you're waiting, read the first two parts of his. And make sure you check back over there on Thursday for the conclusion to the trilogy.

Best of the Rest

Paul Kelly will now find a new banner to hang behind him.

College Hockey Inc. needs quick rebound
(Shooting for the Show)

Unquestionably, the biggest story in college hockey last week was the sudden resignation of Paul Kelly from his post as head of College Hockey Inc. amidst whispers that he and the college hockey conference commissioners (who formed CHI and hired Kelly) had drastically different views about the direction of the organization. Here's reaction from a blog that you need to be reading, if you aren't already. Also be sure to follow SftS's proprietor on Twitter.

[Quick note: CHI hired Nate Ewell to replace Kelly on an interim basis subsequent to this post's publishing.]

Paul Kelly Explains Surprise Resignation, What May Come Next
(The United States of Hockey)

Another great blog scored an exclusive with Kelly. Riveting stuff that helps illustrate a growing rift between the business people and the hockey people.

Pegula Ice Arena construction ahead of schedule

A "meh" article typical of anyone who tries to cover something they don't on a regular basis, but beneath the banality lies this gem:
Blasting at the construction site, near the intersection of University Drive and Curtin Road, started this week and portions of the steel structure could start going up as early as Blue-White weekend this spring.
Wait, Blue-White weekend? In light of this news, I'm hoping that the athletic department's marketing people are working on a name other than the "groundbreaking ceremony" scheduled for April 20th. Erection ceremony? Sorry, had to. I'm still 12 on the inside.

Cassel, 10 seniors prepare for final home game as Illini hockey faces EMU
(Daily Illini)

Best wishes to Illini coach Chad Cassel in retirement (following the national tournament, of course). If every program was run like Illinois, the ACHA would be a much better place.

Amsoil Arena newbies hope to test UMD
(Duluth News Tribune)

Alex Iafallo: good hockey player, horrible at choosing a college.
Fargo (N.D.) Force left winger Alex Iafallo of Eden, N.Y., made an oral commitment last week to attend UMD, probably in 2013-14.

Iafallo, 18, is 6-feet-0 and 170 pounds, and in his first U.S. Hockey League season. He has 11 goals and seven assists for 18 points in 47 games. Last season he played Tier I midget hockey for the Buffalo Regals, and had 36 points in 39 games. He’s noted as a good skater and has been on Fargo’s No. 2 line with Gabe Guertler and Dave Gust.

Iafallo made two unofficial visits to UMD and said he had a difficult choice after also making trips to Nebraska-Omaha, Michigan State and Penn State.

“I’ve wanted to play in Division I and I knew UMD was a great hockey school. After seeing Duluth and the school, it felt more like home and is a great fit for me,” said Iafallo, whose home is a suburb of Buffalo, N.Y.
Where Will the Big Ten Stack Up in Hockey Conferences?
(B1G Ice Hockey)

Good question. And make sure you read the comments, especially the third one.

BU's Nicastro Suspended After Arrest
BU Task Force Has Parker's Blessing
(College Hockey News)

A big, fat "no comment" is my position on stories like this until further notice.

Congratulations to the powers that be at Nebraska for having roughly 12 tons more foresight than those at Penn State circa 1995 - yep, they're putting ice in their new multipurpose arena, which is set to open in September 2013.

Minnesota's Lucia Calls Husker Hockey a "Natural" 
(Corn Nation)

For the second week in a row, we close with an SB Nation blog's post about the possibility of an unconventional school adding an NCAA hockey program, although this one seems much more plausible than the Kansas pipe dream. And hey, Nebraska's in the Big Ten now. I keep forgetting that, even though it's coming up on two years since their admission.

Friday, February 24, 2012

M: Penn State 13 vs. Kent State 1

The last Icers game at the Ice Pavilion ended the same way as numerous others - with Penn State (27-3-1) on the right end of a lopsided score against an overmatched opponent. The victims this time around were the Kent State Golden Flashes, and it's probably fair to say that this affair was even less competitive than the score. PSU's 13 goals trumped KSU's 12 shots, with Justin Kirchhevel, Bryce Johnson and Tommy Olczyk each scoring twice. Kirchhevel and Mike McDonagh tied for the team lead with five points each and in all, 17 of the 19 dressed skaters notched points (only the defensive pairing of Rich O'Brien and Dan Loucks was shut out).

In 562 games at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion since its opening on January 16, 1981, the Icers went 466-65-18-13, a record that includes wins in the last 21 games. PSU will now hope that neutral ice is equally friendly, as the ACHA national championship tournament in Strongsville, OH March 2nd through 7th is all that remains of the season and the Icers era.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Commit Cycle: February 21 (Women)

Jeanette Bateman

Colorado Select 19U
5'6", 125 pounds
Greeley, CO
Class of 2012
DOB 5/1/1994

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/17  vs. Pur. of Excellence  L 1-3  -   -   -   - [box score]
2/17  vs. Edouard Montpetit   L 2-6  -   -   -   - [box score]
2/18  vs. Bur. Barracudas     L 0-6  -   -   -   - [box score]
2/19  vs. Okanagan Hky Acad.  L 1-2  -   -   -   - [box score]
2/19  vs. Weyburn Gold Wings  W 4-2  -   -   -   - [box score]

Colorado participated in the JWHL Challenge Cup in Arlington, VA over the weekend...the team's season-long struggles continued, although playing without Bateman certainly didn't help matters.

Jill Holdcroft

Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 19U
5'1", 121 pounds
Pennsylvania Furnace, PA
Class of 2012
DOB 1/29/1994

Darby Kern

Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 19U
5'11", 145 pounds
Venetia, PA
Class of 2012
DOB 8/28/1994

Stephanie Walkom

Pittsburgh Penguins Elite 19U
5'7", 130 pounds
Moon Township, PA
Class of 2012
DOB 6/21/1994

Holdcroft was the subject of a lengthy feature in the Centre Daily Times on February are Josh Brandwene's comments from the article: "She is tough, competitive, aggressive and just gives 110 percent at both ends of the ice. I’ve been so pleased in the improvements she’s made in her own game over the course of the summer and into the fall. She’s going be a phenomenal fit for us here at Penn State."

Related stories:
Lofty goals (Centre Daily Times)

Emily Laurenzi

National Sports Academy (Prep)
5'5", 125 pounds
Townsend, DE
Class of 2012
DOB 1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/17  vs. Bur. Barracudas     L 1-2  0   1   1   0 [box score]
2/17  vs. Okanagan Hky Acad.  W 4-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/18  vs. Weyburn Gold Wings  W 3-0  0   0   0   2 [box score]
2/18  vs. Pur. of Excellence  T 0-0  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/19  vs. Edouard Montpetit   L 1-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/20  vs. Whitby Wolves       L 2-3  1   0   1   0 [box score]

NSA beat the Ontario Hockey Academy's gold team 3-1 and 7-2 on February 11th and 12th before following up with a 2-2-1 Group A record at the JWHL Challenge Cup - enough for second place and a consolation game against Whitby on Monday.

Celine Whitlinger

Gilmour Academy (Prep)
Garden Grove, CA
Class of 2012
DOB 5/20/1994

Date  Opponent               Score SA GA  Sv% GAA

2/18  vs. Rice Mem. School   W 1-0 25  0 1.00 0.00 [box score]
2/18  vs. Nichols School     L 0-5 19  5 .737 5.00 [box score]
2/19  vs. Trinity Coll. Sch. W 3-1 --  -  --- ---  [box score]

Micayla Catanzariti

Gilmour Academy (Prep)
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA
Class of 2012
DOB 5/22/1994

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/18  vs. Rice Mem. School    W 1-0  -   -   -   - [box score]
2/18  vs. Nichols School      L 0-5  -   -   -   - [box score]
2/19  vs. Trinity Coll. Sch.  W 3-1  -   -   -   - [box score]

Katie Zinn

Gilmour Academy (Prep)
Coquitlam, BC
Class of 2012
DOB 1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/18  vs. Rice Mem. School    W 1-0  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/18  vs. Nichols School      L 0-5  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/19  vs. Trinity Coll. Sch.  W 3-1  1   1   2   0 [box score]

On February 10th and 11th, Gilmour lost to (3-1) and tied (2-2) Ridley College leading up to this past weekend and the playoffs for the North American Prep Hockey Association... Gilmour won its quarterfinal matchup with Rice behind Whitlinger's shutout before being blanked by Nichols School, the eventual champion, in the semifinals...Zinn was the star of the Lancers' consolation game, assisting on the opening goal of the game, then scoring some insurance late...Catanzariti remains out as she recovers from a concussion.

Hannah Hoenshell

Alliance Bulldogs 19U
5'3", 119 pounds
Plano, TX
Class of 2012
DOB 12/30/1993

The Bulldogs have had only practiced in the last two weeks...they will host the USA Hockey Tier II girls' national championships beginning on March 28th.

Paige Jahnke

Roseville (MN) High School
Height/weight unknown
Oakdale, MN
Class of 2012
DOB unknown

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/10  vs. North St. Paul      W 7-0  0   1   1   0 [box score]
2/14  vs. White Bear Lake     W 3-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/17  vs. Hill-Murray         W 4-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Roseville plowed through the Section 4AA playoffs with little issue and will now join the Minnesota state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul as the no. 2 seed...the Raiders' quarterfinal matchup will be Thursday morning against Grand Rapids / Greenway...the semifinals are on Friday with the championship game following on Saturday.

Taylor McGee

Connecticut Polar Bears 19U / Taft School (Prep)
Height/weight unknown
Pearl River, NY
Class of 2012
DOB 2/8/1994

Taft went 1-2-1 over the past two weeks, losing 5-2 at Greenwich Academy and 3-0 at Westminster and tying Hotchkiss 2-2, but bouncing back to beat Choate Rosemary Hall 4-3 on Saturday.

Jordin Pardoski

Detroit Honeybaked 19U
5'5", 145 pounds
Rochester Hills, MI
Class of 2012
DOB 1/4/1994

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/17  vs. Pacific Steelers    T 1-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]
2/18  vs. MN Thoroughbreds    W 6-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/18  vs. Warner Hockey Sch.  W 4-1  0   0   0   4 [box score]
2/19  vs. Balmoral Hall       L 2-3  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/19  vs. Edge School         T 1-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Birdie Shaw

Detroit Honeybaked 19U
5'2", 124 pounds
Troy, MI
Class of 2012
DOB 9/14/1992

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/17  vs. Pacific Steelers    T 1-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]
2/18  vs. MN Thoroughbreds    W 6-1  0   1   1   0 [box score]
2/18  vs. Warner Hockey Sch.  W 4-1  2   0   2   2 [box score]
2/19  vs. Balmoral Hall       L 2-3  0   1   1   0 [box score]
2/19  vs. Edge School         T 1-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Honeybaked joined NSA and Colorado at the JWHL Challenge Cup, finishing fourth in Group D...Shaw's four points during the event tied for the team lead.

Sarah Wilkie

Mass. Spitfires 19U / Williston Northampton School (Prep)
Height/weight unknown
Ashby, MA
Class of 2012
DOB 2/26/1993

Williston went 2-1-1 over the last two weeks, losing 3-2 in overtime to Choate Rosemary Hall on February 8th, beating Kimball Union Academy 5-2 on the 11th, tying Northfield Mt. Hermon 3-3 on the 15th and defeating Loomis Chaffee 1-0 on the 18th...Wilkie was once again cited as an ace penalty killer against Choate and against Loomis.

Shannon Yoxheimer

North American Hockey Academy - White
5'7", 147 pounds
Jackson, MI
Class of 2012
DOB 12/23/1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

2/17  vs. Edouard Montpetit   W 5-2  1   0   1   0 [box score]
2/17  vs. Bur. Barracudas     W 6-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/18  vs. Okanagan Hky Acad.  W 9-2  1   0   1   2 [box score]
2/18  vs. Weyburn Gold Wings  W 8-0  2   0   2   0 [box score]
2/19  vs. Pur. of Excellence  L 1-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]
2/20  vs. Little Caesars      W 4-2  1   0   1   0 [box score]
2/20  vs. Bur. Barracudas     L 2-3  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Of the five PSU recruits at the JWHL Challenge Cup, Yoxheimer's NAHA club made it the furthest, losing to Burlington in the championship game, despite having beaten the Barracudas decisively in the preliminary round...with a stat line of 16 goals and 8 assists this season, Yoxheimer may compete with Jess Desorcie for Cy Young honors at Penn State next year.