Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Men's 2012-13 Schedule Released

Vermont forward Connor Brickley, a Florida Panthers draftee and World U20 Championships selection, will lead his team into Philadelphia to play the Nittany Lions January 19th.

Penn State has released its inaugural men's schedule, exactly one week after the women's schedule came out. Here it is, with analysis below.

October 2012

Fri. 12 vs. American International, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 13 vs. American International (at Wilkes-Barre, PA), 7:00 p.m.

Fri. 19 at Buffalo State (NCAA DIII), 7:00 p.m.
Sat. 20 at RIT, 7:05 p.m.

Fri. 26 at Army, 7:00 p.m.
Sat. 27 at Sacred Heart, 7:00 p.m.

Tue. 30 at Fredonia State (NCAA DIII), 7:00 p.m.

November 2012

Sat. 3 vs. Buffalo State (NCAA DIII), 7:30 p.m.

Fri. 9 vs. Air Force, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 10 vs. Air Force, 7:30 p.m.

Sat. 24 at Union, 7:00 p.m.
Sun. 25 at Union, 4:00 p.m.

Fri. 30 vs. Arizona State (ACHA), 7:30 p.m.

December 2012

Sat. 1 vs. Arizona State (ACHA), 7:30 p.m.

Fri. 7 at Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m.
Sat. 8 at Holy Cross, 7:05 p.m.

Sat. 15 vs. Robert Morris, 7:30 p.m.

Fri. 28 at Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational (RMU, Ohio State, Miami)
Sat. 29 at Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational (RMU, Ohio State, Miami)

January 2013

Fri. 4 at Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.
Sat. 5 at Connecticut, 7:05 p.m.

Fri. 11 vs. U.S. National Under-18 Team, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 12 vs. U.S. National Under-18 Team, 7:30 p.m.

Tue. 15 vs. Neumann (NCAA DIII), 7:30 p.m.

Sat. 19 vs. Vermont, 7:00 p.m. (at Philadelphia, PA)

Fri. 25 at Michigan State, 7:00 p.m.
Sat. 26 at Michigan State, 7:00 p.m.

February 2013

Fri. 1 vs. Ohio (ACHA), 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 2 vs. Ohio (ACHA), 7:30 p.m.

Fri. 8 vs. Alabama-Huntsville, 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 9 vs. Alabama-Huntsville, 7:30 p.m.

Fri. 15 vs. Oklahoma (ACHA), 7:30 p.m.
Sat. 16 vs. Oklahoma (ACHA), 3:30 p.m.

Sun. 24 at Wisconsin, 8:00 p.m.
Mon. 25 at Wisconsin, 8:00 p.m.

The M 2012-2013 Schedule page has been updated for an easy reference once this post fades into the past and is hard to locate (seriously, that search box on the right side is complete crap).

First of all, here are posts addressing some of the "yeah, we already knew that" games when they became public knowledge. I won't spend any more time on those, because they've been turned into a fine hash by this point through repeated discussion.

Union Series Confirmed (May 18, 2012)
Pittsburgh College Hockey Invitational Finalized (May 16, 2012)
Robert Morris Joins 2012-2013 Schedule (May 9, 2012)
ASU Site Confirms PSU Series (May 7, 2012)
Atlantic Hockey Announces Eight New PSU Games (May 4, 2012)
AIC: Mark Your Calendar (But Not on July's Picture) (January 18, 2012)
Fredonia: Date With the Devils (November 9, 2011)
Penn State to Meet RIT in 2012 (September 20, 2011)

Let's quickly move on to what's new. In that category, there's unquestionably nothing bigger than the game against Hockey East foe Vermont in Philadelphia. While UVM was a Frozen Four team in 2009, they've been in decline mode since then, bottoming out at 6-27-1 last year. To add to those difficulties, leading scorer Sebastian Stalberg went pro and star goalie Rob Madore (a Pittsburgh native - yep, that area is okay for goalies) ran out of eligibility. Still, it should be noted that one of those six wins was at Minnesota. The Gophers, of course, were in the Frozen Four last year.

Also, you may remember that the Catamounts brutalized the 2011 U.S. World University Games team 7-1 in a pre-tournament warmup back in December, 2010. Icers forward Eric Steinour, who will be joining the Nittany Lions this year, was on that team of ACHA all-stars. So as bad as UVM was last year, it's certainly one of those games that will tell us where we sit in year one. And much like last year's contest with Neumann in Philly, it's likely to be a destination game.

UAH coach Chris Luongo was a Wayne State assistant in 2008 when WSU dropped its men's program. So he almost went through his second program cancellation last year.

Alabama-Huntsville comes to the Ice Pavilion on February 8th and 9th. As an independent since the dissolution of College Hockey America's men's half in 2010 and as a geographic outlier, UAH has struggled mightily with scheduling, finances, recruiting and, as you might expect, on the ice as well. The Chargers nearly had their program discontinued last season, only to gain reprieve from a reversal. It's a good move by PSU administration to get Huntsville into town, particularly during the height of their scheduling issues (and ours, I suppose, for this year). The Icers and UAH shared many epic battles as two of the powers of non-varsity hockey from 1979-1985, so there's a historical angle to that one as well. And maybe the two schools can agree to stake their claims to the 1984 club national championship on the outcome.

Also new: the second opening-series game against AIC was moved to Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Buffalo State and Neumann join Fredonia as NCAA Division III teams on the schedule. PSU has an interesting history with both of those additions - Neumann from the outdoor game last year, of course, but also Buff State as an old rival from the ICHL, the Icers' conference from 1984-1992. The ACHA's Oklahoma Sooners were also (officially) added and have their own history with the Icers, of course. PSU and the Sooners tangled five times as ACHA rivals, with the last two meetings qualifying as legendary. On February 4th at the Ice Pavilion, the Icers rallied from a 3-0 hole in the last five minutes to win 4-3 in overtime. One month later, at the ACHA national tournament, the Icers won 6-3 thanks largely to the odd sight of a goalie in the penalty box.

Finally, dates were confirmed for the already-known series with Arizona State and Ohio, and the Wisconsin road series has officially been moved back to a Sunday-Monday pair, thanks to their valuing high school sports over college sports (thanks, guys). The original four games with the U.S. National Team Development Program have been scaled back to two to accommodate all of this.

Taken as a whole, I think that this is the type of schedule that will create widely diverging opinions. Here's mine.

I'm not pleased with the home schedule, which includes only six games against NCAA Division I opposition, three of which are against arguably the two worst programs in the country. In that regard, I think moving the second AIC game was a mistake. Maybe not financially, as it will probably draw more than 1,500 fans in Wilkes-Barre, but in terms of giving the University Park fans something to watch and building the local following. I really think an opportunity was missed to cross-promote the women's program as well. They're playing their first NCAA home games that same weekend, against Syracuse. Now though, fans (and bloggers) will have to choose between the two programs on the 13th, instead of enjoying a packed "welcome to the NCAA" weekend at the Ice Pavilion. Where's the synergy?

There is a little more synergy to be had elsewhere. The men host Air Force - probably the strongest home opponent of the season - on November 9th and 10th, while Robert Morris, the defending CHA tournament champs, come calling for the women on the 10th and 11th. That's without question the biggest home weekend of the year. Other cross-gender Ice Pavilion action can be found on November 2-3 (men vs. Buffalo State, women vs. Sacred Heart), February 1-2 (men vs. Ohio, women vs. Mercyhurst) and February 8-9 (men vs. UAH, women vs. Lindenwood).

Air Force goalie Jason Torf will contribute to the best weekend of hockey all year at the Ice Pavilion.

With respect to the ACHA, I'm sure most of us wanted to blow town and never look back - I'll never forget where we came from, but yeah, guilty - and those games aren't necessarily going to get anyone's blood pumping. Those DIII games (including Fredonia, which lost to the Icers last season) don't translate to a whole lot of excitement either.

But the fact is that for this year, PSU was limited in several ways. Teams with NCAA tournament aspirations are dissuaded from scheduling the Nittany Lions because they won't get credit in the pairwise rankings (which determine NCAA at-large bids) for the games, since PSU is a new program. Beyond the PWR, there's a chance that major programs don't see Penn State as good enough (yet) to push them to the point of willingness to sacrifice a treasured schedule slot or two. The Ice Pavilion, generally speaking, is inadequate for hosting a major conference team, and PSU wanted to schedule a reasonable number of total home games, necessitating contests with lower-level opponents. During the spring semester, every program except PSU and Huntsville will be in the thick of their conference schedules, cutting down on available dates.

Considering all of that, and in the final analysis, Joe Battista, Bill Downey and company did a commendable job. Instead of focusing on what the schedule doesn't have, let's focus on what it does.
  • Six games against three different NCAA tournament teams, including Frozen Four participant Union. Two of those games, against Air Force (who arguably played eventual national champion Boston College tougher than anyone else), will be at the Ice Pavilion.
  • An NCAA tournament team will be visiting the Ice Pavilion. Yeah, I wanted to repeat that one.
  • A shot as the foil for RIT's homecoming weekend. The Tigers were in the Frozen Four themselves back in 2010.
  • Tradition-laden Wisconsin, while not an NCAA tournament team last season, is perennially one of the most talented teams in the country. Just to add a degree of difficulty to things, their home Kohl Center led the nation in attendance in 2011-2012 with 11,773 fans per game.
  • A holiday tournament in the sparkling Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. A possible fourth different NCAA tournament opponent will join the Lions there, in the form of national power Miami. Ohio State could join Michigan State and Wisconsin as future Big Ten rivals on the schedule, should PSU meet the Buckeyes there.
  • That first AIC game. So you've never heard of the opponent. So what? Penn State, as an NCAA Division I team, is playing another NCAA Division I team for the first time ever. That's all you need to know.
Really, the schedule contains a nice blend of teams that will give Penn State a chance of posting a relatively respectable record in the first year while still allowing measurement against some of the top programs in DI. It gives Penn Staters a good first taste of DI hockey without the anticipated bludgeonings (at worst, they'll be spread out). Oh yeah, and there's also that matter of two gigantic showcase-type events, one in each of Pennsylvania's two largest cities. So...

...next up? Start saving my money for all the road tripping.


  1. When all of this was first announced, I expected a lot more non-Ice Pavilion home games. I'm surprised there won't be any in Hershey. Not complaining. Just surprised it turned out that way. I'd prefer to see more DIII opponents and fewer ACHA opponents, but they did as well as they could under the circumstances.

  2. DIII would've been a great way to go. A top ACHA program is roughly a 60-75th percentile DIII program according to most observers and probably the track record. Last year's Icers, with those transfers (in other words, not a "normal" ACHA team, although it needs to be said that they didn't win the championship), were outplayed by the 2010 DIII champs in Philly and squeaked one out at home over Fredonia, a solid program, but not usually at the top of the mountain.

    I just don't see the benefit to preferring ACHA opponents. Maybe some name recognition for fans with the big schools. Maybe a link to our past. Maybe we're just giving them a shot at a win against DI team like transitioning programs Findlay and Wayne State did for PSU in the day, or Robert Morris a little more recently. But in terms of competition and preparing for the future, I'd rather see more DIIIs.

    I was also surprised that the barnstorming idea was largely scrapped. I knew the Ice Pavilion wouldn't get much more than it did, but I thought that some of those Atlantic Hockey programs would play in a neutral PA arena vs. a true PSU road game. When the Michigan State series first leaked out, I thought that was a great candidate for something like that and held out hope for a while - they're a Big Ten team, it's not like we'd owe them a return trip. Hershey, beyond being the only PA NHL or AHL arena not hosting PSU this year, would have given some nice symmetry with the 1940s team and their playing out of Hersheypark.