Thursday, July 26, 2012

Breakout Past: 1983 Club National Championships

In their 1982-1983 schedule, the Icers struggled to a 14-11-1 mark, and it actually took quite an effort to make it that good. After a January 30, 1983 loss to Navy in the Crabpot Tournament championship game, PSU sat at 9-11-1 before firing off five straight wins to close the regular season and avoid what would have been the most recent losing record in team history.

A shot at redemption would come at the second edition of the inconsistently-named U.S. National Club Ice Hockey Tournament, played from March 2-5 at the Von Braun Center in Huntsville, AL and hosted for the first time by the University of Alabama at Huntsville. UAH, of course, eventually preceded PSU in NCAA "promotion" by 27 years and appears on the coming season's Nittany Lions slate.

This original incarnation of the club hockey national championships (played from 1982 through 1985) featured six teams divided into "northern" and "southern" brackets. In 1983, Miami and Ohio joined PSU in the north, while Auburn and Arizona were in the south along with the Chargers. That lineup, at the very least, certainly featured a nice array of unofficial decapitated cat species logos.

"Univ. of Ohio"...hahaha. Sorry about that, Ohio U.

That's the cover of the event's program, obviously. The design was also used on souvenir items, including miniature flags:

While the precise tourney schedule from 1983 isn't available, pairings from other years of the event seem to indicate a schedule that wasn't entirely set in advance, but instead proceeded something like this (with S1 indicating the top seed in the southern bracket, N2 indicating the second seed in the northern bracket, and so on):

March 2nd: N2 vs. N3, S2 vs. S3, N1 vs. N2-N3 loser, S1 vs. N2-N3 loser
March 3rd: N1 vs. N2-N3 winner, S1 vs. S2-S3 winner
March 5th: Matchups of the third, second and first place teams from the north and south brackets after the two round robin games apiece. The game between the first place teams was, of course, the national championship game.

It sounds like a pretty innovative way of doing things in an attempt to get those games on the second day to decide the participants in the title game, which was a Civil War rematch of North vs. South.

Unfortunately, we also don't know the seedings or the full results, although based on the evidence we do have, it seems as if Miami was the top seed in the north, with the hosts/defending champs taking that honor from the south (for what it's worth, an old Arizona media guide I own claims that the IceCats were fourth that year, meaning that they likely beat Auburn in their opener before losing to UAH). What we definitively do know is that UAH and Penn State were the two teams left standing after facing the other teams in their respective brackets (PSU's results were 5-4 over Ohio and 5-1 over Miami). Here's the March 9, 1983 Daily Collegian on what happened next.

Click to enlarge.

Yep, John Davis - featured in this space last week - is back for a less glorious appearance as he gave up a fluky, championship-deciding goal. A long-time Chargers fan on the USCHO boards corroborates the nature of that goal.
UAH won the final against Penn State 5-4. I "think" I remember the UAH winning goal against Penn State as though it was yesterday. With little time left in regulation, the Penn State goalie had played an amazing game even though he had surrendered four goals. Then, he gets hit in the chest with a wicked shot that roles [sic] down his left arm, off his glove, onto the ice, across the line, and into the corner of the goal. It was almost in slow motion like in a movie.
Oh yeah? Well your home arena is named after a certified Nazi (sorry, I just learned that a couple weeks ago and am fascinated by it)!

The epilogue, as I've discussed before, is that the loss to UAH was the last game the Icers ever played at the USNCIHT (yeah, that's worth abbreviating). Beginning with the next season, a competing championship, the National Invitational Tournament, started up and drew teams away from the USNCIHT - notably including Penn State and Arizona, which won the 1984 and 1985 NIT championships, respectively. UAH, meanwhile, stayed with the older tournament and continued to host it though 1985, after which it dissolved, likely due to the Chargers going varsity for the 1985-1986 season. Huntsville claims 1982, 1983 and 1984 club national championships from that tournament, while North Dakota State won in 1985. The NIT became the only national championship beginning with 1986 and lasted until the ACHA's founding in 1991-1992.

1 comment:

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