Thursday, August 30, 2012

Breakout Past: Thompson Spring Winter Sports Park

One of my favorite chapters of Penn State hockey history is largely an untold one - the school's near-constant attempts to construct an ice rink in the 1920s, all of which started with a lot of promise, but ultimately failed (I reviewed the first of these back in April).

Perhaps the most spectacular of these failures was the attempt to build a winter sports park at Thompson Spring, an endeavor that chewed up the class gift funds of no fewer than five PSU senior classes, from 1927 through 1931.

Where is Thompson Spring? I wondered that for quite a while myself, until finding a document from Penn State's Office of Physical Plant (PDF) with the answer:

So there you go. The white cluster of buildings just down and left from the star is PSU's waste water treatment facility. The nearby body of water on the opposite side and surrounded by dotted line (the borough of State College's boundary, apparently they didn't want to be responsible for it) is the Duck Pond, another early - perhaps the earliest, in fact - hub of skating activity in Penn State's history.

Our story begins with the Class of 1927, and their plan to establish an endowment for their class gift through New York Life to pay for a to-be-determined (as of February 22, 1927 when the following Daily Collegian article was published) item. In addition to the winter sports park, a scholarship fund and a building addition were also considered.

By September 8th of that year, things were moving along quite well. The winter sports park had been selected as the 1927 gift, and PSU (then PSC, I guess) advanced some money towards the project, on the back of repayment pledges from the classes of 1928, 1929 and 1930. The ice rink was the first phase of the project. Specifically, the plan was for two artificial pools, using dammed-off water routed from Thompson Spring. Bids were accepted for construction of the dam at that time as well.

Four months later, a contractor had been selected, and work was underway, with the optimistic forecast of a February, 1928 completion date for the rink portion of the project. The following article also provides some clarity as to how the whole thing was to be laid out.

On Valentine's Day 1928, reports continued to be optimistic. Progress had been "rapid of late" due to favorable weather conditions and included completion of "most of the excavation for the dam...and concrete is being poured." Although the prediction of skating that month wasn't going to come true, "soon" was the word used to describe when the lakes would be ready. Two weeks later though, "soon" was "April." The March 2, 1928 Collegian quotes project foreman William F. Harper as saying that "difficulties were encountered when the bed rock was found to be deeper than at first estimated and water flowed into the cut, making it necessary to pump it out."

That issue was eventually resolved, as on September 13, 1928 it was reported that the dam was complete. Additionally, the class of 1931 had by then attached its gift to the project, "which this winter will no doubt be used for skating." What really strikes me at this point is that the other aspects to the winter sports park seem to have largely become afterthoughts. In this particular article, it was mentioned that "a toboggan slide and other features attractive to winter sport lovers" are "planned." Regardless, the next month, Student Council president Harry Pfeifer still felt a need to appoint a three-student committee to develop rules and regulations for the "new Winter Sports Park," which as best as can be ascertained at this point, is just a dam and an artificial lake. Details, I suppose.

Coverage becomes sparse after the appointment of that committee, and it might not be a stretch to assume that occasional skating took place (although, as always, at the mercy of the weather without any sort of artificial cooling system). The idea that there might have been some success is bolstered by the last major discussion of the winter sports park, on December 20, 1929.

A program of hockey games? An interfraternity hockey league? Lights? Dressing booths? Student Council certainly had big plans for the place.

So what happened? With resigned frustration, I have to admit that I can't tell you, because the Collegian archives go silent on the issue after 1930. In fact, searches for "sports park," "skating rink," "ice rink" and "Thompson (or Thompson's) Spring" came up completely empty between September 29, 1930 (where it's mentioned in passing due to the way it was funded) and November 5, 1937, when the buildup to the informal hockey team that would lead to the 1940-1947 varsity team was underway. Our only real clue comes from a December 11, 1936 article, which mentions a meeting at Rec Hall that day to discuss transportation to Whipple's Dam - 12 miles away from campus - for an afternoon of skating. It seems clear that the winter sports park project was completely abandoned by then, and later articles discussing the formation of the hockey team bemoan the lack of an adequate place to skate nearby.

One thing we do know: it emphatically ended an interesting decade in Penn State hockey history, albeit one without actual hockey. There, of course, were numerous temporary surfaces attempted with little success to give the 1940s varsity team a place to practice and play, but the next try at something more permanent, the outdoor rink that, after enclosed, would eventually become the first home of the Icers, worked out pretty well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Nielsen Joins Rivals in Women's 2013 Class

According to USCHO poster "Hux", who maintains the only comprehensive women's commit list out there to the best of my knowledge, Edina High School senior Sarah Nielsen will be Penn State-bound in 2013. While I'm not thrilled about pinning my credibility to something from a message board, given the nature of the "coverage" of women's recruiting, this might be the last anyone hears of it until PSU's signing-period press release. So I'm running with it, and asking for forgiveness in advance if it blows up.

Sarah Nielsen

Edina (MN) High School
Height unknown
Edina, MN
DOB unknown Edina HS page

Season   Team                   Lge    GP    G    A  Pts  PIM

2009-10  Edina HS               MN-HS  30   13   19   32    6  
2010-11  Edina HS               MN-HS  31   17   33   50   20
2011-12  Edina HS               MN-HS  31   14   30   44   20

The prolific scorer has been one of the offensive leaders for one of the giants of Minnesota hockey for the last three seasons - she was fourth on the team in points as a freshman before jumping to third as a sophomore and first as a junior. Not bad, considering the 2011-2012 version of Edina had commits to New Hampshire (Megan Armstrong), Yale (Ali Austin) and Union (Lizzy Otten and Maddie Dahl...okay, Dahl is a goalie...still).

While it would easy to talk about five-point efforts against overmatched opponents like Eastview and Blake, the more important takeaway from Nielsen's game log is that she consistently produces against top-flight competition and in big games. Through three section playoff games and one state tournament game last year, she had 10 points in the four Edina wins, and never had less than two in any one game. The Hornets' offense ground to a screeching halt at that point in a semifinal loss, although Nielsen did manage three of her team's 19 shots on goal and won 19 of her 27 faceoffs. In the 2011 state tournament, Nielsen had 11 points in 6 games as Edina made the championship game.

In June, she was picked for the Minnesota High School Junior Festival, helping her team to wins in four of its five games.

Here's video of Nielsen calmly depositing a breakaway winner against Warroad on December 4, 2010. Undoubtedly, if Zac Efron saw that, he'd be impressed. While another video out there is labeled "Buzzer beater goal for Edina's Sarah Nielsen," it appears as if it's actually Armstrong scoring the goal with Nielsen winning the draw to make it possible. Faceoffs, of course, are a vital part of the game, and from the available data (the stat is only kept for state tournament games), all indications are that she is an ace on the dot.

Edina's Nielsen (left) and fellow 2013 commit Bowman (right), of Minnetonka, frequently face off in important games.

Connections between recruits are inevitable, especially in tight-knit women's hockey circles and especially when recruiting in the same areas. But Nielsen shares a rather unfortunate - from her point of view, anyway - connection with three current and future Penn Staters, as they've helped to end her last three seasons short of a state title. In the 2011 Minnesota AA championship game, Nielsen assisted on both Edina goals, but she was outdone by fellow 2013 commits Amy Petersen (two goals, one assist, including the late winning tally) and Laura Bowman (two assists) in a 3-2 Minnetonka win. One year later, and one round earlier, PSU freshman Paige Jahnke and her Roseville teammates executed a shut-down defensive effort in a 4-1 defeat of the Hornets. In 2010, Roseville defeated Edina in the state title game, but Jahnke didn't play in that one, according to a box score.

If you can't beat them, join them, as the saying goes. Then again, before joining them, I'm sure Nielsen wouldn't mind finally getting the best of Minnetonka and her two future teammates in a state tournament game as a senior this year.

To be sure though, Nielsen had already joined players like Bowman, Petersen and freshman forward Kendra Rasmussen a while ago in many respects. They're all big-time forwards from the Minnesota high school circuit with big-time numbers. Nielsen, Bowman, Petersen and Jahnke were also all selections to the Upper Midwest High School Elite League last year. Now, they'll team up to form a key part of Penn State's early NCAA teams.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Whitewashing of PSU's Club History

A few days ago, I stumbled on a fact sheet produced by Penn State athletic communications (PDF), which I assume will be part of the media kit for this season's men's hockey team. It's well done, with one glaring exception.

For what it's worth, I have 13-15-1, a mark that I believe I can fully substantiate.

Yep, that's the entire program history of Penn State men's hockey. I'm not sure what's been played at PSU continuously since 1971, but apparently it wasn't men's hockey. The same issue exists for the women's team version (PDF):

At least that one has the word "varsity" tossed in as a qualification. I guess.

Penn State hockey is not new. It's been around for a while - the men, as stated, since 1971, the women since 1996. It just so happens that those programs have applied for and received NCAA status, coinciding with increased recognition by the university and the ability to award scholarships.

I feel like I'm well supported on that point, given the high degree of continuity across the two "eras." Guy Gadowsky and his staff coached in the ACHA (although you'd never know it from Gadowsky's bio on, and 15 players - over half of the roster - from 2011-2012 will play NCAA hockey in 2012-2013. For the women, Josh Brandwene and his staff also coached in the ACHA and will bring eight returning players into the NCAA era. If the Icers and Lady Icers were separate programs, where did they go? If the NCAA programs were conceived out of thin air, why didn't the coaches just spend last year recruiting an entirely new roster instead of "wasting their time" with club hockey (oh right, they apparently didn't)?

"Transition" is defined as...
...movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc., to another.
Without an initial state of some kind, a transition is not possible, as things don't transition from non-existence in common usage. So when an official university release says something like...
Brandwene will lead the Nittany Lions' transition into NCAA Division I competition, which starts in the 2012-13 season is that supposed to be taken, other than to say that "we have a program which is not NCAA Division I, and that program will move into NCAA Division I for the 2012-13 season?" Why would the university have put together something called the "Ice Hockey Transition Team," which included Hockey Czar Joe Battista? At last update, the Transition Team declared that "transitional issues continue to be a focus as the Men's/Women's club program transitions to varsity in 2012-13" (emphasis added). There are numerous other examples of the use of the word out there, as well as the similar "elevate," but I'll spare you and move on.

[Coaching the Icers in 2011-12] will give us the opportunity to evaluate the players and work with the team in preparation for the move to varsity play in 2012-13 and the inaugural Big Ten Conference season in 2013-14. We are excited to build on Penn State's strong ice hockey tradition." - Guy Gadowsky

Last week, I posted about the athletic department's deliberate attempt to squash the use of the names "Icers" and "Lady Icers." I'm trying to be careful to not duplicate that post, but one thing is worth repeating:
I think it's absolutely vital to remember that none of this - not Pegula, not NCAA status, none of it - ever happens without the Icers. That's not vague sentimentality, that's fact. Pegula didn't just wake up one day in 2005 and say "hey, I went to Penn State, I like hockey, I should write them a large check to start a hockey program." He was familiar with the Icers thanks to his son attending camp in the late 1980s and early 1990s (I have no idea how many non-varsity hockey schools even had camps then, but it couldn't have been very many, which sort of gets at my point). He didn't approach former athletic director Tim Curley or some other university official in charge of large gifts, he approached Battista, then "just" the Icers coach ("just" in quotes for the obvious reason that he was much more important than the title).
Terry Pegula made his generous donation because he observed well-run, highly-successful hockey programs that were not varsity and did not have NCAA status, and wanted them to have an arena and the ability to offer scholarships so that they could become varsity NCAA programs. It all seems simple enough, but it still flies over the heads of many.

My demands? I don't feel that they're at all unreasonable.

For something like the fact sheets that started this post, I would like to see an acknowledgement of the teams that are much more responsible for our current reality than a varsity team that played 29 games in isolation in the 1940s. I would re-write the men's program history subsection like this:

Program History
First year: 1909-10
Varsity seasons: 5 (1940-44, 1946-47)
Varsity record: 13-15-1-0
Non-varsity seasons: 45 (1909-10, 1937-40, 1971-2012)
Non-varsity record: 952-308-43-10
ACHA National Championships: 7 (1984, 1990, 1998, 2000-03)

Yeah, you might have to shrink the font sizes a little. So what? That's a much more complete and accurate representation of the program history, and I only added three lines.

For a more in-depth project, like a media guide, I want to see records spanning all 50 varsity and non-varsity seasons included with a thoroughness equal to the standard established by programs across NCAA Division I. In RIT's 2011-2012 men's media guide (PDF), the history section is 27 pages long. It includes, along with other items:

  • Year-by-year results
  • A narrative history of the team, including seasons that were not recognized by the university at the time
  • Team and individual records for most common categories, and including game, season and career records
  • Records of each previous coach
  • Records versus all opponents
  • All-Conference and All-American selections
  • All-time lettermen (and remember, Icers alumni have been awarded retroactive letter status - I don't know if Lady Icers received the same treatment, hopefully they did)
  • Year-by-year leaders in major statistical categories
  • All-time program scoring leaders
  • A list of previous captains
  • Team award winners (elsewhere in the media guide)
There's a very specific reason I chose to use RIT as an example. The Tigers have a rich history outside of NCAA Division I, winning a pair of national championships in lower divisions. Rather than brush that history aside and pretend that their program started in 2005 (when they elevated to DI), they do this:

Some records, of course, can be integrated. Season-by-season leaders, for example, can be understood as having taken place in NCAA DI competition starting in 2005-2006 for RIT, or 2012-2013 for Penn State. The transitions can even be labeled if confusion is a concern:

Goal Scoring Leaders, By Season
ACHA Division 1
2009-2010 Tim O'Brien - 26
2010-2011 Tim O'Brien - 23
2011-2012 Tommy Olczyk - 24
NCAA Division I
2012-2013 Casey Bailey - 78

Something like that. No pressure, Casey.

Notre Dame is one example (PDF) of a program that approaches it that way (they were a club program in 1983-1984 and in other periods prior to 1968). The more important points, though, are that they combine their non-varsity with their varsity records and have the good sense to document all of their program's history, even the segments that developed without the athletic department's help. Another very pertinent example is the media guide for the Lindenwood women, now a conference rival of Penn State. Despite their recent elevation to NCAA DI, they give a full treatment to their ACHA years, including an all-time schedule and results, statistical record holders, and synopses of LU's four ACHA national championships.

Many records, generally the ones that involve comparisons across different levels, shouldn't be integrated, and that's why RIT lists Division III and Division I separately as appropriate. I see no reason why Penn State can't treat the club era as its "Division III." Unorthodox? Perhaps. But a club program - and not just any club program, the most successful club program of all time - transitioning to NCAA Division I isn't really orthodox either.

Although I can't imagine that too much survives beyond the all-time schedule and results, and maybe participation lists, the 1940-1947 varsity team should have its own subsection as well, so that its records don't quickly get overwhelmed by those of the new varsity era. I have no clue how many career goals John Dufford scored, but I do know that if that number is available, I don't want it bumped from the top five after one or two NCAA seasons.

Understandably, any efforts might be limited by the amount of available information. RIT, as you may have noticed above, generally has less data on their Division III teams. Any endeavor making an honest effort at collecting and communicating whatever exists will be appreciated in this corner. And hey, I've already done a lot of the work in the form of TYT's all-time men's schedule and results page (in the event that someone in a position to incorporate it into official recordkeeping is reading this, I'm offering my work product to you without limitation and myself without limitation to any questions about it).

Beyond fact sheets and media guides though, my final and most important demand is also my simplest: respect. Whether it's ignoring the club era in all communications unless mentioning it is absolutely necessary or the issue surrounding use of the Icers name, it seems as if there's a pattern of disrespect for Penn State hockey's history, originating mostly with people who had no reason to care about the program before September 17, 2010.* That's not something without ramifications either - consider the responses (via Twitter) of three recent Icers alumni, and again, now Penn State lettermen, upon seeing the fact sheet.

* I want to make it perfectly clear that this isn't a universal or even a majority attitude among those involved with the programs, especially when considering figures like Battista, Brandwene, Billy Downey and Mo Stroemel and their backgrounds, as well as statements from others like Pegula and Gadowsky.

D John Conte (2006-2010):
Seems like we existed as much as Penn State vs. Ohio State for the six years those games were erased.
F/D Steve Thurston (2005-2010):
Who doesn't want to be 13-13?
And my favorite, from G Chris Matteo (2003-2007):
We got Paterno'd.
On October 10, 2009, Steve Thurston scored in OT at Ohio to end one of the most unreal games I've ever witnessed and cause this celebration. Will future generations of Penn Staters know that it happened, or will it be part of a chunk of empty space in the records between 1947 and 2012? The answer depends on decisions made now. (Sorry about the photo quality - I had a BlackBerry at the time...yeah, I know.)

In recent weeks, athletic department employees have developed the slogan "One Team" (and a corresponding Twitter hashtag #OneTeam) to encourage unity across all PSU sports. I suppose ultimately, all I'm seeking is for hockey representatives participating in that movement to embrace their own program's legacy with the same zeal that they have for, say, promoting women's soccer. I don't think that's a huge ask, and those willing to make the leap will be rewarded with the knowledge that former Icers and Lady Icers are just as worthy of having their accomplishments remembered as any other student-athlete who has worn Penn State blue and white.

Commit Cycle: August 28

Welcome back from the off-season hiatus of Commit Cycle, the bi-weekly post keeping track of Penn State hockey's verbal commitments. Believe it or not, the Canadian Junior A leagues are already into their exhibition seasons, necessitating this series revival for 2012-2013.

With 14 total known players to cover (down from an incredible 35 by the end of last season), I'm going to attempt to once again combine the men and women into one post. If that number grows significantly, I may split things up by gender, as done previously. For now though, it's just the three men's players in the BCHL or OJHL - the others will be added as their seasons get underway.

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

8/24  at Surrey (ex)          L 0-5  0   0   0   - [box score]
8/25  vs. Surrey (ex)         W 8-3  -   -   -   - [box score]
8/27  at Coquitlam (ex)       W 7-4  0   0   0   - [box score]

Langley split their roster up for the home-and-home with Surrey, and Pellah had the misfortune of being the only returning player assigned to the first game.

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

8/25  vs. Coquitlam (ex)      T 2-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]

It's uncertain whether Thompson played in the Chiefs' first competition against another team (the box score is informally done and doesn't include a participation list), but for what it's worth, he wasn't involved in any of the scoring or penalties, isn't visible in this highlight video of the proceedings and isn't mentioned on this list of players expected to be in the lineup...obviously, head coach Harvey Smyl and his staff knows what it has in the rock-solid veteran, so his preseason participation may be limited.

Thomas Welsh

Georgetown Raiders (OJHL)
6'0", 195 pounds
Toronto, ON
Class of 2013
DOB 2/1/1995

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

8/25  vs. Burlington (ex)     W 5-2  0   1   1   0 [box score]
8/25  vs. Oakville (ex)       W 4-1  1   0   1   0 [box score]
8/26  vs. Hamilton (ex)       L 0-4  0   0   0   6 [box score]
8/26  vs. Burlington (ex)     W 3-1  -   -   -   - [box score]

Although the games don't count, Welsh is off to a fantastic start in his first Junior A go, helping Georgetown win the Burlington Cougars Challenge Cup over the observer to his first three exhibition games reported that "Thomas is very strong on the puck and confident when skating with it. You can tell when the play is bearing down on Welsh he is thinking of what the forwards will attempt to do to get around him. They rarely do get around Welsh as he is strong positionally and able to force the forwards to make mistakes without giving up his position" (more available at the link below).

Related stories:
OHL Prospect Report from Cougars Championship Cup 2012 (

Monday, August 27, 2012

Three Stars: August 20-26

3. Change in Penn State Athletics… Hockey Can Be Our Edge in Slippery Conditions
Can our new men’s and women’s Ice Hockey teams help our Penn State athletic community regain its edge? I think so.
Josh Hand wrote this - it's gotta be true!

The men's assistant, and apologies for missing this until now, is providing hockey updates on the sports blog maintained by my favorite PSU clothing store. This was actually the first of his two posts so far. Here's the second, expressing his thoughts on his decision to relocate to State College a couple years ago.

2. @nseravalli_12

The always-quotable Nick Seravalli tweeted this last Wednesday evening:
I’d give my left nut, chewing and actually go to all my classes if I could go back for one more year with the boys.
Heartbreaking coming from anyone, but especially in his case, as he didn't get a true senior season thanks to his chronic groin issues that flared up throughout his career.

Ten years from now, I might not remember that. What I will remember is the way he stepped up to become one of the Icers' best forwards down the stretch of the 2010-2011 season, playing some vital shifts to help make sure Penn State didn't miss the ACHA National Championship Tournament for what would have been the only time ever.

1. Two 2015 prospects on board

Recent commits A.J. Greer and Conor Garland get the Andrew Dzurita treatment. Want a wow moment from the interviews? You got it. Apparently Garland (pictured above)...
...had offers from every school in Hockey East in addition to a number of ECAC schools, said Penn State was about the 15th different campus he visited, standing out from the rest.
So Boston College, Boston University, Maine and New Hampshire, among many others. You may have heard of these programs. And he chose Penn State.

Anyone still doubt that we're going to be getting after this thing for seriously within a few years?

Best of the Rest


The Namesake's daughter tweeted the above photo last Wednesday. My only comment: she needed a ticket? Really? Thought the whole $88 million (at the time) thing would get the family comped on the $6.50 tickets.

2011-12 ACHA Community Service Awards Announced

Congratulations to Penn State Altoona on winning the ACHA's Community Service Award at the D3 level for last season!

Men’s Division III title game planned to coincide with Philadelphia Frozen Four in 2014

Everyone in agreement that playing the DIII championship on the off day* between the Frozen Four semifinals and final is an amazing idea? Good. Moving on...

* I'll open myself up to the scorn of the college hockey world at this point and admit that I don't really care about the Hobey Baker Award** or anything else that presently happens on that Friday. It's an off day in my book.

** I'll probably care when a Penn Stater wins it. Hey, we're all hypocrites at times.

Men's Ice Hockey Announces Four Additions to Class of 2016

Here's the class of incoming freshmen for the Nittany Lions' first-ever opponent on the men's side. It's a small group of four, but it matches the number of departing seniors from last year's young AIC team.

The CHL and the CHLPA: Links, links, comments, and more links
(Over The Boards)

The latest twist in what's been a pretty interesting offseason for the major junior leagues is that CHL players have formed a union. Before you begin imagining (and that is the correct word at this point) this development's impact on the CHL-NCAA war - our primary concern, after all - make sure you get informed via OTB's excellent primer.

Leagues of Their Own: Josh Hauge
(Over The Boards)

The junior coach of freshman forward Kenny Brooks and possibly of 2014 defense commit Kevin Kerr (who was the Storm's first pick in May's USHL Futures Draft) at some point is interviewed here. Brooks' father, by the way, owns the Tri-City Storm team Hauge coaches.

By the way, have I given OTB an appropriate plug yet? I can't remember and am too lazy to check the archives, but two links in a row tells the story there, I suppose. The site's Twitter is also must-follow material.

Yost Arena Tour
(Big Man With Camera)

Here's a fantastic set of photos to update the progress of Yost's $14 million renovation. If this place isn't on your must-attend list for 2013-2014 when the Nittany Lions finally play at Michigan, there's something wrong with you. posted renderings of the completed project back in January, if you're interested in seeing where this is going. Looks incurably sick, particularly with all the natural lighting.

2012-13 Schedule Breakdown

Ohio U. (I hear they looooove when you call them that) sees their games at the Ice Pavilion this year as a big deal.

Sun Devils Are B.C. Bound!

PSU's other two ACHA opponents (Arizona State and Oklahoma) will both head to the great northwest for a holiday tournament with the CIS' University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser, which has won the non-varsity BCIHL in three of the six years it has existed. SFU, of course, is in the process of becoming the first Canadian member of the NCAA (which has nothing to do with hockey at the present time).

Johnstown begins new hockey era
(Altoona Mirror)

The NAHL's newest entry is presently in the middle of its training camp (which runs through Friday) ahead of its first-ever regular season game on September 8th at Port Huron. These are, indeed, exciting times for Central PA hockey on many different levels.

While it is fairly light on substance, this article does include quotes from Tomahawks part-owners Jack Ham and Shane Conlan. Those two, of course, are better known as legendary Penn State linebackers.


Oh hey, what up student section?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

McAdam Wins JCWC Silver, Top Goalie Honors

It's easy to forget that Sunday morning's game at the Junior Club World Cup in Omsk, Russia was just for the gold medal. After all, once the participants, the OHL's Sudbury Wolves and the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks, were determined, the nascent tournament that had been somewhat of an afterthought suddenly had the attention of the North American hockey world. The reasons, though, were less about who would win the World Cup trophy and more about a clash of systems and ideals.

To many, this was a referendum on junior hockey. A Canadian major junior team and an NCAA team will likely never meet in any kind of meaningful context, but this was just about the next best thing, with college hockey's biggest feeder league, the only Tier I league in the United States, standing in.

No less of an authority than USHL commissioner Skip Prince has stoked the fires on the issue, saying almost a year ago that:
The USHL has quickly come of age, and we we’re not going to wear the mantle of second team comfortably any longer.
Prince, in that open letter to Edmonton radio program The Pipeline Show, also welcomed a hypothetical matchup with the Memorial Cup winner, saying that it would be a battle, provide some great hockey, and that "I like our chances."

If this was some kind of statement on the best junior leagues in the U.S. and Canada, the Black Hawks represented their side of things quite well. They fell 2-0 this time around, but also showed through an evenly-played game that if there is a difference between the caliber of the OHL and USHL, it's not very big and is probably narrowing. Considering the growth potential for hockey in the United States and the limitations on Canada keeping that pace, the answer could be quite different in a few years.

All of that is well and good but ultimately, all that was decided was the second annual Junior Club World Cup, and in that regard, Waterloo probably rather would have won than make some kind of disputable statement about the quality of their league.

Through 47 minutes and 50 seconds, it appeared that they had a great chance of doing just that. At that point, they were locked in a scoreless battle with Sudbury, with future Penn Stater Eamon McAdam playing no small role. While his teammates did a fantastic job keeping him clean for the most part, the big goalie had answered every time he was called, including 14 saves in the first two periods (part of an overall 22-for-24 line). He was particularly special on special teams, helping the Hawks kill their first three shorthanded situations, and turning away a breakaway chance from Sudbury's Matthew Campagna while Waterloo was on the power play in the middle of the second period.

Right then though, three issues that had haunted the Black Hawks all tournament combined to do the USHLers in: penalty troubles, post-goal hangovers, and general third-period sloppiness. With 12:05 left in regulation, the Wolves' Josh Leivo took control of the puck in the neutral zone, came in on a partial breakaway, got McAdam to extend while holding off pursuit just above the crease, and popped it past the goalie's left pad to break the deadlock. Twenty-nine seconds after that, Waterloo's Kyle Schmidt went off for tripping, and six seconds after that, Frank Corrado's high wrister through traffic beat McAdam for a second time. Just like that, a toss-up game had what would prove to be an insurmountable deficit for the Black Hawks.

McAdam accepts the World Cup's top goalie award during the postgame festivities.

Despite defeat in the final, McAdam's performances throughout the tournament made a strong enough impression for him to be voted top goalie of the tournament. His final stats certainly are worthy of such an honor: a 3-1-0 record, a 2.16 goals against average, a 0.914 save percentage, a shutout of the Czech Republic's HC Energie in Waterloo's World Cup opener and, of course, a silver medal.

Before the championship tilt, of course, Waterloo had to advance through the group stage and had to survive - and that is the proper word - a brutally tough semifinal.

The opponent? Linköpings HC, as daunting of a task as the tournament could offer. The Swedish entry, after all, is the defending champion of the J20 SuperElit, Sweden's top junior league. Not only that, but Linköpings was the only team at the World Cup to get through their group with an unblemished record. Their tournament-best +10 goal differential in that round, in fact, included a 6-3 win over the eventual champion Sudbury Wolves.

Through two periods, though, McAdam and the Black Hawks made it look remarkably easy. They outshot the Swedes 29-10 over the first 40, and thanks to goals from Jake Horton, Justin Kloos and Kyle Schmidt, Waterloo enjoyed a nice advantage in the only stat that matters as well at 3-0.

Some of the same issues that would later pop up in the championship game then made an appearance here as well. Linköpings scored four times in the first 10:15 of the third period, the last two of those coming on the power play, to move the Hawks from comfortable advancement to the brink of elimination via a late 4-3 deficit. Notre Dame commit Vince Hinostroza came to the rescue just in time, knocking home an equalizer with just 1.7 seconds remaining.

After a 10-minute overtime Hinostroza cemented his hero status, scoring twice in the deciding shootout, while McAdam played his part on the other side of things, stopping two of four attempts, the second of which clinched the win. In all, disregarding the shootout, he made 20 saves on 24 shots.

Here are some highlights from the Linköpings game, including McAdam's shootout-ending save:

Next up for McAdam: the CCM/USA Hockey Prospects Game on September 29th followed, of course, by the USHL season as a stacked Black Hawks team seeks to capture the Clark Cup championship that narrowly eluded them last season. For McAdam personally, both will give him a chance to get on to the radar of NHL scouts ahead of next year's entry draft as well as give him momentum heading to Penn State for the 2013-2014 season. Based on his performance at the World Cup, he certainly looks poised to seize all available opportunities.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Mendelson, Murphy Added to Women's NCAA Team

Katie Murphy will be part of a large Honeybaked connection on the inaugual NCAA women's team.

While Penn State are excitedly returning to campus en masse this weekend, sophomore defender Cara Mendelson and sophomore forward Katie Murphy had a little bit more waiting for them in Happy Valley than most: a spot on Josh Brandwene's inaugural NCAA team.

The news, which was first shared by Murphy and Mendelson's former Lady Icers teammate Lisa Frank, has been confirmed by their addition to Penn State's roster. Mendelson will wear number 3, up one from her number two of last season, while Murphy switches from 5 to 25.

They join forwards Tess Weaver, Taylor Gross, Jess Desorcie and Kate Christoffersen, as well as defenders Madison Smiddy and Lindsay Reihl as NCAA players who also played for the ACHA Division 1 Lady Icers last season. The road for Murphy and Mendelson to get to this point was a little tougher than the others though - they were not named to the initial NCAA roster back in May and instead were placed on sort of a wait list. The pair were given the team workouts and trained all summer as if joining the team, effort which has now paid off with a historic status.

As freshmen on the Lady Icers in 2011-2012, Mendelson and Murphy were both key components of the final ACHA-era team, which won the ECWHL regular season championship.

Murphy already has a DI point in a sense, as her assist of Carly Szyszko against Sacred Heart on January 13th helped give PSU a short-lived 2-1 lead over the Pioneers. She is a native of Novi, MI and a product of the legendary Honeybaked program that also helped develop teammates Smiddy, Jordin Pardoski and Birdie Shaw. Murphy, Smiddy and Pardoski all played for Honeybaked's 19U team in 2010-2011, coached by Pardoski's father Ryan (a former Michigan player and New Jersey Devils draft pick) and managed by Pardoski's mother Julie. That's quite a pipeline.

Mendelson, who joins Reihl and Smiddy as the only members of the Nittany Lions' defense with college experience, comes from a different pipeline - to the Pittsburgh area, joining Weaver, Steph Walkom, Darby Kern and Jill Holdcroft (who is from Centre County, of course, but played for the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in addition to State College Area High School) in that regard. The right-handed shot will provide steadiness on the back end and will fit in well with what looks to be a very diverse defense group. Perhaps most importantly, I'll get to keep using this photo, of (left to right) Weaver, Brandwene and Mendelson:

The Nittany Lions, now numbering 27 strong, open the season October 6th and 7th at Vermont. Their home debut will be October 13th and 14th vs. CHA opponent Syracuse.


I'm not normally one for the short-form post, but this is definitely worthy of it: it's Guy Gadowsky's 1992-1993 Richmond Renegades (ECHL) card. I recently purchased the team set on eBay specifically to get this card because...well, why not?

Gadowsky was actually a playing coach on the team, putting up 19 goals and 35 points in 19 games. Not too shabby. The coaching side of things - this was his first attempt at it, if I'm not mistaken - worked out okay for him too.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The "Icers" Question

One of the more common questions I receive from TYT's non-Penn State readership is whether the name "Icers" will continue to be used. The short answer is "no." This post is the long answer.

Before going any further, I should mention that the name situation was brought to the forefront Thursday by a tweet from Jeremy Fallis, PSU's assistant communications director responsible for (among other things) women's hockey and retweeted by (among others) the official Twitter account of the women's team, as well as by Greg Kincaid, an athletic communications assistant.

Unnecessary, tactless, somewhat pushy...yep, he's definitely read the public relations chapter in the Penn State employee handbook. Regardless, it seems clear that the party line has been drawn. But let's take a closer look at things anyway.

Historical Background

The term "icers" as associated with Penn State hockey goes all the way back to the first game played by the informal team that eventually led to the 1940s varsity team, on February 22, 1938 (it was the third game overall in PSU hockey history, following the pair played by the Herb Baetz-captained outfit in 1909-1910).

Click for gallery view.

It's important to note that it's "icers" at this point, not "Icers" (and in fact, the word was also used to describe the opposing Pitt team in the above article). For the entire history of Penn State hockey through about the late 1970s, "icers" was just one of many similar terms used interchangeably to refer to the hockey teams.

The others, like "puckmen," "pucksters," "icemen" and "rinkmen," were actually part of a larger set encompassing all sports in newspapers of a different era: "gridders" were football players, "cagers" were basketball players, "grapplers" were wrestlers, "mermen" (eesh) were men's swimmers (later, thankfully, it became "swimmen"), and so on. Many - okay, maybe not "mermen" - are still in occasional circulation today, although they're not as widespread now as they were 70 years ago. The words were never exclusively used at PSU, but it does seem as if Penn Staters, at one time anyway, embraced them more than most.

Around the late 1970s and early 1980s, "icers" finally more or less became the single accepted replacement word for "hockey players," and the word actually seemed to gain usage even as others like "stickmen" (lacrosse) and "booters" (soccer) faded. But when did lower-case "icers" gain proper noun status? Obviously language, as fluid and constantly evolving as it is, doesn't lend itself to identifying fixed points like that. There actually is some evidence on this front though, and it leads to a rather interesting answer.

In both 1986-1987 and 1987-1988, Dave Sottile was the team's beat writer for The Daily Collegian (if that name sounds familiar, it may be due to the fact that he was the managing editor of Pennsylvania Puck and has also worked for several south central PA newspapers). Here are two different articles he wrote:

On the left is Sottile covering the 1987 National Invitational Tournament, published March 13th of that year. On the right is Sottile covering the opening of the next season's practice exactly seven months later. Even without a change in writer, "icers" (and "Lions" in the body of the article) clearly gave way to "Icers."

So what was it if not a simple change in writer and individual style? Well, if you haven't put it together yet, a former PSU offensive defenseman by the name of Joe Battista took over as coach for the 1987-1988 season. I don't really believe that Battista swung into the Collegian offices like a pirate and demanded that Sottile capitalize Icers - it was probably something more subtle like Battista capitalizing Icers in a press release and Sottile just going with it. Maybe Sottile observed that fans had latched on to the name and finally reached some sort of capitalize-or-not tipping point. However it happened, I'm not sure that any involved party would remember the monumental moment if asked today. Regardless, the rest was history.

My Opinion and Recommendation

Admittedly, I've always had an awkward relationship with "Icers." Ever since my first exposure to Penn State hockey, I've resisted its usage because I wanted people to see the program as the big-time operation that it was, and felt that the moniker club-ified things and damaged the team's legitimacy to those who didn't know any better. My favorite Penn State hockey shirt at one time said "Penn State Nittany Lions Hockey" on it, in a style produced for several varsity Penn State sports, and I tended to avoid the merch sold at the games that placed "Icers" front and center.

In the same vein, when my father - on the rare occasions he took an interest - or some other outsider would occasionally ask who PSU was playing that weekend, my answer would range from "ILLINOIS! THE FIGHTING ILLINI! THEY'RE IN THE BIG TEN! WE'RE PLAYING THEM BECAUSE WE ARE ALSO IN THE BIG TEN!" to "<cough> Washington & Jefferson <cough>." Delaware and Rhode Island were okay as flagship schools in states that could conceivably be good at hockey (on a per-capita basis, anyway), West Chester and even Ohio were less okay. Michigan-Dearborn was always an opportunity to use both techniques in the same name. I've largely gotten over that, although when my dad asked about attending an ACHA National Tournament game last year, I did push for the quarterfinal matchup that was guaranteed to involve Oklahoma or Iowa State over the later rounds, which might have brought Lindenwood or Liberty (or Oakland, as it turned out) into play.

Basically, I desperately sought the approval of those who didn't understand the quality of top-end ACHA hockey or of Penn State's program, and "Icers" didn't really help my case. Maybe I was in the wrong for acting how I did - typing it all out certainly makes me feel that way - but hey, at least I'm being honest now. Anyway, with no reason for those sorts of concerns any longer, you would think I'd be full steam ahead on "Nittany Lions" and all things NCAA, right? I certainly thought I would be, but that hasn't really turned out to be the case.

There's a lot wrong with Fallis' tweet, but I think what bothers me most is that it flies in the face of the "Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, Roaring into the Future" slogan that has been fairly ubiquitous around the program since Terry Pegula's donation.

A good start, but not the whole answer.

In some ways, "honoring the past" has been done appropriately. Icers alumni have retroactively been given status as Penn State lettermen, a very classy move. There will be some sort of history display in the Pegula Ice Arena. I imagine a banner or banners commemorating the Icers' ACHA national championships will be part of the facility as well, much to the consternation of the self-appointed banner approval committee that roams college hockey message boards.

All of that contradicts the sentiment seemingly expressed by Fallis.

Even as someone who once hated "Icers," I now feel a sense of pride in the name. I once played a (very) small part in helping the name reach its exalted status. To this point, I've never worked harder in my life than when I was in HMA and on this blog (which certainly has covered far more Icers than Nittany Lions to this point), and the result has been two of my more rewarding experiences. There's another word that expresses how I felt when I read what led to this post: offended. Not so much for myself, but for the numerous others - players, coaches, support staff, HMA - who played a much bigger role than I in elevating the program to greatness, and who are having their accomplishments seemingly dismissed with very little thought. It's almost as if the athletic department is jealous of what was built without their help.

Am I reading too much into it? Maybe, but maybe not. Yeah, it's just a name, but it's also symbolic. And it seems like part of a larger pattern in athletic communications. Consider the boilerplate close to their press releases.
The 2012-13 season will mark the Nittany Lions' first-ever campaign at the NCAA Division I level. Penn State, which previously sponsored varsity hockey from 1940-47, will play 27 games against NCAA opponents in its first season of varsity hockey in more than 65 years.
It really isn't my intent to say a bad word about the first varsity team, but it happened in isolation and was an "era" that included all of 29 games. The Icers played 34 games last season alone and were the direct forerunner to everything happening now.

Consider also that zero effort has been placed into educating the Penn State mainstream on PSU hockey's rich history. While the athletic department does a good job in most other respects, I really feel as if it was a missed opportunity to tie everything together, to honor the past appropriately, and even to generate content and keep interest up through the summer. Penn State hockey is new to the NCAA, but it's not a new program, and that seems lost sometimes.

I think it's absolutely vital to remember that none of this - not Pegula, not NCAA status, none of it - ever happens without the Icers. That's not vague sentimentality, that's fact. Pegula didn't just wake up one day in 2005 and say "hey, I went to Penn State, I like hockey, I should write them a large check to start a hockey program." He was familiar with the Icers thanks to his son attending camp in the late 1980s and early 1990s (I have no idea how many non-varsity hockey schools even had camps then, but it couldn't have been very many, which sort of gets at my point). He didn't approach former athletic director Tim Curley or some other university official in charge of large gifts, he approached Battista, then "just" the Icers coach ("just" in quotes for the obvious reason that he was much more important than the title).

Everyone recognizes that the team will officially be called "Nittany Lions." If Fallis, or anyone else, is writing a press release, by all means, pump that thing full of Nittany Lions. This post isn't meant to question that, because it is a change I welcome. What I don't welcome are attempts to thought police everyone else. If someone wants to tweet "I'm pumped for the Icers season," if someone wants to yell "let's go Icers" at a game, who cares? There's literally zero harm in that. Let's let this thing develop organically, not via some ill-conceived edict. Maybe the new fans will overwhelm those with roots in the non-varsity era and "Icers" will die on its own. Maybe "Icers" will remain an informal name and become a unique Penn State tradition. I read somewhere once that unique traditions are part of what makes college hockey great, so why pre-emptively kill one before it's given a chance to take hold (or not)?

Will Yanakeff is a goalie for the Icers of Michigan State. And nobody in the MSU athletic department will
have a problem with this caption.

Another Example

Interestingly enough, future Big Ten rival Michigan State might provide some guidance in that department. Check out the following links to source material from...
Keep in mind, this is an athletic department concerned enough with consistency to go out of their way to develop a "brand and identity program" two years ago.

I have no idea how Michigan State came to be the Icers, but that's not the point. What is:
  • They're not smothering their tradition, at least in that respect (don't get me started on the script "Michigan State," which was fortunately returned in the form of alternate jerseys for this season).
  • It doesn't challenge "Spartans" as the official name of MSU's hockey team, nor is it even used as frequently.
  • I can't imagine that they have a better reason for using "Icers" than Penn State does.
The future of Penn State hockey, as Nittany Lions, is indeed exciting. I just hope we're not losing ourselves, and indeed what made that future possible, along the way. Much like my personal journey from hating "Icers" to being outraged enough to write this post when it's dismissed, I hope everyone who has a stake in the program at least comes around to respecting the name if they didn't before. I'm not telling anyone whether to keep using it or not - that would make me quite the hypocrite, after all - but I am encouraging everyone to reach their own conclusion and let the chips fall as they may.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Waterloo Advances to World Cup Semifinals

At last year's inaugural Junior Club World Cup, the United States entry was an EJHL all-star team. They did well, but were unable to escape the group stage of the tournament.

2013 goalie commit Eamon McAdam and his Waterloo Black Hawks teammates have now cleared that bar thanks to their ouster of host team Omskie Yastreby by a deceptive 7-3 score in a win-or-go-home game for both teams. The Hawks advance to the medal round, where they'll face Sweden junior champ Linköpings HC Saturday morning at 2:00 a.m. in a semifinal match. Linköpings plowed through their Group B schedule unbeaten, so the task ahead is indeed formidable. Waterloo, meanwhile, went 3-1-0 in Group A, losing out on first place only by tiebreaker.

The other semifinal will feature the OHL's Sudbury Wolves and Belarus' Dinamo-Shinnik. On Sunday, the losers of the two games meet for bronze, while the winners decide gold and silver. Either possible Sunday opponent would be appealing, but it would certainly be hard to beat seeing a major junior league vs. major NCAA feeder league battle for the Cup.

McAdam was an integral part of toppling a team that had won their last two games by a combined 13-1 score and on their home ice in front of 8,000 somewhat-biased fans. After a first period that could best be described as "comfortable," and that ended with a 1-0 Waterloo lead off the stick of Kyle Schmidt, McAdam provided what could be considered a turning point moment early in the second. On a 2-on-1 for the Russians, McAdam read the play, cut down the shooter and sucked the puck into his logo with a calmness that belied the urgency of the situation. Soon after, Ryan Papa would bury on the power play off a great feed from Ohio State commit Zach Stepan to give Waterloo a 2-0 lead four minutes into the period.

Omskie Yastreby would pull one back by solving McAdam with a Dmitry Kuzmenko wrister from up high midway through the second after the Perkasie, PA native made a couple initial saves that weren't cleared. But that remained the only blemish on his record (other than a first period turnover that nearly ended with a goal) well into the third period, after Stepan and Justin Kloos ballooned the Waterloo lead to 4-1 after 40 minutes. In addition to being his team's best penalty killer (as the cliche goes) on occasion and adding some key even-strength saves, he also forced an early third period penalty shot by Ivan Fishchenko wide.

As it turned out, the Black Hawks needed every bit of that big lead when things became unraveled in the last seven minutes of the game. McAdam was beaten twice - on a power play rebound and on a blast from left point through a well-timed screen - within a minute, and the outcome of a once-safe game was in doubt at 4-3. A vital Waterloo penalty kill immediately after the pair of tallies brought momentum back to the correct bench, and an empty-netter followed by a late penalty shot and another garbage-time goal salted away the result.

Here's what McAdam had to say following his 27 saves on 30 shots:

The win was his first tournament action since a 27-save shutout of the Czech Republic's HC Energie to open the group stage on Sunday. A strong Energie team controlled things early, thanks largely to some Black Hawk penalty trouble and an extended 5-on-3. McAdam, however, answered the bell and kept the scoreboard blank. Waterloo then broke through in the middle period to give the netminder a margin for error that he wouldn't need.
The Hawks battled through to eventually take the lead seconds after the fifth Energie power play ended. At 12:35 of the second period, Vince Hinostroza eluded defenders through the right wing circle and to the side of the net. Dropping the puck back to Alec McCrea, the defenseman’s shot along the ice found the back of the cage. Fifty-eight seconds later, Taylor Cammarata made it 2-0, rifling a shot under the crossbar, which was in and out in a split second.

In the third period, the Hawks went to the power play for the first time and cashed in right away. Ian McCoshen sent home a bullet from the deep slot 49 seconds after intermission. Waterloo found the target twice more during five-on-three power plays. At 4:16, Ryan Papa’s chance from the right circle went off goalie Vladislav Habal and in. Then at 11:31 Cammarata lifted the puck to the top corner.
Following that game, McAdam also spoke with USHL media:

The story was a little bit different the next day when the Black Hawks fell to Dinamo-Shinnik, the eventual Group A winner, by a 3-1 score. Despite McAdam's performance against Energie, Cal Petersen got the start in net and was under siege for most of the first period, conceding twice on 15 shots. However the Hawks, as they often do, battled back. Kloos buried a turnover to chop the deficit in half midway through the second. Seventeen seconds into the final frame, Waterloo thought they had tied things on the power play when Cammarata won a battle in front to knock it in, but the goal was ruled to have come by a kick and was waved off. Shinnik added insurance shortly after that controversy to drop the Black Hawks to 1-1 in Group A.

Here are highlights of the first two games, including two of McAdam's saves from his shutout:

Petersen also played in Waterloo's third group game of the four, a crucial tilt against Norway's national junior team. Despite the Black Hawks' dominance for much of the affair, they found themselves down 3-1 midway through the second before storming back with four unanswered (including three on the power play to go with an empty-netter) to survive with a 5-3 win.

Morrow To Lead Ice Lions

Matt Morrow, an assistant to Josh Hand in 2011-2012, will take over as head coach of the ACHA Division 2 Ice Lions this season. Hand, of course, remains at PSU as a volunteer assistant with the NCAA Division I men.

In an open letter posted on the Ice Lions' website, Morrow introduced himself by saying:
A new era has begun for the Penn State Ice Lions Hockey program. Club hockey at the Pennsylvania State University has a long and storied tradition, and the Ice Lions are ready and able to carry a high standard of both athletic and academic success into the future.

In my first year as head coach, I look to build upon what has been a very deep talent pool, and continue the winning ways of the coaching staffs before me. My staff and I look to recruit the top talent starting right here in Pennsylvania, and branching our nationally.

Success in our program will begin with academic integrity and character building within the classroom and Penn State community. This solid foundation for what Penn State students are known for will serve as the platform on which athletic all-stars will be built.
He's not really kidding about that whole "very deep talent pool" thing. Despite the loss of several key seniors, headlined by captain Jim Recupero and standout goalie Tom Badali (both of whom were All-Southeastern Region selections), the Ice Lions return boatloads of quality from a team that more or less steamrolled everything in its path en route to a 30-3-0 record and a MACHA title in Hand's only season in charge. They'll also look to reap some benefit from the disappearance of the Icers and their new status as the top ACHA program on campus while seeking to do three wins better than in 2011-2012, which saw the Ice Lions' 25-game winning streak end rather inconveniently in the final game of the group stage at the ACHA National Tournament.

Hand approves of his replacement and is confident in Morrow's ability to keep the program's momentum going.
“He was my choice. He did a really good job for us last year, and was a big part of our success.”
The new boss joined the old boss' staff last season from previous positions in south Florida, assisting former NHLer Peter Worrell with North Broward Prep (Morrow's alma mater) and with ACHA D3 Florida Atlantic for three seasons. Not familiar with Worrell?

Now you know. Since beating down Rob Ray, Worrell has learned how to beat down Florida high school hockey teams as well. With Morrow as an assistant, the enforcer led North Broward to two state titles and an appearance at the USA Hockey High School National Championships.

Morrow, an MBA candidate in Penn State's Smeal College of Business Administration, will be helped by long-time Icers and Lady Icers assistant Wil Gigante.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

PIA Construction: August 21, 2012

Eighth in a series tracking Pegula Ice Arena construction every few weeks (February 7, 2012 / March 27, 2012 / April 10, 2012 / May 20, 2012 / June 15, 2012 / June 27, 2012 / July 20, 2012).

As usual, we start with the webcam's view from the time of my visit. Also as usual, click on any of the photos to view a full-size version.

Unfortunately, I was unable to sneak on to the site this time around, as people were working on the site - a reality that I may not be able to avoid from this point forward as the construction team attempts to keep a tight schedule. To be sure, I'll keep trying, but no promises. Hey, if nothing else, at least we had the June and July editions.

As a result, I went to Plan B (which was really Plan A at the beginning anyway): walk the perimeter of the site looking for good views. These first few are from the benches behind the Shields Building, which has been one of the go-to spots throughout the process. As you can see in this first one, the community rink is finally receiving some attention.

Over in the main arena, peering through the concourse level on that side provides a glimpse of the seating bowl installation.

Here's a zoomed-in view of that. The smaller section on top will be the exterior seating for the suites. You know, for the times the high rollers actually feel like watching the game.

An overview of the look from behind Shields:

From there, I moved to the field hockey complex and proceeded to the sideline closest to the PIA (hey, at least one open gate worked in my favor). There was an aluminum stand present - I assume for scorekeepers and/or the public address guy - and this next group is taken from it. They essentially look through the community rink and the student section to the other side.

A tunnel? A tunnel. Unfortunately, this one will be where the visiting teams take the ice. Booooo. The good guys and girls will enter directly to the bench area, which will be be on the opposite side from here. Also of note from this photo: we've apparently elected to not go with "rust" as a significant part of the arena's color scheme. Good to know.

After leaving the field hockey venue, I continued around the perimeter, eventually finding a pretty solid new location. It's tough to explain, but you can actually see it in this post's first picture (that I took), of the community rink. See that steel building prominent in the background (which contains tennis courts, if you didn't know)? Just past the right edge of it, as you're looking at it. That spot hasn't been walled off yet, and the fence has been left uncovered. In fact, most of these were taken through, not over, the fence, starting with a pretty nice overview.

I like this next one because it clearly shows the PIA's three levels, stacked to the right: event level, concourse level and suite level. The event level, of course, will also contain the locker and training facilities, as well as offices.

This will be the side with the home locker rooms and the benches.

The remaining pictures were taken back up by Shields - specifically from its adjacent parking lot - and from University Drive. This next one is one more look through the northwest side's concourse to the southeast side.

The main entrance:

One of my favorite things about doing this is observing the installation of some of the finer details and visualizing the completed product. My "huh...sweet" moment of this trip was noticing the curved "Hockey Valley" balcony in what will be the main lobby. See it?

Here's a rendering, just for comparison's sake.

Two more - obviously, these are of what will be the PIA's signature glass facade.