Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Club Sandwich: October 30th

Neil Laessig spent much of Saturday night slinging apples.

For the second straight week, University Park's ACHA teams had a light slate, with only one combined game.


Franky Reluzco led the way with two goals and an assist, and Neil Laessig added a trio of assists as the Ice Lions (6-2-1, 3-0-0 MACHA North) put together a second straight win, 4-2 over Saint Joseph's.

Despite Penn State's scoring exploits, the story of the game may have been Hawks goalie Kyle Van Osten, who turned aside 54 of 58 shots to keep the game close despite the ice being heavily tilted towards his end for almost the entire evening. On the other end, Teddy Steinhart only saw eight SJU attempts in recording his second win of the season.

Reluzco and Laessig both helped see to it that PSU got enough past Van Osten to win though. The pair assisted on Peter Daley's goal just 1:51 from puck drop that got Penn State off on the right foot. Daley returned the favor late in the second period by setting up Reluzco on a vital goal to answer a Hawks power play tally and make the score 2-1. Mac Winchester and Reluzco both scored in the third period to cancel the Hawks' Matthew O'Brien's attempt to pull his team back in it.

The Ice Lions get back to a heavier workload this coming weekend through a road trip to New Jersey to take on Monmouth on Friday and Rider on Sunday.


I'll let the women (2-1-1) give their own update:

Maryland looks to be a tough opponent - the Terps beat Virginia 8-4 and Liberty 4-0 their last two times out. Saturday's result may also prove important to the first set of rankings, since this will be PSU's last chance to impress the voters before their release. Speaking of "last," it's also the end of five consecutive road games to start the season before the team makes its Ice Pavilion debut on December 14th.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Tuesday's Game at Fredonia Postponed

The ice at Fredonia's Steele Hall will remain empty Tuesday night.

As first reported by USCHO's Dan Hickling, the men's team's scheduled game at NCAA Division III Fredonia scheduled for Tuesday night has been postponed due to conditions resulting from Hurricane Sandy. Both teams later confirmed the news and announced that the game would be made up on December 11th at 7:00 p.m.

The game, as originally scheduled, was to be an interesting test of the Nittany Lions' focus, which Guy Gadowsky indicated may have been lacking after the October 19th shutout loss at DIII Buffalo State. Coming off of a big weekend sweep at Army and Sacred Heart, PSU would have had to grind through a mid-week road game before heading back home for a Saturday revenge match with the Bengals, the team's first at the Ice Pavilion since October 12th.

Rescheduling for December 11th, also a Tuesday, may actually ratchet up the challenge a little bit though. That date follows a weekend series at Holy Cross on December 7th and 8th and precedes a return home to play Robert Morris on the 15th. The position of that set of games just before the holiday break also adds a different element to the new date.

For Fredonia, which has started 2-2-0 (1-1-0 SUNYAC), the challenge will be less intense. They'll now host PSU in a semester-closing game, coming off of a home-and-home weekend with Elmira.

Last season, at the Ice Pavilion and in front of an electric crowd, the Icers rallied from second-period deficits of 3-1 and 4-2 to beat the Blue Devils 5-4. Justin Kirchhevel scored twice, with George Saad connecting on the winner 5:46 into the third period. Matt Madrazo recovered from early struggles to make 29 saves on 33 shots.

Three Stars: October 22-28

3. Men's Hockey Weekly Q & A - Vol. 3
Thursday Conversation: Shannon Yoxheimer
(The Daily Collegian)

I've mentioned before that I've been really impressed with the Collegian so far this year, and one reason why are these interviews that come out of the weekly media availability (unfortunately, the whole Ohio thing keeps me from making them). Here's the men's - with Casey Bailey, since it's not in the title - and women's versions from last week.

2. Shannon Yoxheimer CHA Player of the Week 10-22-12

Fact: Yox is a stone-cold sniper. Here's her CHA weekly award video, including all of her points from the Sacred Heart weekend.

Coming next week: Nicole Paniccia. Probably.

1. Pegula Ice Arena Construction Tour

Would've loved to have taken one of these of my own, but hey, StateCollege.com's Ben Jones made his name by hustling. So if I can't do it, I'm more than happy to defer to his work.

Best of the Rest

[Entry removed at the request of the PSU athletic department.]

Robotic Hockey Tournament: Students to compete against each other in robotics contest
(Union College Concordiensis)

Know what else is amazing? Robot hockey. And guess what? If you get to Schenectady, NY on January 11th when the Penn State women's team will be there, you get to see the Union finals during an intermission of the Nittany Lions-Dutchwomen game. The winner will then face the winner of a similar competition at RPI for all the nerd points.

Atlantic Hockey's come a long way in 10 years
(New England Hockey Journal)

Since Penn State is an honorary AHA team this year (13 games against eight of the 12 conference schools, with a 4-1-0 record so far) it seems appropriate to include a nice, fluffy piece celebrating the league's first decade.

Roos Top Assumption At Home

PSU wasn't the only ACHA Division 1 program from last year moving to NCAA status. Congratulations to the other, Canton, for winning their first home game as a DIII team, 6-3 over Assumption.

Among Neal Price's greatest accomplishments: this goal in the 1999 ACHA national championship game against Iowa State, his pair of goals in a 5-2 win over then-NCAA Division I Wayne State on November 27, 1999 (the reason I'm including this, since it's not completely obvious), and his joining Larry Hendry, Joe Battista, Alon Eizenman and Josh Brandwene as the only figures from Icers history mentioned in the 2012-2013 men's hockey program.

Four New Teams Join Men's Division 1 for 2013-2014

Penn State and Canton may have crossed over, but Colorado, Colorado State, Wayne State and Rochester College (which is apparently in Michigan, not to be confused with former Icers ICHL rival the University of Rochester in New York) have gotten the invite to ACHA D1 for next season.

WSU is a little bit of an interesting case as a school that dropped its two NCAA hockey programs in the last five years (the men after 2007-2008, the women after 2010-2011), just started an ACHA men's program this year, and now will be playing at the highest ACHA level next year.

Vanderbilt club hockey team to take on Division I opponent
(Inside Vandy)

Just because I think stuff like this is fascinating, Alabama-Huntsville will be hammering another SEC school with an ACHA D3 program on January 5th. Previously, the Chargers beat Alabama 12-1 and 10-0 on October 6th and 7th.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

TCN to Broadcast PSU-Vermont

UVM sophomore defenseman Nick Luukko, here working against Maine's Joey Diamond in a game last season, has friends in high places at Comcast.

According to a television schedule given on the website of Lehigh Valley newspaper The Morning Call, January 19th's Penn State-Vermont clash at the Wells Fargo Center, now being called the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff, will air on The Comcast Network.

TCN - formerly known as CN8 and not to be confused with usual Flyers carrier Comcast SportsNet - is broadcast across Comcast cable systems in four states and 20 television markets (as with many things like this, the best bet is to check your local listings for availability). Most of the channel's lineup is aimed at a senior demographic, although it carries its share of sports programming as well, including indoor soccer, minor league baseball, and some collegiate events. TCN also serves as an overflow channel when two of the major Philadelphia teams carried on local channels are playing simultaneously.

As for the game itself, it should be a good one. Vermont, as I've been saying for a while, represents the best chance for the Nittany Lions to take down a major-conference program in this first year. Recruiting losses, coach defections and pro signings all gashed what wasn't a great team to begin with (UVM was 3-23-1 in 2011-2012) during the offseason, and the Catamounts (0-1-2, 0-1-2 HEA) are projected to once again be the dregs of Hockey East. At the very least, they should be a more attainable target than Union, Michigan State or Wisconsin. Penn State, on the other hand, has exceeded most reasonable expectations so far and has started 4-1-0 against NCAA Division I competition. While all five of those games have come against teams in Atlantic Hockey, DI's only mid-major conference, a bad major-conference program hardly seems out of reach for the Nittany Lions at this juncture.

The game's being televised, or even existing in the first place, is only partly due to Penn State. Comcast Spectacor and Flyers president Peter Luukko's son Nick is a sophomore defenseman on the Catamounts and (surprise!) was a sixth-round pick of the Flyers in the 2010 draft. Comcast Spectacor, of course, owns both Philadelphia's NHL team and, more significantly here, the arena they play in.

Other UVM players to watch Brett Bruneteau, a center who transferred from North Dakota and is a Washington draft selection, and brother Nick, a junior defenseman. The Bruneteaus have quite a hockey lineage, perhaps rivaled only on the Penn State side by the Patrick family - Brett and Nick's great uncle was Mud Bruneteau, who scored for the Detroit Red Wings at 16:30 of the sixth overtime period on March 24, 1936 to end the longest game in NHL history. Junior forward Connor Brickley, still another NHL pick (Florida, 2nd round, 2010), is a former National Team Development Program product and competed for Team USA at the 2012 World Junior Championships.

The clash with Vermont is the third PSU game to make it to a traditional television outlet viewable by a large number of Penn State fans. Previously, the January 26th game with Michigan State and the February 25th matchup at Wisconsin were announced for Big Ten Network. Some games, including the October 20th win over RIT and the other games of the MSU and UW series, have been or will be broadcast in areas local to the home teams.

Of course, if TV isn't good enough for you, tickets for the clash go on sale this Friday, through ComcastTIX.

M: Penn State 6 at Sacred Heart 3

First off, I want to thank each of you for your support, or at least understanding, of my absence for Saturday evening's men's win over Sacred Heart. Suffice it to say, I'm a little bit of a hothead and needed to take a step back from things for a few hours. Simple as that.

The issue, for those who don't follow me on Twitter, is that there was a media tour given of the Pegula Ice Arena site yesterday (I'm sure you've seen some of the photos and videos that resulted from that already, they're pretty amazing - one photo is above, of course, and one video is linked below). Despite carrying a full-season credential for Penn State hockey, I was not invited. Last night, I was given the explanation that the tour was designed to take advantage of the "national and regional" media in town for the Penn State-Ohio State football game and who don't cover PSU hockey on a regular basis. I'd be a hypocrite if I took any great issue with that idea, as I've expressed concern over the interest of the wider Penn State community before, and the growth of the programs should always come ahead of this blog and my ego.

However, that explanation doesn't account for the fact that among others Rob Greissinger, one of the Daily Collegian's hockey writers, was on the tour. So was Ben Jones, who regularly covers hockey for StateCollege.com. So was Greg Pickel, whose hockey stuff can be read on several different outlets. All three of them do a fantastic job, and this isn't meant to imply otherwise, but their presence would seem to contradict the reasons given for my exclusion. Student papers and websites named for Penn State's home borough are not "regional" or "national," and as stated, there has been no shortage of great hockey coverage from those outlets. All three of them are fully credentialed for hockey as well and at every men's home game and even some away games. In short, their inclusion was not growing Penn State hockey's coverage footprint in any way.

More than anything, I think this and a lot of things simply boil down to "we just don't like (or respect or both) you, and aren't going to include you if we don't absolutely have to." There's a larger conversation in there about whether I should be media (which involves dancing a certain dance in exchange for less access than they give themselves) or a blog (which doesn't have to follow rules, but gets no access), but I'll save that for some other time. In general, my feeling that I'm sort of awkwardly caught between those two things.

Before moving on, I do want to reiterate one thing: my love of Penn State hockey. It's why I've paid thousands of dollars for the privilege to do this. And honestly, it's what makes my continued struggles in certain areas so perplexing to me, because I believe that I've demonstrated - both through this blog and otherwise - my support for the programs.

Anyway, on to the business of the day...

I probably need to give some thought to how I handle away games with no available video (sort of a new reality this season) and when I'm not in attendance. The cruel truth is that I don't have any great insight regarding those games - how can anyone without the ability to see it? - and simply post about those by cobbling together the available recap stories, the box score and maybe a couple tweets. I'll try to interpret what can be interpreted and offer some context.

Is the result a worthwhile product? Does it add anything to the conversation? Does it assume facts not in evidence? I'm not sure. Maybe I'm offering something unique and making the best of a bad situation. Or maybe I'm offering an inferior product just in the name of not taking the easy way out.

This time around, and in consideration of the fact that I was even less plugged in than normal for a "blind" game (see above), I'm simply going to re-publish Penn State's game release here. Actual media outlets do this all the time and get to be called actual media outlets, so maybe they're on to something. As with anything I do here, I'm accepting feedback on which approach you'd prefer. Naturally, if I'm in attendance or if streaming video is available (which will be most of the time), I'll continue with the usual live blog/recap approach.

Junior defenseman Nate Jensen scored his first goal of the season to help PSU pull away in the third.

Six Different Lions Score in 6-3 Win Vs. SHU

MILFORD, Conn. - Six different Nittany Lions scored as the Penn State men's hockey team skated to a 6-3 victory against Sacred Heart at Milford Ice Pavilion Saturday evening. The Nittany Lions improved to 4-2-0 with their third straight win.

Senior forward Michael Longo (Allison Park, Pa.) and junior defenseman Nate Jensen (Shorewood, Minn.) notched their first goals of the season, and junior forward Michael McDonagh (Wilmington, Mass.) tallied a game-high three assists. Sophomore Max Gardiner (Deephaven, Minn.) and freshmen Curtis Loik (North Vancouver, B.C.), Jonathan Milley (Gatineau, Que.) and Mark Yanis (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) also scored.

The Nittany Lions fell behind, 1-0, early in the first period before scoring three goals in a 5:06 span to take a 3-1 lead. The Pioneers tallied later in the frame before the teams traded goals in the second period as Penn State skated to a 4-3 second-period advantage. The Nittany Lions added a pair of goals in the final stanza as they defeated their fourth Atlantic Hockey opponent of the season.

Penn State outshot the Pioneers by a 31-19 margin. The Nittany Lions were 0-for-5 on the power play, while Sacred Heart finished 0-for-4 with the man advantage. Sophomore goaltender PJ Musico (Orange, Calif.) improved to 4-0-0 with 16 saves, while Sacred Heart netminder Andrew Bodnarchuk turned aside 25 shots.

Penn State found itself down 1-0 just 5:03 into the game before the Nittany Lions responded with their three-goal run. Following Josh Phillips' marker, Longo knotted the game at 1-1 with his first career tally just 32 seconds later. McDonagh passed to freshman defenseman Joseph Lordo (St. Louis. Mo.), who fired a shot from the blue line that Longo tipped in for the goal.

Gardiner gave Penn State a 2-1 advantage 1:07 later. Freshman defenseman Luke Juha (Mississauga, Ont.) sent a pass across the blue line to classmate Yanis, who found Gardiner near the edge of the crease. The Deephaven, Minn., native's first attempt was stopped before he took the puck around the cage and slipped it to the back of the net.

With 9:19 left in the period, Milley extended the Penn State lead to 3-1. Freshman defenseman Connor Varley (Lansdale, Pa.) passed to classmate Casey Bailey (Anchorage, Alaska), who recorded a point in his third straight game, along the half boards. The Anchorage, Alaska, native found Milley near the bottom of the left circle, where he put a shot toward the goal that went past Bodnarchuk.

Sacred Heart closed the gap to 3-2 with 2:24 left in the opening frame. The Pioneers skated through the neutral zone on an odd-man rush before Brian Sheehan wristed a shot that was caught in Musico's pads before trickling in for the goal.

Both teams scored once in the second period as Penn State secured a 4-3 lead. With 11:51 left in the frame, Jensen gave the Nittany Lions a 4-2 advantage. Lordo passed up the boards to McDonagh, who raced down the right-wing boards before sending a backdoor pass to Jensen for the goal.

Drew George tallied for the Pioneers with 7:27 left in the period to make it a 4-3 game. George received a pass from Eric Delong and finished the tic-tac-toe play for the marker.

In the third period, Yanis extended the Penn State lead to 5-3 with his second goal of the season. McDonagh passed to Yanis at the blue line, where the defenseman rifled a slap shot high to the blocker side. Senior forward Eric Steinour (Carlisle, Pa.) also recorded his first assist of the season.

Loik added his goal 1:15 later. Freshman David Glen (Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.) passed to Jensen, who took the puck into the slot. Loik then batted the puck out of mid-air and into the back of the net. Glen extended his point-scoring streak to three games with the helper.

Penn State will return to action Tuesday, Oct. 30 when it visits Fredonia State. Opening faceoff is set at 7 p.m.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

M: Penn State 5 at Army 0

So...any questions?

Actually, I have a couple. They're not quite the same ones I had just one week ago following the disaster at Buffalo State, though. Then, they sounded like "is NCAA Penn State actually going to lose to an ACHA team?" Now, they're more along the lines of "just how good is this team?"

Flattening Army (1-3-1, 1-0-1 Atlantic Hockey) 5-0 at West Point's Tate Rink Friday night in front of 1,537 fans represents an entirely new level for the Nittany Lions (3-2-0, 3-1-0 NCAA DI...and yes, I'm going to keep giving the record that way). That's not meant to disparage the stunning victory over RIT last Saturday, but that result was something that's always on the table when the strength of the two opponents is within a certain margin. This feels different. It wasn't squeaking out an overtime win over one of the worst programs in DI. It wasn't surviving a shot count of nearly 2-1 against to escape with an upset. It was, in fact, a blowout for PSU. Quite an unexpected one, based on what the prognosticators had to say.

There was no video stream available for those of us not able to make the trip, forcing an unhealthy reliance on statistics and brief recaps. But judging from those two things, there's very little not to like.

The Nittany Lions got contributions from many of the usual sources. P.J. Musico, named the starting goalie by Guy Gadowsky this week after an early-season rotation with Matt Skoff, justified the coach's move with a 34-save shutout, the first in PSU's NCAA history. The line that includes Kenny Brooks and Curtis Loik flanking David Glen was once again outstanding, with Brooks' first collegiate goal opening the game's scoring and Glen capping it in the third period. Big sniper Casey Bailey had a goal and a pair of assists to lead all point producers.

Sophomore goaltender P.J. Musico picked up where he left off last Saturday against RIT - and ended up with the first shutout in Penn State's NCAA history.

One unexpected contribution came from sophomore defenseman Pete Sweetland, who notched a goal and an assist in his first game of the season.

The description of how Penn State's goals developed in the GoPSUSports.com recap is more than adequate, so I'll defer to that here.

[At 9:15 of the first period], following a neutral zone transition, Glen found classmate Curtis Loik entering the offensive zone. Loik took the puck wide and passed to Brooks near the slot, where he fired a shot to the right of [Army goalie Rob] Tadazak.

Penn State notched three goals in the second period to take a 4-0 lead. [Jonathan] Milley doubled the Nittany Lion advantage with a power-play marker at 2:36. Bailey passed to Milley in the slot, where the Gatineau, Que., native's first attempt was blocked before he floated the rebound over Tadazak for the goal.

With 7:16 left in the stanza, Sweetland tallied his first goal of the season. The defenseman received a pass from Bailey at the blue line and sent a shot toward the cage that deflected off an Army defenseman and into the back of the net.

Bailey gave Penn State a 4-0 lead just 1:12 later. Junior defenseman Nate Jensen carried the puck down the right-wing boards and sent a backhanded, backdoor pass to Bailey for his third marker of the season.

In the third period, Glen tallied with 15:53 remaining. Sweetland made an outlet pass through the neutral zone to Glen, who carried the puck into the offensive zone before firing a shot low for his third marker of the season.

Bailey actually had a chance to add a second goal when he was selected to take a penalty shot with five minutes remaining in the game after Army goalie Ryan Leets (in the game for the pulled Tadazak) threw his stick at the puck. Leets atoned for his mistake by stopping the attempt.

It's always dangerous to start applying the transitive property in sports, but fueled partly by the sort of hubris that follows a big win, let's do it anyway.

On October 13th at the IceBreaker tournament in Kansas City, Army lost to Maine 5-4. Tadazak made 50 saves on 54 shots to keep his team close while the Black Knights made 24 attempts on Maine's goal. The day before, Nebraska-Omaha topped the Knights 5-1 in a nationally-televised game that featured a shot count of 38-18 in favor of the Mavericks.

Maine and UNO were both middle-of-the-pack picks in Hockey East and the WCHA, the two toughest conferences college hockey has to offer (to be fair to the comparison, the Black Bears are off to an atrocious start, as Army is the only team they have beaten so far). Penn State topped the Black Knights 5-0 with a 45-34 shot advantage at West Point.

Of course, much like the win over RIT last weekend washed (most of) the taste of the Buffalo State game away, the gains made Friday night could easily fall by the wayside without a strong effort Saturday night, when the Gadowsky road show makes its way to Milford, CT and a 7:05 p.m. puck drop at Sacred Heart. A win there though, and two more against DIII opposition (Tuesday at Fredonia, next Saturday's rematch with BSC)...well, we'll get there when we get there. But at this moment in time, the Nittany Lions look like an outfit capable of exceeding all reasonable expectations.

Friday, October 26, 2012

PSU-RIT Photo Gallery II

Photos from Friday evening's Penn State-RIT women's game. All are by and courtesy of Steven Hass. Click for full size.

The Nittany Lions during lineup introductions

Taylor Gross heads down Glove Bump Rd. following her first-period goal

Freshman defender Jordin Pardoski

Freshman forward Emily Laurenzi battles with RIT's Julie Hall

Junior goaltender Nicole Paniccia was the game's first star

Sophomore forward Tess Weaver

Sophomore forward Jess Desorcie had a productive offensive game

Freshman forward Birdie Shaw

Freshman forward Shannon Yoxheimer has six goals this season

Freshman forward Micayla Catanzariti

Freshman defender Jeanette Bateman motors down the ice

Paniccia, as she typically is seen: with the puck in front of her

Laurenzi intently watches for the puck to be dropped

Junior forward Jenna Welch

Freshman forward Kendra Rasmussen has had a good start to the season

W: Penn State 2 vs. RIT 2 (OT)

Oftentimes, the team that scores last in a tie feels like they won, while the team that surrenders that final goal takes the game as a psychological loss.

I can't speak for the team, the coaches, or anyone but myself for that matter, but I don't carry that mindset at all, despite Tenecia Hiller's late spin-and-fire goal off of an uncleared loose puck that cost the Nittany Lions (2-5-1, 0-3-1 CHA) a regulation win with 1:29 left. In my mind, that doesn't negate a performance by Nicole Paniccia that eludes appropriate description. The junior Connecticut transfer stopped an unreal 59 of 61 Tiger attempts (both numbers are records in Penn State's young NCAA history), and suffice it to say that many were of the spectacular variety, with some even rising to "I can't believe that didn't go in" status. If she's not the CHA goaltender of the week when the awards come out Monday on the back of that performance, PSU should consider pulling out of the conference.

Nicole Paniccia was otherworldly in guarding the Penn State net. Photo: Steven Hass

Hiller's goal also does not negate a gritty performance from Penn State's forwards. At the risk of excluding deserving candidates, because they can be found all over the roster, Hannah Hoenshell, Jill Holdcroft, Birdie Shaw, Micayla Catanzariti, Tess Weaver, Emily Laurenzi and Kendra Rasmussen all stood out to me. Significantly, these are not players without offensive upside, just ones who are understanding of a cold reality: at this stage of Penn State's program development, the Nittany Lions can't afford to be out-gutted or to mail it in defensively. They weren't and didn't. Timely shot blocks, sticks in passing lanes and disciplined aggressiveness were all in large supply from the listed players and others as well. Paniccia's task certainly wasn't easy, but it also could have been a lot harder against the senior-laden NCAA Division III champs from last season.

Of course, barring a shutout, defense, goaltending and guts by themselves can't earn points. With that in mind, the duo of Shannon Yoxheimer and Taylor Gross, who came out flying to start the game, provided enough offense to give PSU its first tie, home point and CHA point in the NCAA era. First, Gross deposited a loose puck generated by Yoxheimer's shot from right point on an early power play to give Penn State a surprising 1-0 lead 7:43 into the game. Just 23 seconds later, it was the Michigan native's turn to get the goal after Gross' attempt from behind the net ended up out in front. Jess Desorcie, playing on a line with the two goal scorers picked up an assist on one while defender Madison Smiddy helped on the other.

However, thanks to some substitution miscommunication at the end of a Catanzariti cross-checking penalty late in the first, RIT was able to halve the PSU lead when Lindsay Grigg took advantage of some extra ice and found Celeste Brown, who beat Paniccia.

Following that goal was a familiar pattern: long stretches of territorial disadvantage punctuated with sudden bursts of offense. Holding serve in that fashion for the last 43:18 of the game, while hardly optimal, would have completed the task. Unfortunately, Hiller and her teammates had other ideas, outshooting PSU 31-9 over the third period and overtime to eke out the tie.

Here's the live blog from the game:

Army, Sacred Heart Pose Interesting Challenge

Senior forward Eric Delong and his Sacred Heart teammates will be a test of Penn State's focus.

On the day the season started, I said that I believed that the Nittany Lions would be roughly equal to a middle-of-the-pack Atlantic Hockey team. This just might be the weekend that either confirms that prediction or establishes a new set of expectations.

Admit it: you're not entirely sure what to make of this team, particularly after last weekend, which saw PSU shut out by a Division III team followed by a win over a solid RIT program the next evening in front of 10,556 people partial mostly to the Tigers. I certainly don't know how to assess things just yet, and I'd like to think I follow the team closely enough to make that call if it were possible.

This weekend presents two more AHA opponents on the road, Penn State's fourth and fifth games against the conference: Army at 7:05 p.m. tonight and Sacred Heart at 7:05 p.m. tomorrow night. No video will be available for the two games, although audio streaming will take place through GoPSUSports.com All-Access and live stats will be available for both Friday and Saturday as well.

Neither Army nor Sacred Heart are generally in the top half of the league standings - in fact, they were the bottom two last season - but they're exactly the type of team that a top "conference" side should dispatch, while a middle-of-the-packer might give an inconsistent effort and split.

Army might be the most fascinating opponent on the entire schedule, and not really for any of the reasons I just discussed. Last season, Penn State's slogan was "Honoring the past, celebrating the present, roaring into the future," and no program touches all three of those elements quite as definitively as the Black Knights.

It's well known to most by now that Army opposed Penn State's 1940-1947 varsity program twice, winning 18-3 on February 26, 1944 and 12-3 on February 12, 1947. The Icers also played two games in the series, losing 6-4 on November 21, 1980 (Army records omit this game as an exhibition) and 10-3 on March 6, 1982 in a tournament at Kent State, the only game not played in West Point.

Cheyne Rocha, Army's senior captain, has prominent Penn State connections through his parents.

The present and past tie together rather uniquely in the form of Black Knights captain Cheyne Rocha, a senior defenseman. Rocha's father Larry was an Icers assistant from 1982 through 1985, who notably served as head coach for PSU's 1984 national championship run when Jon Shellington was unable to make the trip to Arizona. Cheyne's mother? Candace Finn Rocha. The then-Candy Finn was one of the best athletes in Penn State history. A four-time All-American in lacrosse, she also helped the Nittany Lions to a pair of national championships (1979, 1980) and was a two-time winner of the Broderick Award as national player of the year (1981, 1982). She was elected to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 1998.

The future? Well, in the immediate future, there's tonight's game of course. But less than one year from now, on October 11, 2013, Army will be the opponent when the Pegula Ice Arena opens.

So really, I'm not sure that a single program can claim to be tied so closely to Penn State hockey at so many different stages. Robert Morris has something of an argument thanks to a pair of games with the Icers and a shared stake in the Three Rivers Classic going forward, but they can't go back to the 1940s. Cornell and Colgate played the 1940s team and could appear on future schedules, but both are missing a connection with the Icers. The reverse is true for the handful of current NCAA DI programs who have a history with the Icers but not the 1940s team, most notably Alabama-Huntsville, Canisius and Mercyhurst. The Big Ten opponents will obviously be a crucial part of the future, but none have been a part of the past.

Beyond all of that though, the Black Knights have a team that looks to be improved from the one that finished 4-23-7 (3-19-5 Atlantic Hockey) last year, ahead of only Sacred Heart in the league. Already, Army is 1-0-1 in the AHA on the strength of a win-tie series with the Pioneers, good for an early first place position. They were surprisingly competitive in the IceBreaker tournament in Kansas City - despite dropping both games, they played within a goal of national power Maine thanks to a stellar 50-save performance from goalie Rob Tadazak.

Up front, senior Andy Starczewski is the offensive leader with seven points already this season. Sophomore Zak Zaremba will be expected to chip in as well, and freshman Joe Kozlak is off to a quick start in his four-game-old collegiate career. Rocha and John Clark provide senior leadership on defense, while Maurice Alvarez (a former teammate of PSU freshman Jonathan Milley with the CCHL's Pembroke Lumber Kings) is more of an offensive blueliner.

Sacred Heart certainly presents the less exciting of the two opponents, but as mentioned, one that cannot be overlooked if Penn State is to establish the sort of consistency that is the hallmark of good teams. There hasn't been much to boast about with the Pioneers' season so far, with blowout losses at Providence (8-2) and Bentley (7-1) followed by the weekend with Army. That series began with a 5-2 Knights win at West Point powered by a Starczewski hat trick. The teams then moved to Milford, CT and the Milford Ice Pavilion where they literally took turns scoring, the last goal coming from Army's Kozlak with 33 seconds left in regulation of an eventual 4-4 tie.

Senior Eric Delong and sophomores Drew George and Brian Sheehan lead the scoring charge for Sacred Heart - the trio has five of the team's nine goals so far this season after combining for 33 of the Pioneers' 84 in 2011-2012. Another significant player is Kyle Verbeek, the son of my all-time favorite hockey player, Pat Verbeek, who scored 522 NHL goals with the Devils, Whalers, Rangers, Stars and Red Wings. So no, I'm not going to apologize for taking the rare chance to do this:

Goalies Andrew Bodnarchuk and Steven Legatto have split time in net, with neither boasting a goals against average south of five.

Following this weekend, Penn State will return home for a Saturday-only weekend against Buffalo State, that very same DIII team that embarrassed the Lions last weekend to raise the questions introduced at the beginning of this post. While PSU will surely be out to make a point then, the trick, of course, is to not let it affect what happens today and tomorrow.

Penn State-RIT Photo Gallery

Photos from Thursday evening's Penn State-RIT women's game. All are by and courtesy of Steven Hass. Click for full size.

Freshman forward Hannah Hoenshell

Freshman forward Jill Holdcroft (left) and freshman defender Paige Jahnke

Jahnke, who set up PSU's lone goal

Junior goaltender Nicole Paniccia

Paniccia makes one of her 34 saves, while sophomore forward Jess Desorcie
keeps order in front

Senior defender Lindsay Reihl

Sophomore defender Madison Smiddy lines up versus RIT's Melissa Bromley

Freshman forward Shannon Yoxheimer celebrates her first-period goal

Thursday, October 25, 2012

W: Penn State 1 vs. RIT 4

Penn State finally scored a goal at home in the third Ice Pavilion game of the NCAA era, thanks to freshman sniper Shannon Yoxheimer's 4-on-3 marker to tie RIT at one late in the first period. However, the Nittany Lions (2-5-0, 0-3-0 CHA) were unable to muster any further offense in a 4-1 loss to the Tigers (4-3-0, 1-2-0 CHA).

RIT got on the board first just 3:20 into the game. Katie Hubert, a freshman, collected a loose puck in the neutral zone, swooped in on Nicole Paniccia down left wing and scored off of the goaltender's skate. While the Tigers dominated throughout the early going - outshooting PSU 11-2 in the first 10 minutes of the game - the game hit a turning point thanks to a sequence of penalties. While the first of these was against Nittany Lions freshman Jordin Pardoski, the shorthanded work of Birdie Shaw drew a tripping penalty to RIT's Morgan Scoyne. Thirty-eight seconds later, Ariane Yokoyama joined Scoyne for checking, and Taylor Gross and Paige Jahnke took advantage of the open ice to feed Yoxheimer who popped it top shelf to level the game at the first intermission.

Shannon Yoxheimer celebrates her goal that tied the score late in the first period. Photo: Steven Hass

Penalties and power plays can be a cruel mistress, though. Often, whether through official intervention or simply due to the nature of the game, earning more time on the advantage during one stretch of the game is no guarantee that the trend will hold for 60 minutes. And the payback for the Yoxheimer goal and an unconverted power play early in the second was swift and decisive.

Consecutive penalties to Taylor McGee (hooking at 10:50) and Madison Smiddy (cross-checking at 12:24) emphatically ended the Nittany Lions' best fifteen minutes of the game and gave RIT a long power play with some 5-on-3 time mixed in. Just after the conclusion of McGee's penalty, Hubert added a second goal, from Lindsay Grigg and Erin Zach, to give the Tigers the lead for good. PSU got another chance to draw even with another late-period power play, but tight forechecking by Carly Payerl led to a turnover and an unassisted shorthanded goal by Zach. The Lions' third-period comeback attempts were abbreviated after a couple early power play chances, thanks to more penalties.

While the first two (of four to close the game from the 9:17 mark of the period) only caused harm in terms of the clock, the third led to a beautiful passing play - Yokoyama to Payerl, cross-ice to Tenecia Hiller - that sealed the result in RIT's favor. In all, the Tigers were 2-of-8 on the power play while Penn State was 1-of-8, but including the shorthanded goal in the calculations gives a more complete picture of special teams play in this tilt. Paniccia was typically solid in net, stopping 34 of 38 RIT shots while under consistent pressure.

Tigers coach Scott McDonald was happy with his team's efforts.
"We played with a high level of intensity," he said. "We competed for every loose puck and played hard all night. Defensively, we minimized their chances and neutralized their offense which kick-started our offense with strong transtional play. It's nice to get our first conference win and our effort has been rewarded."
The win was Tigers' first in the conference since joining the CHA (and NCAA Division I, of course) this season. Penn State will attempt to match that feat in a rematch Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

Lions, Tigers Tangle For Transition Bragging Rights

Versatile Ellesha Fortuna helps spark the RIT offense. 

If I'm being perfectly honest, there are eight games on the women's schedule that I had circled maybe a little more than the others prior to the start of the season: the four each against Lindenwood and RIT, the team that will oppose the Nittany Lions at the Ice Pavilion tonight at 7:00 p.m. and tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.

Both games will be broadcast by America One ($), with free live stats available through GoPSUSports.com.

The reason for placing added emphasis on those two conference opponents is pretty obvious. Lindenwood is a former ACHA team in its second year of NCAA Division I play. RIT is in its first season at the DI level after a long and successful history in DIII, including a 28-1-1 record and a national championship last season and a runner-up finish in 2010-2011. Here's a look at the Tigers' triumphant exit from DIII.

Lindenwood, RIT and Penn State all took different paths to DI, and while it might not be entirely fair to compare the three as a result (particularly RIT, as its transition came from a higher level than the ACHA), it's impossible to avoid the temptation to do so. They were the consensus fourth (RIT), fifth (Lindenwood) and sixth (PSU) place CHA picks behind the three teams that have been playing DI hockey for more than two years and, on paper anyway, there's not much to separate them. It seems obvious that the games between the DI newcomers will be the cause of any shuffling that takes place between prediction and reality.

Six games into the season, I'm still not sure that we have a great idea of how the Tigers (3-3-0, 0-2-0 CHA) have translated. The first two were the expected blowout losses to Mercyhurst. The next two were the expected blowout wins at Sacred Heart. The final two games - last weekend - were a 2-1 home loss to Princeton and a 3-0 shutout of Yale at Rochester's Blue Cross Arena. The latter was actually the first game of RIT's homecoming doubleheader that featured the men's team losing to Penn State in the nightcap (and yes, I'm going to squeeze that in wherever possible).

What we do know: the ability of Penn State's young guns to match the maturity and poise of a highly-experienced RIT team is going to be one of the keys to the series. PSU, as we all know, has an incredible 17 freshmen while the Tigers have seniors playing almost every significant role on the team.

Up front junior Kourtney Kunichika, who led the team in scoring last season and has four assists in four games so far this season, returns. So does captain Kim Schlattman and alternates Ariane Yokoyama and Tenecia Hiller. All three are seniors (as mentioned, a pretty common theme) and incredibly, all three wore the same letters on their jerseys last season. Oh yeah, they also chip in a little offense as well - they're three of the Tigers' top five scorers so far.

Reigning CHA Player of the Week Shannon Yoxheimer will be counted on to beat a tough Tigers defense.

In Division III last season, RIT allowed just 30 goals in 30 games, a pretty scary statistic for a Penn State team that has scored 11 goals in its two wins, but just two in the four losses, including a weekend shutout at the hands of Syracuse in the Nittany Lions' only CHA games before now. Six blueliners that helped put out that impressive effort return, including seniors Kristina Moss, a DIII All-American, and Danielle Read. Ellesha Fortuna, still another senior, swings between defense and forward, providing instant offense wherever she goes. In net, Laura Chamberlain and Ali Binnington have split time, a trend that is likely to continue against Penn State. Binnington, who shares a hometown of Oakville, ON with PSU tendy Nicole Paniccia, already has two shutouts.

A few other things to consider:
  • Barring a pair of ties, one of the programs will win its first-ever CHA game. Both PSU and RIT are 0-2-0 in the league, with the Tigers dropping a pair to Mercyhurst to open the season and PSU, as mentioned, losing twice to Syracuse.
  • Despite being skunked on the power play through the first five games of the season, the Nittany Lions connected three times last Saturday against Sacred Heart and are now 3-for-24 (12.5%) with the advantage this season. RIT is 5-for-32 (15.6%).
  • In addition to kick-starting the power play, the 6-1 win over the Pioneers also added some much-needed balance to PSU's scoring efforts. Taylor Gross, Jeanette Bateman, Jordin Pardoski, Jess Desorcie and Hannah Hoenshell all scored their first goals of the season - previously, Shannon Yoxheimer, Birdie Shaw and Micayla Catanzariti had been the only players to find the back of the net for the Nittany Lions.
  • Thanks to shutouts by Syracuse goalies Jenesica Drinkwater and Kallie Billadeau in the only two games at the Ice Pavilion so far, PSU is still looking for its first home goal this season, and therefore of the NCAA era.
These might be two games that ultimately go a long way towards identifying where the Nittany Lions and Tigers both fall in NCAA year one. Or they might just be two games in what, on balance, is a long season bound to be full of unexpected results. Either way, it sets up as an intriguing series that should provide much-needed context at this early juncture.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Club Sandwich: October 23rd

Taylor Vincent sealed the Ice Lions' win with a breakaway goal.

It was a pretty light week for Penn State's ACHA teams, as only the men were in action - and only for one game, a Saturday night home tilt.


A five-goal third period explosion turned what had been a lackluster 40 minutes and a 1-0 deficit into a possible statement win, 5-3 over Virginia Tech.

The Ice Lions, now 5-2-1 (2-0-0 MACHA North), had lost three of the previous four outings - one of which was in a shootout - making the third period against the Hokies particularly vital to getting the season back on track. Until that last stanza, Kevin Peak's second period shot past Kevin Lowthert was the game's only scoring. However Mike Broccolo, Joe Spagnola, Mac Winchester and Fredrik Linge all got on the board in the first 9:07 of the third to give Penn State a suddenly-comfortable 4-1 lead.

VT's Alex Smith scored twice in that last period, once on the power play to cut that lead to 4-2 and once more with 2:30 left for the game's final goal, but in between those efforts, a Taylor Vincent breakaway kept the game from creeping back into doubt.

For PSU, Lowthert made 37 saves on 40 shots, while Winchester, Vincent and Broccolo all added assists to their goals to finish with two points each.

Next weekend will be another one-gamer, with the Ice Lions hosting Saint Joseph's Saturday afternoon at 1:00 p.m.


As mentioned, the women (2-1-1) were off last weekend. Their next game is November 3rd at Maryland.

Commit Cycle: October 23

Chase Berger

St. Louis AAA Blues (Midget Major 18U)
6'0", 190 pounds
St. Louis, MO
Class of 2015
DOB 11/14/1994

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

10/20 vs. Chicago Fury        W 4-3  3   0   3   2 [box score]
10/21 vs. Chicago Fury        W 4-1  1   1   2   0 [box score]

It could be said that Berger had an okay weekend against the Fury... incredibly, of the four goals he scored, three were shorthanded... the hat trick on Saturday didn't get going until the Blues faced a 2-1 second-period deficit - from that point, he scored three of the four goals left in the game to fuel the win... the Blues will head to New England for the Beantown Fall Classic beginning Thursday.

Conor Garland

Muskegon Lumberjacks (USHL)
5'6", 150 pounds
Scituate, MA
Class of 2015
DOB 3/11/1996

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

10/12 at Cedar Rapids         W 3-2  0   1   1   0 [box score]
10/13 at Des Moines           L 2-3  0   0   0   0 [box score]
10/16 at Team USA             W 4-2  1   0   1   2 [box score]
10/19 vs. Chicago             W 4-3  -   -   -   - [box score]
10/20 at Chicago              W 4-0  -   -   -   - [box score]

Garland notched his first of what will surely be many USHL points on October 12th against Cedar Rapids and his first goal four days later against the NTDP... the Lumberjacks have a league-best 15 points from a 7-0-1 record.

David Goodwin

Sioux City Musketeers (USHL)
5'9", 170 pounds
St. Louis, MO
Class of 2013
DOB 2/27/1992

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

10/12 at Fargo                L 3-6  0   0   0   4 [box score]
10/13 vs. Indiana             W 3-2  2   1   3   0 [box score]
10/19 vs. Youngstown          W 5-1  0   1   1   2 [box score]
10/20 vs. Des Moines          L 1-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Goodwin bounced back from a rough outing against Fargo (not listed above: his -3 rating) to put up more typical efforts in the next couple games, which included a goal against Indiana with 2:34 remaining to send the game to overtime, followed by an assist on the winner... said Muskies d-man Dan Molenaar (a Minnesota-Duluth recruit), the guy who scored the OT goal against the Ice: "He’s wearing the ‘C’ for a reason. He’s one heck of a guy. Everyone respects him in the locker room. He brings his game when we need it. He got the goal at the end to tie it and bring it to OT. He gets the puck and he waits until the last second, which sucks everybody out of the play. It was a perfect pass and it was a heck of a way to win."

Related stories:
Overtime goal nets Musketeers' first win (Sioux City Journal)

Kevin Kerr

Team Comcast (Midget Major 18U)
5'11", 162 pounds
Bensalem, PA
Class of 2014
DOB 2/9/1996

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

10/14 vs. Phila. Jr. Flyers   W 3-0  0   1   1   0 [box score]
10/20 vs. Wash. Little Caps   W 5-4  0   0   0   2 [box score]
10/21 vs. Wash. Little Caps   W 4-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]

Team Comcast is now 5-0-0 in AYHL games, with a goals for-goals against of 29-6... Kerr has totaled three points in those games... the team will join Berger and the Blues at the Beantown Fall Classic this week and weekend.

Alec Marsh

Cedar Rapids RoughRiders (USHL)
5'10", 175 pounds
Bridgewater, NJ
Class of 2015
DOB 11/28/1995

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

10/12 vs. Muskegon            L 2-3  -   -   -   - [box score]
10/13 vs. Green Bay           L 7-8  1   1   2   5 [box score]
10/19 vs. Indiana             W 4-3  0   0   0   0 [box score]
10/20 at Indiana              W 7-5  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Marsh collected his first USHL point a day later than Garland, although Marsh's wins when judging on YouTube hits... he entered the zone and found Dylan McLaughlin to his right, and McLaughlin shelved it from the right wing circle by going between his legs.

Related stories:
Dylan McLaughlin Goal vs Green Bay- October 13, 2012 (YouTube)

Eamon McAdam

Waterloo Black Hawks (USHL)
6'2", 185 pounds
Perkasie, PA
Class of 2013
DOB 9/24/1994

Date  Opponent               Score SA GA  Sv% GAA

10/12 vs. Green Bay          W 4-1 38  1 .974 1.00 [box score]
10/13 vs. Omaha              W 2-0 --  -  --- ---  [box score]
10/19 vs. Sioux Falls        W 3-0 28  0 1.00 0.00 [box score]
10/21 vs. Team USA           W 6-2 --  -  --- ---  [box score]

McAdam, beyond his selection to the U.S. World Junior A Challenge team (covered in a separate post), is off to a lights-out start... he earned his first USHL shutout last Friday, but may have been even better in the game against Green Bay a week before that... after the Gamblers scored first, McAdam stopped 30 shots over the last two periods of the game to allow the modest comeback... included in those 30 were many with a high degree of difficulty as Waterloo had penalty kills lasting 3:47 in the second period and 3:48 in the third period.

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

10/10 at Chilliwack           L 3-4  0   0   0   0 [box score]
10/12 vs. W. Kelowna          L 1-4  0   1   1   0 [box score]
10/13 at W. Kelowna           L 3-4  0   0   0   4 [box score]
10/19 vs. Prince George       L 4-5  0   1   1   0 [box score]
10/20 vs. Vernon              W 2-1  0   0   0   0 [box score]

Langley ended a rough couple of weeks by picking up an overtime win over Vernon... despite still boasting a winning record overall (6-5-2), they're in last place in the Mainland Division... Pellah continues to excel as a puck-moving d-man, averaging 0.9 assists per game so far this season.

Zach Saar

Right Wing
Des Moines Buccaneers (USHL)
6'4", 210 pounds
Plainwell, MI
Class of 2013
DOB 6/22/1993

Date  Opponent                Score  G   A Pts PIM

10/12 vs. Omaha               W 6-2  1   1   2   0 [box score]
10/13 vs. Muskegon            W 3-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]
10/19 vs. Team USA            W 10-1 0   0   0  15 [box score]
10/20 at Sioux City           W 2-1  0   0   0   2 [box score]

Stunningly the Buccaneers, projected as a bottom feeder this year, have won four straight after an 0-3-1 start - and an eighteen game losing streak if last season is counted - to sit in fifth place in the Western Conference so far... Saar was a vital part of Des Moines' first win, scoring on the power play to give the Bucs the lead for good.

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

10/10 vs. Langley             W 4-3  0   0   0   7 [box score]
10/13 vs. Vernon              W 4-1  0   1   1   2 [box score]
10/19 at Nanaimo              W 5-4  0   0   0   0 [box score]
10/20 at Alberni Valley       W 3-2  0   0   0   0 [box score]
10/21 at Powell River         L 1-4  0   1   1   4 [box score]

The Chiefs pulled sort of an anti-Rivermen by running off a torrid two weeks, tempered only by a closing loss Sunday night... as as result, Chilliwack now leads the Mainland Division with a 9-3-2 record... despite not really being an offensive defenseman, captain Thompson continues to lead the team's blueliners in scoring, with eight points in 14 games.