Monday, February 18, 2013

Three Stars: February 11-17

PSU signee Laura Bowman - a Minnesota Ms. Hockey semifinalist - propelled Minnetonka to states.

3. Penn State Women's Ice Hockey Feature

I tend to avoid things that were tweeted or otherwise distributed by the fine folks in PSU athletic communications (figuring most of you have probably already seen said things), but this one's worth ignoring that guideline. Hats off to BTN for spotlighting women's hockey despite it not technically being a Big Ten thing, and hats off to Josh Brandwene, Lindsay Reihl, Nicole Paniccia and others for letting the camera zoom about half an inch from the side of their faces.

2. Penn State hockey team has plenty of Pittsburgh flavor

Speaking of video features, here's one on the men's team, with a focus on the Pittsburgh connections of several players. The story also comes with a photo gallery, as well as the extended version of the interviews with George Saad, Tommy Olczyk and Michael Longo. Oh, and a Pegula Ice Arena tour.

1. Minnetonka girls' hockey roars back on Benilde
(Minneapolis Star Tribune)

For those who don't follow this blog's Twitter account, I'm unapologetically really, really into the Minnesota girls high school playoffs. And why shouldn't I be? The legendary state tournament, at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center this Wednesday through Saturday, will feature four Penn State recruits: Laura Bowman (Minnetonka) and Amy Petersen (Minnetonka), who are signed for next season, as well as Hannah Ehresmann (Minnetonka) and Christi Vetter (Lakeville North) who are committed for 2014-2015. A fifth PSU recruit, Edina's Sarah Nielsen, lost in her sectional final for the right to join the other four.

Anyway, Minnetonka reached the state tournament in dramatic fashion Friday night, by rallying from a late 2-0 hole against powerful Benilde-St. Margaret's to win 3-2 in the Section 6AA championship game. PSU recruits were key to to comeback, as Petersen had a goal and an assist on the Skippers' first two goals, and Bowman scored the winner on the power play with less than three minutes remaining. Both are quoted in the linked recap.

Best of the Rest

Photo: Jim Rosvold/USCHO

Wisconsin defeats Minnesota at Soldier Field

The latest in an (over?) saturated schedule of outdoor games: Wisconsin topped Minnesota 3-2 at Chicago's Soldier Field Sunday night in front of 52,051. The game was the back half of the Hockey City Classic doubleheader, which featured a Notre Dame win over Miami in the opener.

The Badgers' next games, of course, are on the 24th and 25th when they host Penn State, in the season-capping series for the Nittany Lions. UW will then close out their regular season with four games against the present first (St. Cloud State) and second (Nebraska-Omaha) place teams in the WCHA. In other words...

Bringing another sport tradition to Indiana
(The Exponent)

Husker Hockey isn't Coming to The B1G Anytime Soon, But It Does Exist in Club Form
(Corn Nation)

Elsewhere in the Big Ten, last week was unofficially "we're not starting hockey" week in the conference, as articles from both Purdue and Nebraska - the Huskers are generally considered one of the more likely candidates - threw cold water on the hopes of puck fans at both schools.

I continue to be of the belief that anyone waiting for the conference to grow beyond the present six will be on that for quite a while, but feel free to argue with me in the comments. Not all discussions interest me but this one does, maybe because Penn State was central to it for so long.

2013 M1 National Tournament

The field for the first ACHA Division 1 national championship tournament without Penn State - I'm sorry, but you're wrong if you don't feel at least a little strange about that - was announced last Wednesday via a streaming broadcast that, in one of the most #ACHAproblems moments ever, was cut short by technical difficulties an hour in. The three ACHA opponents from this season all made it of course, with Arizona State seeded second, Ohio fourth and Oklahoma sixth. Delaware, which has had an up-and-down title defense season, is tenth, and other familiar foes like Illinois (seventh), Oakland (11th), Iowa State (12th), Rhode Island (17th) and Rutgers (18th) are sprinkled throughout.

For whatever its worth, ISU and Ohio are now tied with Penn State with a record 21 nationals appearances. The Icers appeared at every tournament from 1992 (the first season for it) though 2012, while the Cyclones previously missed in 2011 and the Bobcats were absent in 1993.

HWAA 2013: State-by-State MVPs
(College Hockey Inc.)

This past Friday through Sunday was Hockey Weekend Across America, and to celebrate, CHI put together a state-by-state list college hockey MVPs. PSU's not represented (Boston College goaltender Parker Milner, a Pittsburgh native, is PA's MVP), but I'm more interested in the table below the map, which shows the total numbers of DI players by state. Pennsylvania's 69 are fifth, behind the three Ms (Minnesota, Michigan, Massachusetts) and New York. Not too shabby.

High School Goalie Scores on Own Net, Flips Off Bench, and Leaves
(Western College Hockey Blog)

Simply put, one of the more bizarre things I've ever seen. Austin Krause, a goaltender at Farmington High School in Minnesota, used the occasion of his Senior Day to express how he felt about losing playing time to a sophomore this year. It's all there in a glorious video, but with his team up 2-1 with about three minutes remaining, Krause deliberately played the puck into his own net to tie the game, then left the ice while flipping his bench the Birdie Shaw. The own-goal proved pretty important, as Krause's backup gave up a late power play goal, and Farmington lost 3-2.

I kind of want to know what happened afterwards, though. There is absolutely no way Krause got undressed and out of there before someone followed him back to the locker room, is there?


  1. I can't really argue and say that the Univeristy of Illinois is close, but there is just enough news to be a tease.

    For a several years now there has been a private group developing land on the south end of the campus. They have been quite open that the game plan is to partner with U of I to replace the one sheet ice rink on campus that's quite small. By very initial cost estimates, it should be a nice community rink, but not likely a cheap D1 rink. So far the private development group has some land that's being set aside, but no planning or development.

    The developers are quoted as saying "it's not very far along at this point. UI athletic officials are focused on the upcoming renovation of the UI Assembly Hall." (the basketball arena)

    I'm holding out hope that U of I is holding off because they really want to re-evaluate the idea of a small community rink. Hopefully once the large fundraising push is done for basketball they'll take up the cause on hockey. Mostly wishful speculation at this point, but it's possible. Ice hockey is on the radar, let's just hope they pick the right path.


    1. Yeah, I've seen enough of those "we have the land, but..." things to know that it's hardly automatic from there (new arenas for Akron basketball and the Detroit Red Wings being two currently in my life). Regardless, thanks for the update! I'll get Jimmy John's today to try and help out. Obviously, don't confuse me "I don't think it's happening" with "I don't want to see it happen." Miss our ACHA battles!

    2. Tell me about it. Actually this ice rink is a holdover of sorts from 2003. There was a NAHL recently upgraded to USHL team in a smaller town called Danville just east of Champaign. The owner (local guy) wanted to build a 3,000 seat arena south of U of I to move his team into because it was struggling with attendance in this smaller town. That was at the heart of U of I will add a team any day now... The planning fell through based on squabbling over $$$. That team became the Muskegon Lumberjacks instead.

      Now it's just a replacement building / minor upgrade since maintenance costs are high for an aging hockey rink, which is taking up prime realestate near the heart of the campus. The community is a bit underserved with only one sheet too.

      I'm sure it falls into the "it's a good idea but we have no money" category. Most of me is just in denial hoping it's the "we're biding our time to unleash the master plan" category instead. A piece of me was holding out hope the Hockey City Classic in Chicago would have made for great timing for an announcement...

      Here's to hoping we can renew the battles in the Big 10 someday. We can compete for the Former ACHA Cup.


  2. I agree that we aren't close to seeing a 7th, 8th or 9th school sign up for varsity hockey. But that's based on what we currently know. Hopefully some future events work out in a way that influences other schools to make the jump.

    If hockey gets good ratings on the BTN...maybe the conference works out a plan to increase the number of schools playing hockey.

    If PSU quickly jumps from the bottom toward the top of the standings...maybe other schools figure they can do the same.

    If PSU and the others can turn hockey into a revenue generating sport...perhaps others jump on board.

    I haven't done any sort of analysis on the cost of arenas but from memory I believe a B1G school could build something reasonable for under $50 million. I'm pretty sure ours has a lot more bells and whistles (and a second sheet of ice) that increased the price to closer to $90 million. That's still a huge chunk of money. But maybe some deep pocket donors from Illinois, Nebraska, Rutgers, etc get sick of seeing PSU and Minnesota on the BTN and decide to do something about it. We can hope, right?

    1. Someone (can't remember who, or I'd credit them) actually raised an interesting/good point the other day that probably hasn't been said enough: Doesn't each school get an equal cut from BTN regardless? An eight or ten-team Big Ten for hockey would probably increase the total pot from the six-team league, but it's not like PSU starts hockey and gets a check that others aren't also getting. And that's assuming that the Big Ten can succeed where everyone else (in the US) in history has failed - making hockey profitable on TV. The sport is growing, of course, particularly in the college-age demographics, so hopefully that leads to some new realities, not just now, but in a few years when they're out in the world and part of the advertisers' favorite demographic.

      The arena...that's always a sticky one. RIT's (one-sheet) arena looks very nice, and is coming at about half the cost of Pegula. The wisdom of a start-up trying to get at the Big Ten programs with the cheapest possible arena solution is questionable though. What, really, can Penn State offer right now other than the excitement of newness/laying the foundation and an arena? We don't have NHLers or championships, the other Big Ten schools have the league and BTN too. Why would I go to PSU if Michigan or Minnesota wants me? That's not a knock, that's just something that's true of all programs. If you're trying to get in with only the "newness" leg, that's suicide to me.

      The common thread, of course, is money, and vast piles of it needed, well beyond anything I ever thought would be needed - even Battista always put the number around $30-40 million pre-Pegula, figuring additional donations and football money would get the rest. Not just the arena, but all of those endowed scholarships too. If PSU does make money, that will be a huge reason why, and I'm sure everyone considering the jump knows that too. And it's not like we've done all that great in fundraising beyond Pegula - that additional $10 million campaign announced at the same time is still only about halfway there at last update. I didn't always feel this way, but I'm not sure that anyone will be able to do this through frugality and broad-based fundraising.

      That said, nobody had heard of Pegula until a few months before we had NCAA hockey coming, so that's the good news.

    2. Regarding BTN, I don't know for sure, but I'd bet all schools split the profits evenly, whether they have a hockey team or not. The driving force is simply to make BTN interesting to watch in multiple regions. They can only show so many classic Michigan Ohio football reruns and still have people tune in. Hockey on it's own won't be profitable on TV, but it will make the channel more valuable overall.

      As for why would any recruit go to a new Big Ten team? Think about what a recruit wants: opportunity to play the best teams, have state of the art facilities, top notch coaching, playing time, and exposure to scouts. Some other things may come into play, like the ability to go to your favorite hometown school or hockey tradition. In my opinion that really only matters for North Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, BC and arguably one or two more. They are just such legendary programs. The rest, winning comes and goes. Sure, past championships are nice, but what can you do for ME and NOW?


    3. I believe you are right on the BTN funds being split equally regardless of sports. That's why I suggested good ratings might make the conference act as opposed to any of the other 8 schools individually. Good ratings means they'd want more product for more ratings and more money. With 6 schools, there will only be 6 games per weekend during conference play. On the other hand, maybe these 6 schools are the only schools with hockey rabid fan bases. I'm pretty sure hockey on TV is profitable in PA. The Penguins get the highest TV ratings of all US based NHL teams. And I think the Flyers aren't too far behind in those standings. How that translates to college hockey is anyone's guess. But I see college hockey as a growing sport in this area, so I think it's going to succeed.

      I think PSU has done everything correctly so far. They got a great coach. They are building a great arena. They played games in key arenas around the state. They played enough cupcakes to avoid loss of fan interest. And they beat some quality schools along the way. Off the top of my head, RMU in Pittsburgh, the Friday night Air Force game and getting swept by UConn are the only disappointments I recall. Having a freshman goalie like Skoff and bringing in the top USHL goalie next season will keep us in games. If your goalie is the best player on the ice, you always have a chance to win. If we can improve our shooting percentage, our PP and reduce our blue line turnovers we'll win more games next year than we are predicting.

      Money and arenas are the biggest concerns for expanding our conference (along with Title IX). What schools play close enough to an NHL arena to make it work? How close is Rutgers to the Devils home ice? MD isn't that close to the Caps arena, but probably not too far away to make it work if they have a place to practice on campus. How far is NW from Chicago? Nebraska has a large enough arena in Lincoln. Iowa City isn't that far from Cedar Rapids (not sure how big that arena is). So there are ways to do this if the conference and schools want to make it happen. I think PSU is really the guinea pig. If we are successful, others will follow -- wealthy donors sometimes don't like to be outdone.

  3. Whether or not the Big Ten adds more hockey programs really depends on PSU .. all eyes will be on PSU in the next few years. PSU will answer the question of whether you can build enough of a hockey fan base at a "football school" to fill a 6,000 seat arena (which is the MINIMUM size rink that you want for a real big time program). If PSU succeeds, then you can think about this working at other football schools like Iowa and Nebraska or basketball schools like Indiana. I hate to say it, but if you can't at least beat what Ohio State is doing, then it's a failure and there won't be any more schools adding D1 hockey in the Big Ten.

    1. Just to say something different than what I've said in the other comments, my biggest question right now is this: "Nebraska has the arena question answered if it wants it answered. So why do they insist no NCAA hockey is coming at every turn?"

      1. PSU re-set the bar in terms of arena. The old OSU "play in your basketball arena" model just isn't a competitive one now (I'd be surprised if someone like UW isn't also at least sniffing at things, they're probably tired of having high school wrestling pre-empt hockey). In spite of Pinnacle Bank Arena, Nebraska may still feel they need an entirely new ice venue. Not to bag OSU, they're an okay program that's produced some great players and done a couple of things, but they're the epitome of "we have a hockey program because we can."

      2. They're waiting to see what happens with PSU, in terms of competitiveness, profitability, community response, etc.

      3. They have it all figured out, but just don't have the money.

      4. They just don't want a hockey team (yeah, right).

      5. They have some kind of deal worked out where UNO gets to be the system's only DI hockey team (a lot of people actually feel this way, I'm not sure how realistic that is - as any Huntsville fan can tell you, branch campuses don't get protection when main campus wants something).

      As with most of these things, it's probably a little bit of all of it.

  4. I forgot to comment on the high school kid -- how funny is that? Might be the funniest thing I've seen a goalie do since Hextall went after Chellios at the end of a playoff series the Flyers lost.

  5. Really nice post, you got great blog and Thank you for sharing This excellently written content. Waiting for next one.
    Samsung Laptops