Monday, June 3, 2013

Three Stars: May 27-June 2

3. Intelligencer ice hockey player of the year: Caleb Witzaney, North Penn

Caleb Witzaney: okay at hockey. As a senior at North Penn, he had 35 goals and 33 assists in 25 games and led his team to the Flyers Cup (eastern Pennsylvania championship) semifinals, even though he spent some time on defense in addition to left wing. And he might be an Ice Lion next season.
Witzaney is headed to Penn State but he’s not planning on being part of the Nittany Lions’ varsity program, which will complete its transition to the Division I level next season. He’s content to try out for the school’s club team while studying engineering.

“I decided to focus mainly on school,” he said. “If you want to go the D-I route you probably have to play with a decent junior team for a couple years. I would much rather go to college right away. Taking a couple years off from school is kind of a big deal and I don’t know if I would like that.”
2. School-Record 296 Penn State Student-Athletes Earn Academic All-Big Ten Honors in 2012-13

Of Penn State's incredible haul of Academic All-Big Ten selections, 14 came from hockey, including Jake Friedman, Michael Longo, Mike McDonagh, Dom Morrone, Rich O'Brien, Tommy Olczyk, George Saad and Eric Steinour from the men's team and Kate Christoffersen, Jess Desorcie, Taylor Gross, Cara Mendelson, Lindsay Reihl and Tess Weaver from the women's team. Olczyk is especially notable from that group, as he carries a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

It's worth pointing out that freshmen are not eligible for the honor - selections must be letterwinners in at least their second academic year and with at least a 3.0 cumulative average. In light of those criteria and the large number of first-years on both teams in 2012-2013, the hockey teams' achievements are particularly impressive. In all, eight of 16 possible men were picked, along with six of ten on the women's side.

1. Help Restore Moore

Former Lady Icers forward and alternate captain Dana Heller, who earned her graphic design degree from PSU last month, has decided to put her abilities to work helping out the people of Moore, OK. Moore, of course, was the site of a devastating tornado on May 20th that killed 24 people, injured 377 others, and destroyed or damaged between 12,000 and 13,000 homes with total cost estimates hovering around $2 billion.

The concept behind Help Restore Moore is brilliant in its simplicity. Heller, whose design is shown above and contains a deft nod to the alma mater, and other graphically-inclined people have created 20" x 16" posters (vertically oriented, contrary to what is shown - I took some license to make it fit TYT's format) in support of the people of Moore, and they're on sale for $25 (printed copy) or $15 (digital download), with proceeds going to the American Red Cross' Central and Western Oklahoma region.

If you're better at graphic design than me, please accept my jealousy-tinged congratulations, then get to work on creating and submitting your own poster. If not, go buy one. Now. I'll still be here when you get back, I promise.

Best of the Rest

The Ice Lions will attempt to capture the venerable Crab Pot in February

2013-2014 Schedule

If Witzaney does in fact join the Ice Lions, he'll have the chance to compete in one of non-varsity hockey's great traditions as a freshman: Navy's Crab Pot Invitational, which will take place for the 36th time on February 7th and 8th, 2014. PSU will open up with Towson, a D1 team and formerly a frequent opponent of the Icers, with the D1 Midshipmen and D2 Maryland in the other pairing.

Speaking of the Icers, they were a regular guest in Annapolis for the Crab Pot during the 1980s and won four titles (1982, 1985, 1986 and 1987) in seven appearances.

Lewington stands out in Combine fitness results

At the NHL Combine fitness testing on Friday and Saturday, Eamon McAdam tied for the best Vertec vertical jump with pause, 28.5 inches. And although it's not listed at the link, it's been verified through multiple sources (including a different post from the same author on that his wingspan was measured at 80.5 inches, tied for third best.

Keep in mind that we're talking about arguably the 101 best prospects for the NHL Entry Draft coming up in just under four weeks, so being at or near the top of anything... well, that's pretty damn good.

Outdoor Hockey at Penn State?

Someone asked Bill O'Brien about a hockey game at Beaver Stadium and he said he is in favor of it. Haven't we done this a time or 20 already?

Ryan Brown and Johns Hopkins' legendary lacrosse program with battle Maryland as a Big Ten rival

Johns Hopkins lacrosse program to join Big Ten
(Baltimore Sun)

By the time you read this, one of the nation's best academic institutions and lacrosse schools may have already announced that it will be joining the Big Ten as an affiliate member for men's lacrosse, as Johns Hopkins University has scheduled said announcement for 11:00 a.m. on Monday. Additionally, the Big Ten will now sponsor lacrosse for the first time, as JHU joins Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan and all-sports newcomers Maryland and Rutgers to give the league the magic number of six schools. It's an interesting move to me because it's long been assumed that the Big Ten was unwilling to take on new affiliate members, institutions only in the conference for one sport (the University of Chicago has long been in only for academics purposes, as most know, owing to the fact that it was a founding Big Ten member, but withdrew its sports teams in 1946). So what's to stop it from happening in other cases?

Johns Hopkins, it needs to be said, is a perfect excuse to make an exception: the school is a research powerhouse, a titan in the lacrosse world, and Division III in all other sports. It's not terribly likely that another close-to-perfect fit is floating out there. But the simple fact is that the line has been crossed. There is no shortage of lower-division schools playing up in hockey, and while none offer JHU's impressive athletic and academic resume, what if there's a revenue opportunity in a new market through Big Ten Network and the ability to back-door elevated cable rates through an affiliate member?

To be perfectly honest, I don't believe any affiliate members will come on board for men's hockey. In this case, JHU allowing the Big Ten to sponsor men's lacrosse was as essential of a consideration as the school's appeal as a member, and it's already there with men's hockey. But what about women's hockey, assuming that none of ten Big Ten schools without it are about to add it and assuming that the Big Ten wants it under the umbrella?

Expect Delays on University Drive for Entire Month of June

There's not a ton of competition for the least significant thing I've ever linked here (IT ALL MATTERS!), but... one southbound lane of University Drive will be blocked off for the month of June while they install the curb and sidewalk in front of Pegula Ice Arena. Heeeey that means it's almost done!

Referee Walkom assigned to conference finals
(NBC Sports)

Stephen Walkom, the father of women's team blueliner Stephanie Walkom, became one of the eight NHL referees selected to work the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs last Thursday. Officials, as most people (I think) know, advance from round to round in the playoffs based on performance with work in the finals considered the pinnacle of the profession. Walkom, who served as the league's director of officiating from 2005 until 2009, has refereed four Stanley Cup Finals in all, including recently in 2010 and 2011 when two teams still alive this year - Chicago and Boston, respectively - hoisted the Cup.

His assignment to the conference finals made headlines because of his involvement in a controversial call during the deciding seventh game of the Red Wings-Blackhawks Western Conference semifinal series Wednesday night. Late in the third period, Walkom called Chicago's Brandon Saad (George's brother, of course, if you needed another PSU family connection in the story) and Detroit's Kyle Quincey for matching roughing minors behind the play, and his whistle negated a tie-breaking goal by the Hawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson moments later. Hjalmarsson's team went on to win early in overtime, so even if it was a bad call, no harm was ultimately done.

But for the record, I actually think Walkom got it right, and evidently I'm not the only one. Although I'm sure noted Blackhawks fanboy/Penn State hater/guy who gets entirely too much credit for making obvious statements Chris Peters disagrees.


Last week was Josh Brandwene's turn to come up trumps with a couple of insider Pegula Ice Arena photos - a locker room (above) and the view from the home bench (below).

2012-2013 ACHA Mens' Division 1 All-American Teams

Congratulations are in order to Arizona State forwards Kale Dolinski (first team) and Colin Hekle (second team), defenseman Ryan Clark (third team) and goaltender Joe D'Elia (third team) as well as to Ohio forwards Tyler Pilmore (first team) and Brett Agnew (third team) and defenseman J.C. Gulch (second team), the Nittany Lions' ACHA opponents from 2012-2013 who received All-American recognition.

Dolinski and Pilmore were both finalists for the ACHA's Player of the Year award as well, but Minot State goaltender Wyatt Waselenchuk took the prize after leading the Beavers to the program's first national championship in March.

Zach Stepan Switches Commitment from Ohio State to Minnesota State
(Western College Hockey Blog)

Zach Stepan, who played with McAdam on the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks this past season, has received a release from his National Letter of Intent with Ohio State and will now play closer to home at Minnesota State. Stepan, a cousin of New York Ranger/Wisconsin alumnus Derek Stepan, was a fourth-round pick of the Nashville Predators in 2012 and subsequently the USHL's third-leading scorer in 2012-2013. He was generally, and for good reason, considered OSU's best incoming freshman.

Basically, ooooh... sorry about your luck, Buckeyes.

UAA ousts athletic director Cobb
(Anchorage Daily News)

In this week's edition of "point and laugh at Alaska-Anchorage," athletic director Steve Cobb, who came under a bizarre amount of criticism from just about every corner imaginable over the last couple months, has been fired after 13 years.
"It has become clear in recent days that despite his efforts, Steve will not be able to bring all elements of the public together in support of UAA, and that criticism of Steve has become a distraction from the great work that UAA does every day," [UAA chancellor Tom] Case said.

The move came one day after a letter from Gov. Sean Parnell to University of Alaska president Patrick Gamble was made public. In the letter, Parnell demanded that Gamble "take a stand" on athletic department issues.
Yep, their governor got involved in an athletic department personnel matter... he must have called up Tom Corbett for advice. Cobb, as you might imagine, isn't happy.
In a blistering statement given to the Daily News, Cobb said Gamble didn't speak to him or anyone in the athletic department before the university's decision to fire him. He also took aim at Ashley Reed, a lobbyist who was among those who encouraged Parnell to get involved.

"Patrick Gamble may be mentally ill," Cobb said in the statement, "when you give away the university to Ashley Reed and a few local scoundrels, you are by definition insane and I intend to prove it in court.

"Gamble made the decision to fire me without speaking to one employee of the UAA Athletic Department, not one staff member, not one coach, not one student-athlete and certainly not me. Apparently Ashley Reed is the final authority.

"I am suffering secondary embarrassment for the university that I loved and devoted almost thirteen years of my life."
Yep, Cobb described University of Alaska president Patrick Gamble as "[possibly] mentally ill." Be right back, my popcorn sounds like it's done.

I ran down this entire festering mess in the Three Stars post from two weeks ago (last entry) if you're unfamiliar. But just to reiterate the basics, the situation began with the firing of eight-year head coach Dave Shyiak in March. Cobb subsequently delivered a list of four finalists to fill the vacancy, before a couple of concerned groups (the Alaska State Hockey Association and the UAA hockey alumni) fired off votes of no confidence in Cobb, as they were worried generally about the state of Seawolves hockey and specifically about their lack of say in the coaching search. The process was then reset with a new, more inclusive search committee. Even with Cobb's firing, UAA expects to have a new coach within a couple weeks (although it's fair to wonder what kind of idiot would walk into this situation and without even knowing the identity of their direct superior). Complicating matters has been the recent accusation of former player Mickey Spencer, who claims that Shyiak swung a stick at Nick Haddad, another former player, during a January, 2011 practice.

Jim Scherr Accepts COO Position with European Games

In this week's edition of "point and laugh at the NCHC," the one-time "superleague," set to officially begin play in 2013-2014, will now be looking for its second commissioner before a single game occurs. Jim Scherr, hired as the NCHC boss in January 2012, resigned on Friday to take a position as COO of the inaugural European Games (basically a mini-Olympics just for Europe, beginning in 2015 and held every four years after that). News that Scherr was offered the European Games post broke a couple weeks ago.

I love this quote from the NCHC's press release:
“We knew when we hired Jim that there would come a time when there would be competing bids for his services,” said NCHC Chairman of the Board and University of North Dakota Director of Athletics Brian Faison. “We are grateful for what Jim has done in his time with the NCHC and we are very happy that he has the opportunity to return to the Olympic sports world with the European Games in Baku. We know his expertise will greatly benefit their event.”
You knew that there would come a time? Did you know it that would be before the pucks printed with your logo shipped?

Watching a bunch of eighth-rate athletic departments scramble trying to pull double duty and run a big-time conference on a time-share basis sure is fun. If the Big Ten takes hockey seriously - and all indications are that it will - the NCHC is pretty terribly out of its depth in trying to compete. That's not to say that the NCHC's programs won't be successful on the ice, obviously Denver, North Dakota, Miami, etc. will continue among the top programs in the country. But from a business/front office perspective, they're completely outclassed.

Kleinendorst Steps Down as Head Hockey Coach

Alabama-Huntsville head coach Kurt Kleinendorst leaving his job is pretty tame if comparing it to those last two entries. But leave he did after a single season, citing a desire to get back into the pro game, where he's spent nearly his entire career. He's been praised for departing without an offer in hand, allowing UAH added time to find a replacement, and rightly so.

But the whole thing still rubs me the wrong way. While the Chargers' survival, at least in the short term, seems ensured through their escaping the independent wasteland by being admitted to the WCHA for the coming year, the mission is hardly accomplished. We're still talking about a 3-21-1 team, and while UAH now has the stability of a conference, the program still reeks of instability thanks to what will now be four different head coaches in the seven seasons since the retirement of the legendary Doug Ross. Kleinendorst owed a bit more than he gave in my opinion, especially since - unlike with his immediate predecessors - there was no longer reason to fear the chopping of the team and sudden unemployment.


Here's a late-night musing from Wisconsin blogger Andy Johnson, possibly known to you as the guy who dropped "welcome to the big-time college hockey, Penn State" after the Badgers' 5-0 win over PSU on February 24th. Johnson's error then, as evidenced by the next night's result, was forgetting that the two games of a series often look very different from one another (he also forgot that the Nittany Lions had already been duly welcomed to the big time college hockey by Union, Ohio State, Vermont and Michigan State, but whatever). Anyway...

Now, I'm new here, but I thought you big-time programs that pump a busload of early-departure players into the show every year were used to those types of situations. Guess not.

Still, it could be worse - you could have 10 true freshmen and 12 others playing their first season of NCAA hockey, with the entire team carrying a combined 97 games of NCAA experience from four players prior to the season at hand. Even that situation is hardly a death sentence though...


  1. Nice to see you talking smack but next year will be different.

    1. So are you one of the Wisconsin fans who thought PSU would be an embarrassment for years or one of the Wisconsin fans who claims that their program is too good to be good, because of all those darn early departures? You'll forgive me if I take a wait and see approach on that statement.