Woo! Icers Preview (Kinda...)

I figured with all the ONOES going on around here, this would be as good a time as any to post this...

Yes, folks, we're back at that time where I get to ramble on and on about my favorite ice hockey team - the Charlestown Chiefs Penn State Icers! I won't go into too much preview here, since they've only just named the team about a week ago. And as it is, there's sparse info on much of the new guys, so I'm here to go over what we've lost, what we retained, what we've gained (kinda), and a stroll through the schedule. So let's get to it!

What'd We Lose?

6 Forwards
5 Defensemen
1 Goalie
12 Total

(Technically, it's 13, but Alan Clark played all of 1 game for us last year, so I'm not going to include him in this discussion - I apologize to he and his family should they be reading this.)

That's 12 seniors gone. Over 1300 games played. 40% of the team. 300 goals, 500 assists, 51 GWG, 112 PPG, 23 SHG, and a combined +721 rating. For most of those stats - Goals, assists, GWGs, PPGs, SHGs - the returning players don't have half those numbers combined. Some of the top offensive and defensive players in Icers history, not to mention goalie Nick Signet's own major accomplishments (55 wins, 13 shutouts in 74 games played). Needless to say, there was a lot to be filled with this year's tryouts.

What'd We Keep?

11 Forwards
4 Defensemen
2 Goalies
17 Total

Naturally, when one large senior class leaves, the one behind it is usually fairly small. Only 5 seniors return, including defensemen John Conte and Steve Thurston. Conte is more of the defensive defenseman, while Thurston is big and has a big slapshot. Both will be huge keys to the success to this team. Joining them are forwards Dave Herel, Matt Kirstein, and Ryan Paradis. Herel has been cycled in and out of the lineup his first three years, but expect him and his nasty wrist shot to get more ice time. Kirstein is a guy who started his career slow, with 6 points in his first 2 years. Then he shows up with a 42-point junior campaign - good enough for 3rd best on the team last season, and hopes of more good things to come. Paradis is in his second year with the Icers, but was impressive with 35 points in his first season with the Icers (tied with Thurston for 5th best on the team last season).

The other major star returning is junior forward Tim O'Brien. It's basically his team now, as he led the Icers in goals (32) and scoring (52) last season. Expect more big things out of him this season. Also returning is junior goaltender Teddy Hume, who has already put up an impressive career of 25-4-0, with 5 shutouts. If he can cut down the lazy goals, he's a great big guy to have between the pipes (the last numbers on him are 6"4', 230 lbs). His primary backup is junior John Jay, who has played very well in his own right (5-0-0, 1 shutout, 1.28 GAA), but has played 3rd fiddle to Signet and Hume his first two seasons.

Also returning are defensemen Carey Bell and Dan Petrick, and forwards Taylor Cera, Chris Cerutti, Kurt Collins, Paul Daley, Marek Polidor, Chris Pronchik, and Nick Seravalli. There's talent, skill, and speed to be found amongst the returning players. In fact, 7 of the top 11 scorers from last season return (T. O'Brien, Kirstein, Thurston, Paradis, Cerutti, Daley, Polidor).

Who's This Guy?

As mentioned earlier, I don't know them either. Coming in are 11 freshmen (6 forwards, 4 defense, 1 goalie) and 2 sophomores (1 forward, 1 defense). Again, not too much info really swirling around about these guys that I can find easily. Apparently the sophomore forward (Dustin Roux) is damn good in the roller hockey world. Yep. That's the best I got. Hopefully, I'll be able to learn more with the Blue-White game scheduled for Friday night (at 9:15pm at the Ice Pavilion).

[EDIT: Here's a link for the full roster announced for the season. This way, you can see names, numbers, positions, height/weight, so on and so forth.]

Who Do We Play?

First, I'll link you straight over to the website itself for the full schedule. I'll give a quick summary/rundown here. First, there are 35 games schedule, which does not include the ESCHL playoffs or the ACHA tournament. Of those 35 games, 20 are set as weekend sets with the other 5 teams in the ESCHL (2 home games, 2 road games). Those include games against Navy, Drexel, Rhode Island, Delaware, and new-comer West Chester. I really don't see much changing this year, meaning the Navy and Drexel games will be fairly easy, and the URI, UDel, and WCU games will give us some battles.

The season opens up fairly easy with a home set against Towson. And then this young team will be thrown into the fire, with a weekend set at rival Ohio. Nothing says "Welcome to the ACHA" like being thrown into your rival's home turf. Oh fun. The next two weekends are interesting home-and-homes (@PSU on Friday, away on Saturday for both) with WCU and Drexel. October closes with a home set with West Virginia.

November is filled with more ESCHL opponents - @Navy, @URI, vs. Navy. Turkey-day break sees the team on the road for what I believe is the P.A.L. Stovepipe Tournament. It's our NCAA DIII tourney, as we'll face Southern New Hampshire on Saturday, then results-dependent, either Stonehill or UMass-Boston. None of these teams are anything too much to write home too, but it'll be a good test for the team, especially the younger guys. December is short for weekends, so it's a home set with UDel, followed by the (nearly) annual fall semester close-out game against Niagara.

The new year starts with a game against Robert Morris (PA) at Mellon Arena (OoOoO...pretty....), followed by a home game against Washington and Jefferson. Should be easy rolls. Then begins the annual fun stretch - home set against Ohio, home-and-home with WCU (away Fri, home Sat), at UDel, home against URI for Alumni Weekend, then the last home-and-home with Drexel (away Fri, home Sat). That leads us into ESCHL playoffs, and then one last meaningless (for the standings/tournament rankings) set of home games against Robert Morris (PA).

Honestly, there's nothing really snazzy or exciting with the schedule. Figure 33 games against ACHA teams, and 20 are against ESCHL teams. That's 13 games, 4 of which are taken by Ohio, 2 for the annual WVU visit, and the now annual Niagara visit in December - all of which I'm cool with having. So, that's 6 games remaining. What did we fill it with? Towson (2), Robert Morris (3), and W&J. My only guess is that cost has to be a factor, otherwise outside of URI (and the NCAA DIII tourney), we don't go more than one state over in any direction (and the same for teams visiting PSU). Even with the crappy teams scheduled in, we still find a way to have an inherent death-wish come the January/February, with 8 straight tough games that will fully decide our tourney-seeding fate. Truth-be-told, it hasn't ever really killed us in the past, but I still don't like looking at that stretch of games.

Like the football team, it's hard to gauge how good this team will be. Penn State continues to have the most depth in the ESCHL, so I still like our chances to do very well. But a lot of it will depend on how much they click, and how well the new guys can pick up and fill in the large holes left behind. I get the feeling the road trip to Ohio will tell us a lot very early.

Until then, keep your stick on the ice!

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