The Icers have officially opened their final ACHA season, making a victory lap of sorts before making the jump to NCAA DI hockey next season. While recruits continue to trickle in and reports and rumors about next year's schedule fly about, there is still a lot to focus on for this season. No longer in a conference, the Icers' only major goal for this season is to win the ACHA National Tournament in March. Being conference-less also means that there will be a variety of teams on the schedule - good and bad, old rivals and new blood. The Icers opened at home with a single game against a back-sliding Lebanon Valley College team (they moved from NCAA D3 back to the ACHA after going 0-50 over the past 2 seasons), before heading on the road to an always-talented Illinois team and a final trip to the rink known as the "Big Pond".
Friday, October 7th, vs Lebanon Valley College, 12-1 W: With a strong mix of new talent and old talent on the bench, the Icers opened the season against LVC with a passion to prove something. Bryce Johnson and Brian Dolan gave the Icers and early 2-0 lead, before LVC would put a powerplay goal past Matt Madrazo. The Icers would then rattle off ten straight goals, burying the Dutchmen on the way to a 12-1 win.
Friday, October 14th, @ Illinois, 11-0 W: The Illini play on a rink affectionately known as the "Big Pond" because it is a larger, Olympic sized skating surface (formerly an Olympic speed skating training facility turned into a hockey rink). This has, in the past, given Illinois a huge home advantage, as they are more accustomed to the larger ice surface and have the stamina that other teams used to the smaller rinks lack. The Illini played the Icers tight for much of the first period, only allowing two goals. Then, the flood gates opened in the second period, as the Icers poured on 6 goals, and added 3 more in the final period to complete a dismantling of Illinois I never imagined possible. Madrazo would make his second start and pick up the shutout in this one.
Saturday, October 15th, @ Illinois, 5-2 W: After winning the first two games by a combined score of 23-1, I guess the would eventually have to return to Earth at some point. Illinois played much better in the second game, but a 4-goal second period for the Icers would be enough to quash any hopes the Illini might have had in pulling an upset. A late 5-on-3 powerplay goal for Illini made it a slightly more respectable 5-2 score.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 3-0; ranked 4th currently, with the updated rankings to be released on Friday. Due to some losses from the top teams over the past couple of weekends, Penn State could be looking at a jump to #1 or #2.
News, Notes, Observations: Destroying LVC was predicted - they're really bad and falling apart more and more. Going on the road, to Illinois, and outscoring them 16-2 in two games is unheard of. The line of Taylor Holstrom, Justin Kirchhevel, and Tommy Olczyk accounted for SEVEN of the goals (including a hat-trick for Olcyzk) in the Friday blowout against Illinois, and another two goals in the Saturday win. The return Icers are looking solid as well, as they have added to the scoring as if nothing were different. Madrazo also looks very solid in net, and at this point, looks to be the #1 starter, so kudos to him.
As for the upcoming schedule, the Icers next games are this weekend, as they welcome the Ohio Bobcats one last time to the Greenberg. It has been an awesome rivalry, and it will certainly be the benchmark to see how good this Icers team really is. Also, depending on the rankings, there is a very good chance that these two teams will be in some combination of #1 and #2 in the new rankings - as if the games needed any more fuel for the fire. Following Ohio weekend, the Icers are on the road for a pair of games at Rhode Island.
I apologize for the late and less-detailed-than-normal nature of this recap. I was taking a bit of a "blogging vacation," if you will, trying to enjoy the games more without the worry of having type recaps on the go. Also, I'm open to suggestions for how you want to see these recaps formatted. Similar to the past couple of seasons? Or something new/different to help you get your Icers fix?