Within my first few weeks of being a Penn State student, I learned two things that completely shaped and altered my college experience (for the better). First, Penn State has an ice hockey team; second, they have a student group that helps run all the behind-the-scenes work for said ice hockey team. Now, this isn't a plug for the HMA (although I never pass up the chance to give some love), but rather the lead-in to the most important thing I learned about the Icers - the Ohio Bobcats are the rivals, and you will want them destroyed with every chance possible. The history between these two teams have been great - whether it's the heart-stopping, overtime wins during the season, or the winner-takes-all championship games, the Icers-Bobcats rivalry is that love-hate relationship that makes watching sports fun.
As if the (possibly) final home weekend against the Bobcats wasn't enough, the Icers then had to travel to Brad Boss Arena to take on the University of Rhode Island Rams - a rivalry that has been growing in its own right. These two weekends would certainly tell everyone a great deal about the quality of this current Icers' team.Friday, October 21st, vs. Ohio, 7-1 W:
The Icers wasted little time in jumping on the Bobcats, as Eric Steinour would score just 17 seconds into the game. Jacob Friedman would finally get his first goal as an Icer, the first of two power play goals on the night. A goal from Forrest Dell would give the Icers a 3-0 lead after the first period, and the tone for another Friday blowout was set. Goals from Tommy Olczyk and Friedman would make it a 5-0 Icer lead after 2 periods of play. Steinour's second goal of the night was a sweet individual effort to make it 6-0, and George Saad would kick the extra point just 16 seconds later. A late Ohio goal would keep Matt Madrazo from getting his shutout, but the Icers had rolled the Bobcats, 7-1.
PJ Musico would get the start in goal on Saturday, making it the second straight weekend Coach Gadowsky would start Madrazo on Friday and Musico on Saturday. Unlike Friday night, however, Ohio would take the early lead, scoring on the power play 7 minutes into the game. The Icers would control the offensive play for much of the first and second periods, but Ohio's defense limited any serious scoring opportunities for the Icers. Down 1-0 heading into the third period, the Icers needed to find something to finally beat the OU defense and goaltender.
After an ugly start to the 3rd, with the Icers on the PK, Nate Jensen cleared the puck perfectly off the boards to spring Kurt Collins on the breakaway. Collins would see his first shot blocked, but followed up and scored on his own rebound, tying the game at 1-1. A few minutes later, Collins would get a power play goal, putting home a great centering pass from Saad, and finally giving the Icers the lead. Ohio would not go quietly, tying it less than a minute later. Ohio would give up a lazy penalty, and the Icers would take advantage, as Steven Edgeworth would make his first goal as an Icer count. Tommy Olczyk would add another goal late to extend the lead to 4-2. Collins would get his hat trick on an empty net, shorthanded goal that was shot from behind the Icers net, 200 feet away from the opposite net. PJ Musico picked up not only the win, but his point as an Icer, garnering an assist on Collins' hat trick goal. A late (rather random) penalty shot for OU made it a 5-3 game, but that would be it, giving the Icers another home sweep of the Bobcats.
Tim Carr would get his first start for the Icers in the Friday night tilt versus Rhode Island, which was good news for Carr as the Icers had outscored their opponents on Friday nights by a margin of 30-2. Eric Steinour would get the scoring started early again, giving the Icers a 1-0 lead two minutes into the game. The Rams would counter a few minutes later on the power play, making it a 1-1 score. The second period belonged again to the Icers, as Chris Cerutti's first goal in his first game of the season was sandwiched between two goals from Tommy Olczyk, giving the Icers a 4-1 lead after two periods of play. The Rams would score first in the 3rd period, but a shorthanded goal from Dominic Morrone, and late goal from Kurt Collins would keep the Rams at bay, giving the Icers an easy 6-2 win.
Matt Madrazo would be back in net for the Saturday game, looking to extend the Icers' winning streak to 7. The speedy Bryce Johnson would give the Icers the lead halfway through the first period. The two teams would swap goals towards the end of the period, with Mike Longo picking up his second goal of the season. Jacob Friedman would extend the lead to 3-1 halfway through the second period, as the intensity picked up. Taylor Holstrom would make it 4-1 just a minute into the third period. A late URI goal would make it 4-2, and the Icers would have to kill a number of penalties, including two separate 5-on-3 man-advantages for the Rams, to ensure the 4-2 victory and the weekend sweep.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 7-0-0, ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: The line of Justin Kirchhevel, Tommy Olczyk, and Taylor Holstrom seems horribly unfair at times. If they're given just a little breathing room, they'll find different ways to beat any of these ACHA teams. However, a lot of the work and credit from these two weekends belongs to the line of Eric Steinour, Kurt Collins, and George Saad. They worked hard, including creating the pressure to start the comeback in the Saturday game against Ohio, and scored in bunches to help the team sweep these weekends.
Back on Kirchhevel real quick - he's something really special, and he's very likely going to be the first captain of the NCAA DI team. Besides his great offensive play, he was working hard in the defensive zone, including diving on a few occasions to block shots and break up passes.
It was nice to have Chris Cerutti back since his injury during try-outs. There was some instant spark between him and the combination of Bryce Johnson and Jacob Friedman, and that could be another nasty scoring line. And really, this is a team that will roll four scoring lines, because the offensive depth is outstanding.
Defense is doing well, if still feeling everything out a bit at times. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been the solid play from Brian Dolan - a walk-on who played in just 4 games his freshman year and 20 games last season. So far this season, he's been the best defenseman. Also getting some love is Forrest Dell, who made the move from forward to defense during the Ohio games, and did a solid job against URI. The Icers are starting to get healthy, which means they're falling into the good "problem" of having too many quality players, and not enough room to play them all.
This weekend's games include a rare visit from a NCAA D3 team, as SUNY-Fredonia will be making the trip to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. That game will be at 7pm on Saturday night. Then on Sunday, the Icers welcome Pitt for a 1pm game. It will be interesting to see how the Icers do against both teams, considering the huge gap in talent between these two teams. The Icers then have a single game the following weekend, as the West Chester Rams come to Penn State for a Friday night battle. In other scheduling news, we're still waiting for final word on the game with D3 Neumann University. The game was originally scheduled for this weekend (November 4th), but moved when the two teams started working on trying to play on the outdoor ice as part of the Winter Classic series of games.