The fans of Penn State ice hockey were in for a couple of enjoyable rarities at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion this weekend. First, the rare occurrence of a NCAA-D3 team playing an away exhibition game at an ACHA team. While I couldn't track down a year, I was informed that this was not a first for the Icers, as Penn State hosted D3 Buffalo State many years ago. (And from his memory, Penn State won both games that weekend.) Even with a strong line-up, the Blue Devils from SUNY-Fredonia would surely present a big challenge to the Icers. After that Saturday night game, the Icers would then have to deal with a quick turnaround, as they would be playing at 1pm on Sunday against the Pitt Panthers.
|#1 PENN STATE
|PSU Goals: Kirchhevel (2), Friedman, Edgeworth, Saad|
If there were any questions as to how much faith coach Guy Gadowsky has in Matt Madrazo, they were answered on Saturday. With a big game for the program on tap and two NCAA goalie recruits on the team, Guy picked Madrazo to lead the Icers against the Fredonia Blue Devils. He would get some help five minutes into the game, as Justin Kirchhevel would put home the first goal of the night, thanks to some great individual effort by Taylor Holstrom. The Icers would control much of the first period action, but Fredonia would tie the game on a nice breakaway late in the first period.
During the intermission, the Blue Devils realized that this was not a game to take lightly, and their play in the second period showed as much. Fredonia would jump on the Icers just 47 seconds in the period, taking a 2-1 lead thanks to some lucky bounces. Four minutes later, Fredonia would extend their lead to two goals thanks to a power play goal. The Icers would respond with a power play goal of their own just 3 minutes later, as Kirchhevel would get his second goal on the night. The quality play, as well as the tempers, continued to rise through the period, and Fredonia would retake a two goal lead late in the period. But the Icers would not roll over, as Jake Friedman would respond with yet another power play goal. The Blue Devils would take the 4-3 lead into the 2nd intermission, knowing the game was far from over.
Early in the third period, the Icers would take advantage of yet another power play, with defenseman Steven Edgeworth firing a shot from the point past the Fredonia goaltender, and tying the game at 4-4. As the back and forth play continued into the third, George Saad would break through for the Icers, putting home a great feed from Kurt Collins, and putting the Icers ahead 5-4. The Blue Devils would continue to push hard, only to watch the Icers' defense play well and be continually shut down by the strong play of Matt Madrazo. Fredonia would pull their goalie with a minute left, but the Blue Devils were unable to beat Madrazo one last time, giving the Icers a big come-from-behind win, 5-4.
|#1 PENN STATE
|PSU Goals: Johnson (2), Collins, Morrone, Dell|
The biggest thing the Icers had to worry about on Sunday was an emotional let-down following a big win the night before. If the change in the opponent's talent level wasn't enough, Coach Gadowsky decided to take the drastic action of sitting the entire top line of Kirchhevel-Olczyk-Holstrom in order to give some of the other players some playing time. Josh Daley was inserted into the line-up after missing a couple games due to an injury, while Dan Meiselman and Peter Sweetland would both see some rare ice time. But the changes in the line-up wouldn't make much of a difference as the Icers controlled this game from start to finish. Bryce Johnson would pick up two goals in the first period to nearly put the game away in the first 20 minutes. Kurt Collins, Dominic Morrone, and the ever-position-shifting Forrest Dell would add goals to make this game never feel close. Some sloppy play gave Pitt the chance to keep PJ Musico from getting the shutout, but that was the only downside in a game where the Icers would out-shoot the Panthers, 55-17.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 9-0-0, ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: That top line of Kirchhevel-Olczyk-Holstrom continues to dominate, but it was nice to see the other lines pick up the scoring in Sunday's game. And yes, with that top line in against Pitt, the final score may have been more like the 12-1 blowouts we saw at the start of the season. Also interesting to note in Sunday's game, the top line in that game of Johnson-Friedman-Morrone actually saw a decrease in playing time late in the second and third periods. For large portions of the game, the Icers were rolling three bottom lines, and they still easily controlled the game.
Madrazo looked solid against SUNY-Fredonia, and even though he let up 4 goals, he can take little blame for any of them. The first goal was on a breakaway, which is hard for any goalie; the second goal came on a bouncing puck, that may have been brought down by a high stick; and the final two goals found Madrazo screened. That's not to say that he's infallible, but he played very well and didn't allow any "soft" goals. At this rate, it's going to be very hard to keep him off the varsity team next season.
Saturday's game against Fredonia also showed that some of the returning Icers really aren't up to the NCAA level. That's not to say that they're bad players, or that they even had a terrible game against Fredonia. But it was evident that some of them weren't able to keep up with the level of play for the entire game. On the flip-side, some of the players continued their strong play, or even improved their play with the level of the opponent. Edgeworth and Jensen both stepped up big on Saturday. Steinour, Saad, and Collins continue to find ways to get things done and get on the scoresheet. And big props to Forrest Dell - he had another solid defensive outing against Fredonia, and then switched back up to offense during the Pitt game and grabbed himself a goal in the process. He might not light-up the scoreboard, but his contributions cannot be understated at this point.
Next up on the schedule, the Icers have a single home game against West Chester this Friday. After that, it's a home-and-home with the Delaware Blue Hens to wrap up the November schedule.