After opening the 2012 year with a flurry of games and travel, the Icers finally returned to a schedule of normalcy at the Greenberg. Joining the Icers at the Ice Pavilion were the Rhode Island Rams. While there has been some discussion of filling out the 2012-13 schedule with some ACHA foes (most notably, Ohio), there was definitely the feeling that this would be the last match-up between these two teams for awhile. The rivalry with the Rams has grown over recent years, but this isn't the same Rhode Island team as in years past. The Rams came in ranked #20th, technically sitting on the outside looking in at the ACHA tournament. Still, URI is no team to go easy on, especially if the Icers wanted to get another winning streak started.
|#20 Rhode Island||1||1||1||3|
|#1 PENN STATE||2||5||2||9|
PSU Goals: Meiselman, McDonagh, Olczyk, Holstrom,
Kirchhevel (x2), Steinour (x2), Saad
Early in the game, the Icers came out as the more dominant team, as they controlled the greater majority of the play. But due to some sloppiness, the score remained 0-0 throughout much of the period. Just after halfway through the first period, Dan Meiselman finally put the Icers on the board, with an assist from Paul Daley - Daley's 100th career point. Five minutes later, a URI breakdown leads to a Mike McDonagh goal, extending the lead to 2-0. The Rams would break through late in the period to cut the lead to 2-1 after one period of play. In the second period, the scoreboard would finally catch up with the Icers' dominant play on the ice. Tommy Olczyk would make it a 3-1 lead on the power play less than a minute into the period. The Rams would respond a few minutes later, and that was the closest the game would get. Taylor Holstrom, Justin Kirchhevel, Eric Steinour, and George Saad would add goals before the end of the period, making it a 7-2 runaway and proving how dominant the Icers' top two scoring lines can be. Kirchhevel and Steinour would add two more goals in the third, making it 9-2 Icers. A misplayed puck from goalie Matt Madrazo gave the Rams a for-who-for-what goal, as the Icers would cruise to a 9-3 victory.
|#20 Rhode Island||1||0||0||1|
|#1 PENN STATE||1||1||0
PSU Goals: Olczyk, Kirchhevel
Saturday's game opened up right where Friday's game left off. The pushing and shoving between the teams resulted in early penalties, which ultimately gave the Icers an early powerplay. Tommy Olczyk would use that man-advantage to give the Icers an early 1-0 lead. URI would tie it up late in the period on a powerplay of their own. Both teams would get a few more chances, but the game would remain 1-1 heading into the second period. A sloppy second period for the Icers would keep it a tie game until Justin Kirchhevel would score on the powerplay late in the period, giving the Icers the 2-1 lead. Sloppy play would be the name of the game for the Icers for much of the remainder of the game. Although the Icers outshot the Rams, it would be URI controlling play and getting the better through the second and most of the third period. The Icers would start to swing momentum late in the 3rd period, but holding on was enough to get the win on this day. PJ Musico played wonderfully between the pipes to lock-up the 2-1 Icers victory, completing the season sweep of the Rams.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 17-3-1 (16-2-1 ACHA), ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: As I noted with Kyle over at ThankYouTerry, had the Saturday game ended 5-1, nobody would really think twice about the Icers playing sloppy for nearly two periods. However, the 2-1 score is a reminder that this team needs to stay sharp, because a hot goalie can be a scary equalizer. Still, Friday's 9-3 blowout is a reminder to the rest of the ACHA that this team can be scary-explosive when they see fit.
On the bad news front, Bryce Johnson looks to be out for longer than hoped. After an x-ray early in the week, it was determined that Johnson would miss another 2-4 weeks with a leg injury. That puts him on track for a return in Mid-February, with the chance to return to game speed against some ACHA cupcakes.
On the good news front, the defense has decided that they no longer wish to be the weak spot on the team. Over the past couple of weeks, Steven Edgeworth, Dan Loucks, Brian Dolan, and Nate Jensen have all returned to solid form. All of the defenders have cut back on the defensive zone turnovers and have given extra effort to cut down and eliminate scoring opportunities for the opposing teams. If this keeps up for the Ohio and Oklahoma weekends coming up, I'll be extremely confident in this team at the ACHA tournament.
Next weekend, the Icers welcome the Mountaineers of West Virginia to the Greenberg, which should be about as challenging as these URI games. Following the WVU weekend, the Icers head to Ohio for a set against the rival Bobcats. That road trip to Ohio is also the last roadtrip for the Icers until the ACHA Tournament.
Some Love for the Ladies: At no one's fault but my own, my coverage of the Lady Icers has been non-existant this season. Which is really bad, considering they too are making the jump to Varsity next season, and they have been spending much more of their time facing NCAA D3 and D1 teams this season. They have played tough in the vast majority of their games against their Varsity opponents this season, coming away with a few ties and a few one goal losses. Finally, the ladies broke through, defeating NCAA D3 Sacred Heart 3-2 in overtime. At the very least, this team will be mentally prepared for the jump in the level of competition that comes from moving from club to the NCAA.