With three straight wins and the ship pointed towards the ACHA tournament, the Icers were faced with what is often described as a trap weekend. Sandwiched between a home weekend against struggling rival Rhode Island and a road-trip to strong, even-bigger-rival Ohio, the West Virginia Mountaineers made their trip to the Ice Pavilion to take on the Icers. The Icers came into the weekend as big favorites - not only was this a less-than-mediocre West Virginia team, but the Icers have a 34-0-1 record against the Mountaineers, dating back to the 1990-91 season. The Icers were looking for two good games, in the hopes of extending their winning streak to five.
|#23 West Virginia||0||0||0||0|
|#1 PENN STATE||2||3||3||8|
PSU Goals: P. Daley, Olczyk (x2), Longo (x2),
O'Brien, Kirchhevel, McDonaugh
Early in Friday's game, it appeared as though the undefeated streak against West Virginia would continue, as the Icers controlled the play from the opening face-off. However, it wasn't until late in the first period when the Icers would finally crack the scoreboard. Paul Daley would give the Icers the 1-0 lead on a beautiful goal, and Tommy Olczyk would add another in the final minute of the period. Early in the second period, the Icers would score on the powerplay, as Mike Longo would put home an easy rebound goal to make it 3-0, Icers. 30 seconds later, it was Longo again, officially starting the rout of the Mountaineers. Rich O'Brien would add a laser of a goal before the end of the period, and Justin Kirchhevel and Mike McDonaugh would add goals in the 3rd period, before Olczyk would cap the scoring with his 2nd goal of the game. PJ Musico played outstanding in his own right, turning away all 17 shots he faced, giving PJ his second shutout on the season, and leading the Icers to an easy 8-0 win.
|#23 West Virginia||1||0||0||1|
|#1 PENN STATE||2||2||2
PSU Goals: McDonaugh, Collins, Dell, J. Daley,
If the Icers were hoping to avoid another Saturday letdown, the first few minutes of the game were not helpful to their cause. Sloppy play and a bad turnover gave West Virginia an early breakaway, which the Mountaineers put behind Matt Madrazo for an early 1-0 WVU lead. While the defense kept WVU from getting many more good scoring chances, the offense struggled to gather any momentum and pressure themselves. Goals from Mike McDonaugh and Kurt Collins would give the Icers an uncomfortable 2-1 lead after the first period. The lack of solid play continued to haunt the Icers through much of the second period, but again, the defense and Matt Madrazo made sure the Icers maintained their 2-1 lead. Late in the period, Forrest Dell would extend the lead to 3-1 before Josh Daley made a beautiful forehand-to-backhand move to beat the WVU goal and give the Icers a 4-1 lead. The third period turned into a shutdown period for the Icers, as the Mountaineers were never allowed to make the game close. Eric Steinour's goal halfway through the period extended the lead to 5-1, and Dan Petrick would seal the game with a powerplay goal, giving the Icers a 6-1 win.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 19-3-1 (18-2-1 ACHA), ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: There's a lot to discuss from the past week in regards to Penn State hockey. Thankfully, TYTBlog is all over it with a succinct series of links and recaps. To recap, the Board of Trustees approved the plans for the Pegula Ice Arena, which means we are full-go for a brand new ice arena on campus! The renderings have looked awesome (even if they aren't set in stone as the final plans), and the rink had both pictures and actual seats available for viewing in the Greenberg's lobby this past weekend. Needless to say, this was extremely exciting news to hear and see for this member of the Icers family.
There was good news related to the team as well (beyond the thrashing of a middling West Virginia team). First, Max Gardiner committed to Penn State this week, making him the first player to have been selected in the NHL draft to commit to PSU. Drafted 74th overall by the St. Louis Blues in 2010, Gardner went to play for the University of Minnesota for a year, before moving to the USHL's Dubuque Fighting Saints, in the hopes of getting more playing time. He'll join Penn State next year, joining Justin Kirchhevel, Taylor Holstrom, Bryce Johnson, and Nate Jensen as players with a year of NCAA experience under their belts.
Joining the good news was the announcement following Friday's game that senior defenseman Dan Loucks was named the captain for the Icers this season. Hailing from Collegeville, PA, Dan has had a solid year on defense, already putting up career highs in goals and assists, and likely has a +/- rating over 20. Although he sat out the 3rd period of Saturday's game with an injury, it doesn't appear to be serious, and we hope Dan is healthy to return to the ice this weekend. (Also, we're hoping that the "C" isn't carrying some sort of injury curse with it, either.)
Since the Icers looked fine in their wins over WVU, I'd like to add a quick note about the D2 Ice Lions. Coach Josh Hand has that team pointed in the right direction, as they've now won 16 games in a row (21-2-0 on the season). They have four games left (Rowan, Pitt, Monmouth, and St. Joseph's), and all four should be fairly easy for the Ice Lions. Barring some unforeseen breakdown, the Ice Lions will be headed to the D2 National Tournament in March as one of the favorites.
Next weekend, the Icers make their final regular season road trip, as they head to Ohio to face the #5 Bobcats. It will be a good measuring stick to see where the Icers stand currently against the top teams in the ACHA before heading into the tournament in March. That's not to overlook the opponent following Ohio, as the #8 Oklahoma Sooners come to Penn State for the first weekend in February. The Icers shutout the Sooners, 3-0, in Norman earlier in January.
Some Love for the Ladies: Following the big win over Sacred Heart last weekend, the Lady Icers found themselves facing the top-ranked ACHA team in Northeastern. The ladies came within a complete mental breakdown of winning Friday's game, but 2 goals in the last 36 seconds gave Northeastern a 4-3 win. But the Lady Icers would rebound nicely, winning Saturday's early-start (8:45am) game, 3-2. A solid outing for the Lady Icers, and hopefully the sign of more big wins to come.
A Final Note: I would be remiss if I didn't make a comment about the passing of Joe Paterno and his impact on my own life. I was never a big college football fan growing up - the effects of having family members attend smaller schools with no major sports programs. Still, I knew about Penn State, and I knew about Joe Paterno. When I visited Penn State, I knew it was the place for me, and once accepted, my friend (who came from a Penn State family) made sure I knew the importance of getting football tickets. I did, and at my first game, I sat right next to the entrance gates, with Joe Paterno not much more than an arms-reach away. By the next week, I was part of that group of people who camped out or got to the gates super-early for front row seats (admittedly, it was much easier to do so in 2003). Penn State football was how my Penn State family would come together, and we have Joe Paterno to thank for that.
But I'm the hockey guy here - I joined the Hockey Management Association my freshman year, and in doing so, joined one of the greatest families I could have ever asked for. The Icers family has been wonderful to me, and I know I'm not alone in my feelings about that. As I look back, I see how much of Joe Paterno's legacy and ideals were built within the Icers' community. The number of Icers who have found great academic success at Penn State and success in life beyond is immense. The importance of working hard, overcoming challenges and adversity, and building quality character was the cornerstone to decades of success. JoeBa has often joked that he's put more HMA members in the NHL than Icers, but it's a testament to how important each person is in that chain - coaches and players, university staff, booster club members, and even a bunch of college kids volunteering their time to make everything run smoothly. It's a family, and in a few weeks, that family will reunite for the Icers' Alumni weekend and Hall of Fame inductions. I think of all these things, and I think of how Joe Paterno instilled all of these qualities and expectations into the culture of Penn State - not just the football team, not just the athletic department, but to the students and university community as a whole.
Since I lived through the Icers, Joe Battista will always be "Coach" to me. And perhaps that's best, since JoePa was more - the mentor I never met. He presented us all with great life lessons and an example as to how we can live our lives well. He was fallible, just like all of us, and perhaps his greatest lesson was a reminder of this and that we only continue to fail if we don't learn from the mistakes of others.
In simplest form, thanks Mr. Paterno, for everything.