Over the past few years of doing these updates, I've tried my best to give you the essence of the game. I've learned and adapted over the years - things like adding the score at the beginning (for those who wish to skip my ramblings), and doing more summarizing for the blowouts (because you get the idea around goal #7). But you'll have to excuse me for skipping that for this game. I'll have another normal recap following this weekend's slate of games. The Icers trek to Oklahoma for games against Central Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Sooners. However, for now, I just want to share my experience, because that's what this was for everyone - an experience. (If you'd like full coverage, go check out my good man over at ThankYouTerry - dude has been a beast covering this game, and is media credentialed to boot.)
Also, for those who want the quick answer, Neumann defeated the Icers, 6-3.
I won't speak much about the Neumann fans - the fans I had around me were enthusiastic about the team, but kept to themselves mostly. They did, however, give me my first first-hand experiences with opposing fans making Sandusky jokes. I remain unimpressed. I have heard that some others had some less-than-steller interactions with Neumann fans, but it sounds much like the same things we heard from the Temple football fans from September. (To be honest, there's a good chance they were the same people in new shirts.)
A good crowd showed up to the game - last reports were just under 5,000 people showed up on a Wednesday night to watch these two college programs play. A fair amount of tailgaters were found in the parking lots, and the lines for people buying tickets at the gate were lengthy. In essence, the people at Citizens Bank Park wasn't ready for the masses that showed up. Everyone was ushered up to the 200-level (the club-box level), where they could control where people sat and could open the handful of concession stands to sustain the fans.
The Icers were technically considered the home team, and with that came the chance to hear long-time Icers PA announcer Rodney Martin introduce the teams. After hearing piped-in versions of the Canadian and American National Anthems, the game got underway. Both teams played well from the start, getting chances and swinging momentum. Neumann would take a 2-0 lead after the first period thanks to some defensive lapses and a late power play goal. The Icers and Neumann would then trade goals for the rest of the game, where it was 5-3 in the third period. A final empty-net goal for the Knights sealed the 6-3 victory. From the Penn State side, props to the Kirchhevel-Olczyk-Holstrom line, as each one scored a goal - a memory they'll have forever.
As for the rest, it was just great to be there. The fans ended up filling most of the 200-level sections behind the home plate, from foul pole to foul pole. The weather was perfect - cold, but not bitterly so, and no strong winds to make it feel worse. Late in the game, some light snow showers moved their way through the area, adding to the ambiance of an outdoor ice hockey game. And there were cool experiences to be had by many.
The fans got to see a great game against two growing programs. For Penn State fans, we got the joy of having a video monitor with replays.
The players, coaches, and staff walk away with stories to tell friends and family for years, of an experience very few will get to have.
Some of the Penn State ice hockey family now have their own stories. Members of the Hockey Management Association (oh yeah - I'll always send some love to my HMA family) worked parts of the game. And former-HMA and long-time Icers in-rink announcer, Rodney Martin, found his voice echoing through the ballpark and the clear Philadelphia night. Even in the cold outdoors of Citizens Bank Park, Rodney made it feel like home.
For me, it's everything I've mentioned, plus the small things. Things like seeing old faces, catching up with people, and watching the game with people I met through the Icers/HMA. It's having my stupid mug up on the screen for a few seconds - me in my Mike Diethorn jersey. It was seeing Penn State fans come out to support and see something special, even if they don't really care all that much about Penn State hockey.
It was an exhibition game. A game that didn't count for either team in their league standings. That's enough to forget that it was a 6-3 loss. Because it was fun. It was exciting and electric. For me up in the 200-level, it was an experience like none other and one that I'll never forget. For those on the ice, I'm sure it was everything I felt, but on a much greater scale. And to me, that's what this whole "sports" thing is about.