With most of the heavy lifting behind them, the Icers have only four more games left before heading into the national tournament. This weekend, it was the unranked Mercyhurst Lakers visiting the Greenberg for a set of games. As I mentioned in my post last weekend, the Icers have had a dominating history over the Lakers. Their last four meetings have resulted in four Icers' wins, with a total score of 38-6 (thanks in large part to a 17-3 blowout in 2003). With Bryce Johnson slated to return from injury, the Icers would look to use this weekend to rest some players, get others back to game-speed, and honor the 7 newest members to the Icers' Hall of Fame.
|#1 PENN STATE||1||3||3||7|
PSU Goals: Saad (x2), Dolan, P. Daley,
Friedman, Jensen, McDonaugh
As would be expected, the Icers controlled much of the game from the opening face-off. However, it would be the Lakers who would score first, taking advantage of an Icers turnover and score a shorthanded goal to take a 1-0 lead. But George Saad would respond on that same power play less than a minute later, tying the game back up at 1-1. Although the Lakers would do a lot of hitting throughout the game, they started to run out of steam during the second period. Brian Dolan would rip a goal past the Mercyhurst goalie four minutes into the period, and the Icers would start to distance themselves from there. Paul Daley and Jake Friedman would add 2nd period goals to extend the lead to 4-1. Nate Jensen would make it 5-1 halfway through the third period, Mike McDonaugh would add a late goal and George Saad bookended the scoring for the Icers, capping an impressive 7-1 win for Penn State.
|#1 PENN STATE||2||4||3||9|
PSU Goals: Olczyk (x2), B. Johnson (x2),
Holstrom, Longo, Sweetland, Friedman,
Hoping to avoid a slow start and another poor Saturday showing, the Icers came out firing, picking up where Friday left off. Tommy Olczyk would start the scoring by tallying a power play goal, and Bryce Johnson would add a goal later in the 1st period, scoring in his second game back from injury. The Icers would take that 2-0 lead into the 2nd period, where Olczyk scored his second of the game just 7 seconds into the 2nd period. A Mercyhurst power play goal would end the Icers' streak of 10-straight goals scored between the two games, but Taylor Holstrom would counter just 10 seconds later, make it 4-1 Icers. Later in the 2nd period, Johnson would get his second of the game, and Mike Longo would make it 6-1 a mere 12 seconds after Johnson's goal. The rout would continue through the third period, as Pete Sweetland and Jake Friedman would add power play goals in the first 2:16 of the period. Dan Meiselman would cap the scoring, and although the tempers started to flare up, the Icers would walk away unscathed and on the right side of a 9-1 blowout win.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 25-3-1 (24-2-1 ACHA), ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: The weekend went as expected. The defense had some turnover issues at times on Friday night, but ultimately the Icers controlled the game and the scoreboard reflected that properly. It was also nice to see Bryce Johnson back in the lineup and in good form right away. He was buzzing around on Friday and came close to scoring on a number of occasions. His speed is still top notch, and he will be a much-needed asset come tournament time. Speaking of tournament time, the final rankings come out on Friday, and barring some illegal collusion between the coaches, the Icers will be the top seed this year.
Although I was unable to attend it myself, I did hear many wonderful things about the Icers' banquet on Saturday night. Each of the hall of fame inductees had wonderful speeches, as well as the other guests who spoke. However, the surprise of the night was the final speaker of Jay Paterno. From what I heard, he gave a great speech that included a story about he and his father watching the 1980 Miracle on Ice game. Many thanks to Jay for sharing his thoughts and stories, and for his kind words towards the Icers family.
The Icers' biggest challenge at this point will be keeping the energy and momentum up over the few weeks. The season ends on back-to-back Friday-only weekends, with Duquesne visiting State College next weekend for the single game. The next week it's Kent State who comes to town to close the regular season and bring an end to ACHA D1 Icers' program. The first round of the ACHA tournament is one Saturday, March 3rd, which means the Icers will play just two full-speed games in the three weeks between now and the start of the tournament.
Some Love for the Ladies: After consecutive weekend splits with highly-ranked Northeastern (twice) and Liberty, the Lady Icers were looking to make a late statement with a road sweep against #6 UMass. And they came within a goal of completing that sweep. The Lady Icers found themselves on the right side of a 2-1 win on Friday, and used a late third period goal to garner a 3-3 tie on Saturday. Now, it is up to the voting to see if the past month of solid play has helped the team jump into a playoff spot. The ladies conclude the season with a home weekend finale next weekend against Vermont.