Even as the Icers entered their final month of club hockey play, there is still time for firsts for Penn State ice hockey. On this first weekend in February, the Icers welcomed the Oklahoma Sooners to the Greenberg Ice Pavilion for the first time in team history. The 9th-ranked Sooners are a team stocked with talent, but they have yet to seemingly put it altogether to find consistent success. Coming off of a weekend sweep of the Bobcats and a 3-0 win against the Sooners a month ago, the Icers looked to keep their solid play rolling for another big weekend of hockey.
|#1 PENN STATE||2||2||3||7|
PSU Goals: Cerutti, Saad, Russo, Jensen,
Steinour (x2), Kirchhevel
If the Icers were hoping for some easy home games, the Sooners stopped that dream very quickly. Oklahoma would score just 55 seconds into the game after some poor defensive play from the Icers. The teams would go back and forth, before Chris Cerutti would tip home a Pete Sweetland wrist shot, tying the game at 1-1. A few minutes later, George Saad would slam home a rebound, giving the Icers the 2-1 lead and all the momentum. That would remain the score until 27 seconds into the 2nd period, when Brandon Russo would rifle a Holstrom face-off win past the OU goalie, extending the lead to 3-1. The Sooners would get a 3-on-1 break midway through the period, but PJ Musico would make two outstanding saves to maintain the Icers' two-goal lead. A couple minutes later, Nate Jensen would rip a shot past the OU goalie, making it a 4-1. The Sooners would make it 4-2 early in the 3rd period, but the Icers would add 3 goals late in the period from Steinour (twice) and Kirchhevel to roll to a comfortable 7-2 win.
|#1 PENN STATE||0||0||3||1||4|
PSU Goals: Kirchhevel (x2), Holstrom, Saad
Looking to extend the winning streak to 9 games, the Icers put their faith in Matt Madrazo between the pipes. While Friday's first period had a lot of action early, both teams struggled to find any consistent pressure. The defense and penalty kill units for both teams kept most chances to a minimum, and both goalies made sure it would remain scoreless after 20 minutes of play. Halfway through the second period, an Icers turnover would give the Sooners a breakaway, where they'd finally break the tie and make it 1-0, Oklahoma. More poor play from the team and Madrazo would lead to the Sooners' next two goals, making it 3-0 Sooners. Hoping to avoid their first home shutout loss in over 5 years, Justin Kirchhevel would get the Icers on the board with 5 minutes left in the game. Just about one minute later, Taylor Holstrom would score on the powerplay, making it a game again at 3-2. With the goalie pulled and the extra attacker on the ice, the Icers would continue to force the issue and Kirchhevel would tie the game with just 32 seconds left in the game, ultimately sending the game to OT. Halfway through the extra period, the combination of Eric Steinour and George Saad would create the pressure, leading to Saad putting home an improbable game winner to lift the Icers to a 4-3 win.
Season Record and ACHA Ranking: 23-3-1 (22-2-1 ACHA), ranked #1 in the ACHA
News, Notes, Observations: So continues the Jekyll and Hyde weekends that haunt the Icers. After a solid Friday outing, the team just looked out of sync on Saturday. The offense struggled to get anything going, the defense made some mental mistakes, and Madrazo just made a couple of poor decisions. But somehow, the Icers only needed to actually play for 8 minutes in the Saturday game. That top line of Kirchhevel-Holstrom-Olczyk showed that, when they are pressed, they can score when they need to. Credit to that Saad-Steinour combo (and not to leave out Collins when they're at 5-on-5) for always creating energy and chances, ultimately leading to the OT winner on Saturday. I'm just going to chalk this up to a much-needed booster on the team's resiliency as they head towards Nationals.
The Icers continue their homestand next weekend, as the Mercyhurst Lakers come to town. After doing some quick research, the Icers and the Lakers have faced off four times since the 2000-01 season. Those four games have ended in scores of 6-2, 7-1, 8-0, and the ever-close 17-3 blowout. Seeing how the Lakers are still unranked, similar scores should be expected. Next weekend is also Alumni Weekend for the Icers, where they will induct 7 new members into the Icers' Hall of Fame. The season ends on back-to-back Friday-only weekends, with Duquesne in first before closing the regular season with Kent State.
Some Love for the Ladies: Hoping to make a late push for the playoffs, the Lady Icers headed north to take on 4th-ranked Northeastern. The Friday game was what the Lady Icers needed, as they opened up a 3-0 lead before skating to a solid 4-2 win. In the Saturday game between these two teams, the Lady Icers jumped out to an early 1-0 lead. Unfortunately, that was all they would get, while Northeastern would get just enough to squeak out of the weekend with a split, winning 2-1. The ladies finish the season with a road trip #6 UMass next weekend, before ending with a home weekend against lowly-ranked Vermont.