Although the ACHA National Tournament is still a month away, it was a playoff atmosphere that filled the Ice Pavilion for a weekend set against #6 Rhode Island. A split with the Rams would go a long way to making sure the Icers would make the tournament and keep their (admittedly long-shot) chances at a National Championship alive. To go along with the importance of these games, it was Alumni Weekend for the Icers, as many old faces from years of successful Icers teams made their way to State College. With Icer greats and hall-of-famers (like 2011 HOF inductee Kevin Jaeger shown below), the current Icers team looked to give the on-looking crowds some memorable hockey.
Thanks to Steve Penstone for posting this great memory.
February 4th, vs. Rhode Island:
|#6 Rhode Island
|#11 PENN STATE||1||2||1||4|
Getting a win Friday night would go a long way in securing that spot in the National Tournament for the Icers. With Matt Madrazo in net, the Icers looked to get an early advantage and set the tone for this game. A slow start for both teams soon went to bad for the Icers, as Joe Zitarelli would get a 5-minute major penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for checking from behind. The Icers penalty killing units, along with Madrazo, came up huge during the 5-minute major, keeping the game tied at 0-0. A few minutes later, some solid defensive play by Dan Petrick gave way to an offensive rush by Dominic Morrone, who beat the URI goaltender, and giving the Icers the 1-0 lead. As the two teams started out the 2nd period, the Icers kept up their pressure, and Nic Seravalli would get his 2nd goal of the season, extending the lead to 2-0. But some rare poor play from Madrazo and some sloppy defensive work allowed the Rams to counter three times in seven minutes, to take a 3-2 lead. The Icers weren't going to just lie down, and Mike Broccolo would tie the game at 3-3, setting up an exciting 3rd period.
Early in the period, both teams were playing hard, but making sure the opposing team didn't get any good scoring opportunities. Six minutes into the period, the Icers would establish some offensive pressure. Freshman Andrew Duval (playing because of an injury to Mike Longo) found the puck after a Rich O'Brien shot, spun around, and fired it past the URI goalie, making his first goal as an Icer a big one. Rhode Island would get a few more chances late in the period, but the Icers would hold for a very important 4-3 win.
February 5th, vs. Rhode Island:
|#6 Rhode Island
|#11 PENN STATE||0
With a win already in the bag, the Icers didn't need to rely on desperation for the Saturday game against the Rams. Early in the game, the Icers could have used it. A sluggish first period for the Icers finally led to a Rhode Island goal late in the period, giving the Rams a 1-0 lead. Slowly through the second period, the Icers began to gain some energy and momentum in the game. Six minutes into the period, Mike McDonagh would continue his scoring tear, tying the game at 1-1. The two teams would then swap goals over the next 90 seconds, with Rhode Island retaking a 2-1 lead only to see Paul Daley return the game to a 2-2 tie. Both teams would get some chances, with URI controlling the play late in the period, and the Icers' looking very sloppy at times. But the score would remain tied 2-2 going into the third period.
The second period intermission included the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, and the Icers hoped that the energy from some of the best players in Icers' history would help push the team to a win in the third period. The Rams would have their say earlier, however, as they would capitalize on the powerplay less than a minute into the period. A few minutes later, the Icers would get their own powerplay opportunity, and Marek Polidor found the back of the net, make it a 3-3 tie. With six minutes left, Matt Madrazo would let a weak shot slip by, giving the Rams a late 4-3 lead. But the Icers would not be denied, as Dominic Morrone scored just two minutes later, and tying the game yet again. That would remain the score through the rest of regulation and overtime, setting up a shootout for Alumni Weekend.
|Penn State||Result||Rhode Island||Result|
|Final PSU||0||Final URI||1|
Season Standings: Overall - 19-8-1; ESCHL - 9-4-1.
News and Notes: I apologize for posting two videos in this update, but this one was too good to pass up. It was made by an Icer alumnus, Michael Messner, and was shown this weekend during the alumni dinner. Needless to say, it got a great reception there, as it has since it has become available to the public. It's a great insight into the hard work and dedication that has gone into the program, both on and off the ice, from players, coaches and staff, families, boosters, students, and fans.
Returning to the team on the ice, the Icers did what they need to do and more against the Rams. The Icers split the weekend, and picked up an extra point by forcing Saturday's game to a shootout. Although it is a loss, it looks better to push the team to a shootout than losing in regulation. As long as the Icers avoid a complete collapse next weekend against Robert Morris (PA), the Icers are a lock for the tournament now.
Overall, it was a sloppy weekend of hockey for the Icers, but it didn't feel as though this was the same poor play that has plagued the team for much of this season. It was more mental mistakes, uncharacteristically poor play from Madrazo, and perhaps a little over-pressing that seemed to be the issue. Thankfully, Rhode Island didn't come with their best either, and the Icers did enough to take advantage and nearly win both games. Robert Morris will be a test next weekend, but with Tim O'Brien and Eric Steinour returning to the team this week, the next test likely won't come until the ESCHL tournament and a semifinal match-up against Delaware.
In terms of rankings, the Icers remained at #11, with the only major changes occurring in the top 10. Iowa State continues to beat up on ACHA D2 teams, so they're not helping their case much. The Icers also received some help this weekend, as #9 Oklahoma swept #10 Oakland. Again, barring a complete meltdown against RMU, the Icers should be squarely in tournament, and might even be looking at moving up to #10.
Some Love for the Ladies: After a demoralizing couple of games against Robert Morris, the Lady Icers went on the road to #3 Michigan State in the hopes of some better results with the reduced roster. Trying out yet another new goalie, freshman forward Lindsey Shuler was in between the pipes for Saturday's game. While the results didn't change too much, the performances were improved. Losses of 6-1 and 9-0 are always tough to handle, but both games saw improvement over the previous weekend's blowouts to Robert Morris. The Lady Icers will be back to full strength this weekend, as all four WUG participants return (including both goalies), along with head coach Mo Stroemel. The Lady Icers will look to regain their winning touch and maintain their 7th place ranking as they head to Liberty University for two games. The two teams will meet again the following weekend for a set of games at the Greenberg.
World University Games Update: As a quick wrap-up for the WUG, the women's team finished 4th after dropping the bronze medal game to Slovakia. A solid performance from the ladies, and great work from the Lady Icers who represented Penn State wonderfully in Turkey. On the men's side, the USA team played two tough battles against Belarus and Slovakia, but came up just short in both games. However, the 6th place finish for Team USA is the best result since they started using ACHA players as representatives. While Eric Steinour never really found a scoring touch, Tim O'Brien closed out the tournament with goals in the last three games. Congrats to the two of them, and we can't wait for their return to help the Icers into the homestretch.