Quick and Dirty Ice Hockey Primer

With the inaugural season of NCAA women's ice hockey starting this weekend, and the men's team kicking off their return to varsity hockey next week, I figured this was as good a time as any to help everyone catch up on the teams taking to the ice this year.

Lightning Round Roster Notes - Women's Team: In the off chance you closely followed the Lady Icers last season, there will be a handful of names on the roster that sound familiar. Forwards Jess Desorcie and Taylor Gross (this season's captain) return to the lineup after transferred from NCAA teams to Penn State this past January and provided a serious offensive spark for the Lady Icers for the remainder of the season. Also joining those two are a slew of club players, including alternate captain Lindsay Reihl, and stand-out stars Kate Christoffersen, Tess Weaver and Cara Mendelson. The coaches picked up two transfers from UConn - goaltender Nicole Paniccia and forward (and 2nd alt captain) Jenna Welch. Not surprisingly, the team is very young, filling the roster with 17 freshmen for this inaugural season. But there is no lack of talent - most of these ladies are coming from years of quality club hockey play.

Schedule: Teams in bold are CHA conference opponents...

Date Opponent Date Opponent
Oct. 6 @ Vermont Dec. 7 @ St. Lawrence
Oct. 7 @ Vermont Dec. 8 @ St. Lawrence
Oct. 13 Syracuse Jan. 4 Chatham
Oct. 14 Syracuse Jan. 5 Chatham
Oct. 19 @ Sacred Heart Jan. 11 @ Union
Oct. 20 @ Sacred Heart Jan. 12 @ Union
Oct. 25 RIT Jan. 25 @ Syracuse
Oct. 26 RIT Jan. 26 @ Syracuse
Nov. 2 Sacred Heart Jan. 29 Princeton
Nov. 3 Sacred Heart Feb. 1 Mercyhurst
Nov. 10 Robert Morris Feb. 2 Mercyhurst
Nov. 11 Robert Morris Feb. 8 Lindenwood
Nov. 16 @ Lindenwood Feb. 9 Lindenwood
Nov. 17 @ Lindenwood Feb. 15 @ RIT
Nov. 30 @ Mercyhurst Feb. 16 @ RIT
Dec. 1 @ Mercyhurst Feb. 22 @ Robert Morris
Feb. 23 @ Robert Morris

Season Expectations: It should be an interesting mix for the women's team. Last season, the ladies got to play a number of games against NCAA competition, to a mixed bag of results. The experience was undoubtedly helpful to the team, and with the addition of more NCAA-level talent, stringing together some wins isn't out of the question. In the CHA, Mercyhurst and Robert Morris are the two top teams and will give the Lady Lions trouble (likely to the point of weekend sweeps). Syracuse had a losing season last year, and Lindenwood struggled as an independent last year, so wins are possible. RIT is making the jump from DIII, and they were swept by Mercyhurst last weekend, so they are likely on a similar level as PSU. Outside of St. Lawrence, the rest of the schedule seems pretty doable for the ladies, including this opening weekend against Vermont. If things go well, this team might be looking at an over-.500 winning record by season's end.

Lightning Round Roster Notes - Men's Team: Unlike the women's team, the men's roster is filled with players from last season's Icers team. In a rather surprising announcement, 8 "career" Icers found their way onto this year's NCAA team - forwards Mike McDonagh, Michael Longo, Dominic Morrone, Eric Steinour, and George Saad; defensemen Rich O'Brien and Brian Dolan; and goaltender Matt Madrazo. They join 8 of the more "NCAA ready" players from last season's Icers team, including the four players already with NCAA experience (Holstrom, Jensen, Johnson, and Kirchhevel).

Filling out the roster of 27 includes 11 new recruits with a range of backgrounds. Of the more notable names, goalie Matthew Skoff found success with the USHL's Sioux City Musketeers (and he may have earned a spot in my heart by getting into a goalie fight and completely dominating his opponent). Mark Yanis and Luke Juha - both of whom have garnered looks from NHL scouts - will be strong defensemen for the young team. And Curtis Loik (also on the NHL radar) and Max Gardiner (2010 3rd round selection of the St. Louis Blues) will add some serious firepower to a team that showed great offensive depth last season.

As for the captains for this first season (back) at the varsity level, Tommy Olczyk will wear the 'C', while Nate Jensen and George Saad will be the Alternate Captains. All three played a vital role with the Icers last season, and it is nice to see career Icer in Saad getting the recognition for his ability.

Schedule: Men's team is a D-I Independent this season; will move to B1G next season...

Date Opponent Date Opponent
Oct. 12 American International Dec. 29 @ Robert Morris
Oct. 13 American International Dec. 29 Ohio State/Miami (OH)
Oct. 19 @ Buffalo State Jan. 4 @ UConn
Oct. 20 @ RIT Jan. 5 @ UConn
Oct. 26 @ Army Jan. 11 US Under 18-Team
Oct. 27 @ Sacred Heart Jan. 12 US Under 18-Team
Oct. 30 @ Fredonia Jan. 15 Neumann
Nov. 3 Buffalo State Jan. 19 Vermont
Nov. 9 Air Force Jan. 25 @ Michigan State
Nov. 10 Air Force Jan. 26 @ Michigan State
Nov. 24 @ Union Feb. 1 Ohio (ACHA)
Nov. 25 @ Union Feb. 2 Ohio (ACHA)
Nov. 30 Arizona State (ACHA) Feb. 8 Alabama-Huntsville
Dec. 1 Arizona State (ACHA) Feb. 9 Alabama-Huntsville
Dec. 7 @ Holy Cross Feb. 15 Oklahoma (ACHA)
Dec. 8 @ Holy Cross Feb. 16 Oklahoma (ACHA)
Dec. 15 Robert Morris Feb. 24 @ Wisconsin
Feb. 25 @ Wisconsin

Season Expectations: If there is ever a season of having zero expectations, this is would be it. The coaching staff (a quality coaching staff, no less) has put together a great deal of talent for a brand-new varsity team. Being the first season, the quality of opponents lacks at times (excluding the ACHA games and the U-18 exhibition games) and so the Icers should be able to pick up wins here and there (AIC, Sacred Heart, Vermont, UAH). However, there are a lot of quality teams on the schedule as well, and getting blown out by teams like MSU, Wisconsin, Air Force, and (new names to most non-hockey followers) Union and RIT is definitely a possibility. At the end of the day, live by my father's motto: Hope for the best, but expect the worst. Anything is possible with this first season.

And the Club Teams?: Penn State is still rolling with a D2 ACHA team for both the men and the women (women's team is brand new this season). Both teams feature a handful of players from last year's ACHA D1 teams to help add some serious ability to the lower division. The women's team should be interesting, as depth/talent can get thin at the D2 level. It'll be interesting to see if players like Katie Vaughn, Allie Rothman, and Carly Szyszko can rise to the top against some lesser opponents. On the men's side, the Ice Lions are coming off of a solid 2011-12 season and have opened the new season on that same roll. They finished their first weekend 3-0, with wins over PSU-Berks (8-3), Rider (12-1), and Temple (4-3).

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