Ice Hockey Recap: The First Ranked Opponent

I spent a portion of the weekend trying to find a good way to make a comparison for these games - partly because of the new territory being tread, partly because it's hard for people to know exactly what playing Union College means. (To be honest, I'm still trying to sort my way through the college hockey scene a bit myself.) Unfortunately, there's not really a good comparison to make. Union College is a small school with a deep, but not overly-successful, history. They've had a team as far back as 1903-04, and have been a full-time program since 1975-76. They had some success in the mid-eighties at the D3 level, made the jump to D1 with the 1991-92 season, and have slowly built a quality program. Right now, the Dutchmen are ranked 8th in the nation, coming off of an outstanding run to the Frozen Four last season.

Trying to make a comparison here really is difficult. I was thinking of some elaborate "If TCU played WKU in 2011" scenario (and if you get that, kudos to you) to help with comparisons; maybe "KSU vs UTSA" this season. Perhaps it's the unique beast that is college hockey that keeps this from being an easy comparison. Union is a program finding it's own recent run of success, slowly garnering attention (and respect) in the college hockey circles; Penn State is the upstart program, showing some life at the varsity level but still feeling its way through. And although Union would leave the weekend with a sweep, Penn State played the Dutchmen hard for 120 minutes, making sure the #8 team would earn their wins.

If there was ever a time for the cliche "moral victories" and "positive outlook after losses", this would be it. With some good wins under our belt already, and more quality recruits on board for the coming seasons, it's not hard to believe that these tough losses (on the road, against a ranked opponent) will soon simply be wins.

Everyone else was off for the weekend. The D1 Ladies head to Erie this coming weekend, playing a big series against CHA foe (#4) Mercyhurst; the D2 Ice Lions are hosting Delaware (Friday) and Temple (Saturday) in a couple of important games for their ACHA rankings; and the D2 ACHA ladies remain idle, just building up energy for the next time they get to hit somebody not wearing Blue and White.

Men's NCAA D1:

November 24, 2012 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 0 0 0 0
#8 Union 0 1 1 2
PSU Goals:
Penn State SOG: 22
Union SOG: 42

November 25, 2012 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 0 1 0 1
#8 Union 1 0 3 4
PSU Goals: Glen (7)
Penn State SOG: 38
Union SOG: 46

Summary: Saturday's game saw Union control most of the action, but Penn State found a way to keep Union frustrated and more importantly, off the scoreboard. A quick breakout late in the 2nd period finally gave Union the chance to beat Skoff and taking the 1-0 lead. Penn State started to apply some serious pressure late in the third, but came up empty handed. The Dutchmen would add an empty net goal to cap a 2-0 win.

Sunday's rematch saw a much more energized Nittany Lion squad. Union would score first, thanks to multiple re-directions and a final punch-in at the goal line. In the 2nd period, it was early-season superstar David Glen tying the game just 50 seconds into the period. Penn State would get more chances, but the Union goalie made sure the score remained a 1-1 tie. Even though Union pulled away in the third with three goals (the last was another empty-netter), it was more of a case of pucks finally getting past Skoff, rather than a drop in level of play. In fact, that third period was the only period in the weekend where Penn State out-shot Union (15-13). In the end, it goes down as a 4-1 loss and game where the final scoreboard does not properly reflect what actually happened on the ice.

Perhaps the biggest gain from the weekend is what appears to be Matt Skoff's arrival as the quality goaltender he showed in his club years. That's not to take anything away from PJ Musico, who has been outstanding with his 4-1-0 record this season. But we knew Skoff was very talented, and it's nice to have him playing at a high-quality level. And with any college sport, it's never bad to have two quality guys separated by a year of eligibility on the roster. Although Skoff left the weekend with two more losses, he stopped 82 of 86 shots and was the reason Penn State had a chance to steal a win in either game against the Dutchmen.

Season Record: 6-5-0 (5-4-0 NCAA D1)

Next Opponents: Next weekend is the first of three weekends this season where the Nittany Lions face off against some old ACHA foes. First up is Arizona State, who will be coming into the weekend as the unanimous #1 in the ACHA with a perfect 18-0-0 season.

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