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Ice Hockey Recap: Tough Losses and a #MegaBowl

The men tangled with the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers in the Twitter-created #IndependentLeagueMegaBowl, while the ladies closed out their home schedule with the Lindenwood Lady Lions.

The Alabama-Huntsville Chargers have had a very rocky recent history. They have seen their hockey program killed and revived on two separate occasions. Between their administrative battles and the fact that they've long been an independent, the Chargers have struggled to put together any real consistency - their 3-17-1 record on the season speaks to that. A jump to the WCHA next season might help bring some stability to the program, and perhaps some future success. For now, Penn State looked to give the Greenberg Ice Pavilion a weekend sweep of a NCAA D1 team as one of the last parting gifts for the old rink. And seeing how these are the only two Independent teams in D1, Nittany Lions' captain Tommy Olczyk declared the weekend series the "Independent League MegaBowl", so there was that to play for.

On the women's side, it was senior weekend and a great chance to leave the Greenberg on a high note, as Lindenwood came to State. Both teams are recent ACHA converts, and both teams have had their struggles this season. A couple of positive outcomes would surely help set a good tone for the remainder of the current season, as well as looking forward to next year.

Men's NCAA D1:

February 8, 2013 1 2 3 Final
Alabama-Huntsville 0 0 0 0
PENN STATE 0 2 2 4
PSU Goals: Glen (13, 14, 15), Gardiner (3)
Alabama-Huntsville SOG: 23
Penn State SOG: 43

Summary: Friday night's game opened with an even first 20 minutes of play - a scoreless period with Penn State having a slight shot advantage (10-8), and only one penalty. The second period saw the action pick up, and the Nittany Lions were on the right side of the scoreboard. David Glen got Penn State on the board early in the 2nd period, and the Lions would not look back from there. Amidst the increase in hitting and physicality, and Penn State outshooting the Chargers 17-7 in the period, Max Gardiner extended the lead to 2-0 after two periods of play. The extra-curricular activity continued into the third period, with the two teams combining for 30 minutes worth of penalties in the period alone. In terms of offense, the third period belonged to David Glen, as he added two more goals, marking the first official hat trick in of the new era of hockey at Penn State. Matt Skoff stopped all 23 shots his way, helping Penn State skate easily to a 4-0 victory.

February 9, 2013 1 2 3 Final
Alabama-Huntsville 0 1 2 3
PENN STATE 1 1 2 4
PSU Goals: Bailey (13), Glen (16), Brooks (2), Yanis (4)
Alabama-Huntsville SOG: 27
Penn State SOG: 36

Summary: In the Saturday rematch, Penn State would control much of the early action, getting numerous scoring rushes and opportunities. Halfway through the period, the Nittany Lions finally capitalized on this offensive momentum, with Casey Bailey ripping home a shot from the slot, and giving Penn State a seemingly-rare 1-0 lead. David Glen continued his scoring touch, adding his 4th of the weekend in the 2nd period, extending the lead to 2-0. The Chargers would counter late in the period to cut the lead in half, and then took advantage of some penalties against Penn State to tie the game at 2-2 early in the 3rd period. Kenny Brooks gave Penn State the lead at the 7:23 mark of the period, but UAH countered with their own goal five minutes later. With less than five minutes in the game, Mark Yanis - one of only four defensemen dressed for the game (due to injuries) - stepped into a slap shot that soared past the UAH goaltender, giving Penn State the 4-3 lead. Matt Skoff would finish off the game from there, ensuring Penn State's sweep of Alabama-Huntsville.

Season Record: 12-13-0 (10-11-0 NCAA D1) (4-2-0 in exhibition play, not included in the season record)

Next Opponents: Another exhibition weekend - this time it's ACHA D1 Oklahoma on the slate. It's senior weekend, and alumni weekend, and the final games for Penn State men's ice hockey in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. That's right - the last time a game will be played in a yellow hue, where all your pictures have an automatic sepia tone. Maybe I'll just look at this as closing the door on the ACHA days, and opening the Pegula Ice Arena to the days of NCAA glory. Oh, and former Icer/Nittany Lion Bryce Johnson makes his return - he left Penn State earlier this semester, jumping to Oklahoma. Should be an interesting return.

Women's NCAA D1:

February 8, 2013 1 2 3 Final
Lindenwood 0 1 2 3
PENN STATE 1 0 0 1
PSU Goals: Laurenzi (3)
Lindenwood SOG: 45
Penn State SOG: 36

February 9, 2013 1 2 3 OT Final
Lindenwood 1 1 1 0 3
PENN STATE 1 1 1 0 3
PSU Goals: Yoxheimer (13), Shaw (3), Holdcroft (10)
Lindenwood SOG: 47
Penn State SOG: 28

Summary: This was a painful weekend for the ladies. In Friday's game, Emily Laurenzi (who I have vastly underrated this season) gave Penn State the 1-0 lead in the first period, before Lindenwood slowly chipped away. A second period goal and early 3rd period goal put LU ahead 2-1. Penn State made a strong effort to come back, but their efforts fell short. Lindenwood added an empty-net goal, skating to a 3-1 victory. In Saturday's game, the two teams traded goals each period - Penn State would take the lead, and Lindenwood would tie it up. Jill Holdcroft's goal in the 3rd looked to be the game-winner, but some referee-caused confusion before a late-period draw, combined with some blatant missed calls against LU, allowed the Lady Lions to tie the game with just 42 seconds left in the game. Neither team scored in the overtime period, and so Senior Day for Penn State ended in a 3-3 draw.

After finally getting to see the ladies live, there a a couple of things that stood out to me. For all of the "negative" things I saw, they were all issues of a young team that can certainly be improved upon for next season. Some conditioning things, some simple improvements in play - nothing that can't be fixed and start turning these "great efforts" into "great wins". On the positive side, I can't tell you how impressed I felt knowing that we have 3 very capable scoring lines. Early in the season, it was the Shannon Yoxheimer show - if she wasn't scoring, the Nittany Lions weren't scoring at all. But now, there are three very serious scoring lines, and all three tallied a goal in Saturday's game. Jill Holdcroft and Hannah Hoenshell have become serious scoring threats, and their linemates are great compliments to the lines' top scorer. (Oh, and I'm still trying to figure out how Hoenshell, at 5'3", can generate that powerful of a slapshot.) Add some experience, training, and new talent, and I have little doubt that this team will start generating wins next season.

Season Record: 7-20-2 Overall, 1-13-2 CHA

Next Opponent: The ladies are on the road for the final two weekends of the regular season, starting next week with a trip to RIT (12-13-5, 5-6-5). In their first meeting, RIT took the first game (4-1) before stealing a win away from Penn State with a late 3rd period goal to force a 2-2 tie. (That sounds strangely familiar...) Penn State is a much improved team since then, and they will certainly be looking to grab another win in the CHA before the league tournament in March.