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Ice Hockey Recap: One More Team Says Goodbye to the Greenberg

While the ladies were in New York attempting to grab a win against RIT, the men's team were playing in their final games at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. To help make things interesting, the boys were playing ACHA D1 Oklahoma Sooners, and there was no love lost between the two teams resulting from last season's match-ups.

The Pegula Ice Arena in progress
The Pegula Ice Arena in progress

With the Independent League Championship (oh yeah, I said it) in the rear-view mirror, the Nittany Lions hosted their final home games of the season. These games essentially acted as an unofficial passing of the guard for Penn State Ice Hockey. While one more important ice hockey game is still to be played at the Greenberg (ACHA WD2 plays their first and only game at GIP this coming weekend WIHC game has been cancelled due to their opponent not having enough players, so the men's games are in fact the end of hockey at the Ice Pavilion), the men's team finished their 30+ year run at the Ice Pavilion. Between the end of playing at the Greenberg, and a senior weekend in which most of the legacy Icers played in their final home games, it was a collective end of one era of Penn State Ice Hockey, with the dawning of an exciting new era just months away from being in full swing. (Sorry for the poetic mumbo-jumbo - I get sentimental about this part of my Penn State history.)

Helping to bring an end to the era were the ACHA Oklahoma Sooners - a team with whom the Nittany Lions have some interesting recent history. And from the sounds of it, players on both sides had not forgotten Penn State's 3rd period-and-OT 4-3 comeback. Or the National quarterfinals game that saw OU's starting goaltender in the penalty box to start the 3rd period, giving PSU the opportunity to grab the lead and never look back. Oh, and former Penn Stater Bryce Johnson was now on the other bench. So fun times were to be had by all.

On the women's side, it was a trip to New York to take on CHA opponent RIT. After a couple of weekends of close losses, the ladies were looking to turn their efforts into positive results. The two teams played in two tight contests in October, with RIT taking the first game 4-1, before using some late heroics to steal a win from Penn State and forcing a 2-2 tie. There was little doubt that the Nittany Lions were looking to return the favor on RIT's home ice.

Men's NCAA D1:

February 15, 2013 1 2 3 Final
Oklahoma (ACHA) 1 0 0 1
PENN STATE 0 2 2 4
PSU Goals: Longo, Yanis, Brooks, Holstrom
Oklahoma SOG: 32
Penn State SOG: 41

Summary: Because scoring first against ACHA teams is apparently against the rules for Penn State, Oklahoma was the first team to score in the Friday match-up. After 19 scoreless minutes to open the game, OU broke through with a last-minute goal to give the Soners a 1-0 heading into the 1st intermission. Normally, letting up a goal in the final minute of any period is a hockey sin, as it is a huge momentum swing for the scoring team. On this Friday night, it ultimately amounted to nothing. Penn State controlled the second period, leading in shots (14-6) and more importantly taking a 2-1 lead, thanks to senior Mike Longo and freshman Mark Yanis. It was more of the same in the third, with Kenny Brooks extending the lead to 3-1 just 36 seconds into the final period. Taylor Holstrom would cap the scoring a few minutes later, giving Penn State a 4-1 win.

February 16, 2013 1 2 3 Final
Oklahoma (ACHA) 0 0 0 0
PENN STATE 0 0 3 3
PSU Goals: Loik, Brooks, Longo
Oklahoma SOG: 26
Penn State SOG: 51

Summary: If there's anything that can be said about this Nittany Lion team, they are consistent. And to maintain their consistency, the boys struggled in the Saturday match-up against an ACHA team. While Penn State controlled much of the play, Oklahoma's goaltender kept the Sooners in this one, holding the score to a scoreless tie after 40 minutes of play. Finally, 3:24 into the 3rd period, Curtis Loik broke through the OU goalie, putting Penn State up 1-0. Halfway through the period, flashbacks from last season's ACHA National Tournament came back. An Oklahoma penalty opened the door for Penn State - this time, a five-minute boarding major led to two quick powerplay goals. Kenny Brooks and Michael Longo scored just 14 seconds apart, giving the Nittany Lions an insurmountable 3-0 lead. Matt Skoff would ward off any late Sooner scoring chances, earning the shutout, and closing the men's ice hockey team's run in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion with a 3-0 victory.

Season Record: 12-13-0 (10-11-0 NCAA D1) (6-2-0 in exhibition play, not included in the season record)

Next Opponents: Closing out the inaugural season for the Nittany Lions will be a trip to the Kohl Center to take on the Wisconsin Badgers. After opening the season with a 1-7-3 record, the Badgers are trying to make a serious run at the post-season, with a 12-3-4 record since December 1st, including wins over 4 teams currently ranked in the top 10 (Minnesota, Miami, Minnesota State, Denver). Oh, and they've made their way to #18 in the rankings. In essence, this weekend went from "Awesome match-up against a quality team" to "Program with great history" back to "A win would be season-defining" in the course of the hockey season. The games will be an odd Sunday and Monday set, but the Monday game will be aired on the BTN (8:05pm EST, 7:05pm CST).

As an additional note, it was made official today that the new Pegula Ice Arena will host it's first men's game on Friday, October 11th. The Nittany Lions will host the Army Black Knights in the first game at the new arena, which will certainly sell out quickly (that being homecoming weekend vs. Michigan doesn't hurt the cause). Mark your calendars, and good luck getting tickets!

Women's NCAA D1:

February 15, 2013 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 0 0 1 1
RIT 1 1 1 3
PSU Goals: Gross (5)
Penn State SOG: 22

February 16, 2013 1 2 3 Final
PENN STATE 0 0 0 0
RIT 0 3 1 4
PSU Goals:
Penn State SOG: 20

Summary: Kyle over at TYT made a comment on Twitter following the Friday night game that rung fairly true for me. He noted that earlier in the season, a 3-1 score was the result of one of our goaltenders keeping the game tight. While the goaltenders have continued to be outstanding, the ladies are now just a play or two from turning these losses into wins. While RIT took advantage of their power plays, Penn State had a number of close chances in the Friday night game to tie or cut into the lead throughout the first two periods. Even in the period they were outshot the most on Friday night (3rd period), Penn State still found a way to get on the board (thanks to Taylor Gross) and make perhaps a late run.

Every now and then, Penn State still has a very poor period which breaks the game open in the wrong direction. In Saturday's game, this was the 2nd period. After a scoreless first, RIT hit the gas in the 2nd period and Penn State couldn't stop the Tigers. The shots were 24-4 for RIT in the period, but more importantly was the 3-0 score heading into the final period. Penn State would actually out-shoot RIT in the 3rd period of Saturday's game, but to no avail. RIT would add a 4th goal late in the period, giving the Tigers the weekend sweep and ensuring PSU would be the 6th seed at the CHA Playoffs in a couple of weeks.

Season Record: 7-22-2 Overall, 1-15-2 CHA

Next Opponent: The ladies are on the road for again next weekend, heading to Pittsburgh to take on Robert Morris in the final games of the regular season. RMU took the first two match-ups to the tune of 7-1 and 4-1 victories. However, Robert Morris has had an interesting season since that point. They've beaten CHA Regular Season champion Mercyhurst 3 of the 4 meetings this season. But the Colonials have only won one other game since December 1st (vs. Lindenwood), and are 2-11-1 in their last 14 games. The Nittany Lions will certainly look to use some of their recent momentum to steal a game this weekend against the struggling Colonials.