Penn State Hockey: Icers Upset in ACHA Semifinals, Ending Era at Club Level
With the Penn State men's hockey team becoming Division I eligible at the start of next season, the storied program will never again be able to repeat history at the club level.
So, in a way, it was only fitting that history repeated itself in an all too eerie way for the top-seeded Icers on Tuesday night in a 5-3 loss to 13th-seed Oakland in the ACHA semifinals at Hoover Arena in Strongsville, Ohio.
Oakland's Jordan MacDonald matched the four goals that Will McMahon scored in the 2007 ACHA finals, which was the last time the Golden Grizzlies had upset the Icers.
"Everyone is very disappointed. There no way anybody thought until maybe 12 seconds left in game that we wouldn’t be playing tomorrow," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said in a telephone interview.
"We did a lot of good things tonight, and everybody involved wanted to win this one."
Penn State, which finished 29-4-1, assumes varsity status next fall as an independent and will continue to play its games at the Ice Pavilion on campus. It will open a state-of-the-art hockey facility, Pegula Ice Arena, in 2013-14 and join the Big Ten that season.
This was a season that signified many lasts for the Icers. It was the first deficit they faced all season heading into the third period that resulted in a loss — their exhibition game at the Winter Classic with Neumann notwithstanding.
After a back-and-forth first period that saw the Icers tie the game at two on Jacob Friedman's ninth goal of the year with 1:20 to play, Adam Novack took a turnover and powered a shot past Icers goaltender Matt Madrazo (13 saves) to give Oakland the lead back, 3-2, with 38 minutes left to play in the contest. It was the only goal of the second period, and the Golden Grizzlies increased that lead to 4-2 when MacDonald netted a hat trick just two minutes into the third period.
"We played pretty well in the first period, probably our best start of the tournament, and we had a lot of chances," Gadowsky said. "We hit two crossbars in the second period and had a lot of good chances in the third period, too."
Nate Jensen briefly gave Penn State a spark of hope with a goal from the slot with 11 minutes to play, but the Icers could not close the gap on the scoreboard despite a 38-22 shot advantage. Once MacDonald scored goal No. 4 on a backhand that slid past an out of position Madrazo, the final nail was placed in the Icers' coffin for the 2011-2012 club season, and forever.
Leading point scorer, Justin Kirchhevel, was not in the lineup. He was hit with a double minor in Sunday's win against Oklahoma, but Gadowsky said only that it was his decision to sit the sophomore forward.
For Penn State seniors Chris Cerutti, Paul Daley, Dan Loucks, Nick Seravalli, and State College natives Kurt Collins and Dan Petrick, they usher out an era of Icers hockey that won 47 championships, including seven national titles.
But a new phase of hockey in University Park will get under way next fall, and Gadowsky said things are moving along smoothly.
"Recruiting and planning never stops, we are making calls tonight even," he said.