The last time Penn State faced the Oklahoma Sooners, the Icers club team made what Associate Athletic Director for Ice Arena and Hockey Operations Joe Battista called “one of the best comebacks in the history” of the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
The Icers found themselves down by three goals with 55 minutes already played. Once Justin Kirchhevel put the Icers on the board, the second goal was scored a minute later and got the equalizer with 32 seconds left.
George Saad went on to score the game-winner three minutes into overtime to complete the comeback.
Sophomore winger Tommy Olczyk said the entire game was a “total letdown” up until the Icers got their first goal, which opened the “floodgates.”
“We didn’t play the way we wanted, we weren’t playing Penn State hockey,” the team captain said. “We definitely haven’t forgotten about it.”
The Sooners come to Happy Valley as the sixth-ranked team in the ACHA with a 21-11-5 record. Friday’s game is set for a 7:30 p.m. faceoff while the Ice Pavilion’s final game is set for the Lions’ only afternoon start of the season at 3:30 p.m.
“I’ve definitely gotten very fond of Greenberg the last four years,” senior defenseman Rich O’Brien said. “I’m sad to see it go, but [the team] will move into a greater place next year.”
The Pegula Ice Arena has its first game set for Oct. 11 when the Nittany Lions host the Army Black Knights during homecoming weekend.
O’Brien played all four years of his time at Penn State. He said he was happy just to have played for the Icers club team.
“I loved my years playing club and coach [Scott] Balboni,” O’Brien said. “I’ve loved the last two years as well with coach [Guy] Gadowsky and all of the new guys. I’ve seen a lot of faces come through Penn State so I’ve gotten to meet a lot more guys than I would have.”
The Nittany Lions have five other seniors (defenseman Brian Dolan, forwards Saad, Eric Steinour, Dominic Morrone, and Michael Longo) that played three seasons on the club team before playing their final year on the Division I team.
This weekend will also see the return of Bryce Johnson, which O’Brien said, could make the weekend series more intense. The forward’s departure from the Lions was announced on the team’s Twitter page on Jan. 3. The Grimes, Iowa native transferred to Oklahoma.
Johnson said he “needed a change” on his personal Twitter account. Johnson didn’t record a point in eight games with the Nittany Lions this year before transferring.
Lions’ coach Guy Gadowsky said the team is focused on themselves and looking at the Sooners as another opponent despite last year’s outcome.
The Lions will only have four defensemen due to injuries. Dolan, along with junior Nate Jensen, and freshman Joseph Lordo are all expected to miss both games this weekend, Gadowsky said. It will be the first time that Gadowsky has ever experienced back-to-back weekends with only four guys patrolling the blue line.
Penn State may also be missing their captain. Olczyk is day-to-day with a rib injury he suffered last Friday against Alabama-Huntsville. The injury forced Olczyk to miss last Saturday’s second game against the Chargers.