Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MSU Drops Exhibition Contest, Q&A Part II with TYTBlog

Exhibition Loss

There's not much to say here - other than I don't know if it can get much worse. The offensive frustrations have to be at an all-time high. 

I think that video, and Coach Anastos' comments pretty much sum up how everyone feels. What makes it worse for this weekend is Matt Berry, the team's leading goal and point scorer, can't play Friday because of a game DQ for a hit from behind late in Tuesday's contest.

I guess the boiling point has been reached.

The Lansing State Journal recap has some telling quotes. It seems like one of two things will happen this weekend, either Michigan State let's it loose against Penn State and wins by a combined score of 458-0, or Michigan State falls flat on their face and drops a pair of games - digging that low point potentially further.

Penn State cannot be taken for granted. They have D-I wins that, on paper, look impressive - over Vermont this past Saturday and Ohio State. This is the same Ohio State team that swept Michigan State at Munn. Now granted, neither of those teams are powerhouses right now, but neither is Michigan State at the moment. Reality is reality. 

With that said, there is still a lot of hockey to be played, and Michigan State can salvage this one step at a time - if they buckle down and battle even harder - looking to limit the mistakes. A weekend like this could help, because we can't pretend that Minnesota is rolling into town. You can expect a team to battle hard - in what looks like their biggest series to date this season.

On that note, earlier this week we had the first part of a Q&A session with the Thank You Terry Blog. Here is the second half of that conversation, covering realignment, the Penn State scandal impact, thoughts on the "rivalry" between MSU and PSU (no Land Grant Trophy pictures this time - you've been punished enough), and thoughts on the weekend from a PSU perspective. Enjoy.....

TMM: The Big Ten has been criticized a great deal in hockey circles about blowing up the CCHA & WCHA and forming its own conference - even though we believe Notre Dame was actually the final straw in the CCHA. Personally, I'm in favor of the conference as it brings a brand name to the college hockey world - and I doubt that the smaller schools are going to avoid trying to schedule the Big Ten schools since they usually mean higher attendance at games. Do you think this move will ultimately be good or bad for college hockey?

TYT: I think good, although I believe some overstate the positive effects, because I don't think the Big Ten will suddenly cause ten new major-conference schools to add hockey. Nor will the BTN be a bottomless pit of revenue because although hockey is definitely growing in general and on television, it's not to the point where 8,000 new BTN advertisers and six million new BTN2Go subscribers will be lining up just because of some more hockey, in my opinion. The increased exposure for the game will be great though, it should help recruiting players whose families can't travel to every game, and hopefully it facilitates someone like Illinois or Nebraska adding it down the road. I'm not sure St. Cloud State fans want to hear it, but I think part of college hockey's "mainstream" issue is that many of the successful programs aren't the same ones people know from football and basketball. That won't be the case in the Big Ten, and the hard truth is that a good Big Ten, with its "name" schools is probably good for college hockey as a whole.

In some ways I think the Big Ten actually helps the small schools - I mean, one of those "new" WCHA schools is going to the NCAA tournament every year. So someone like a Bowling Green, if they're being honest with themselves, has better odds of playing for a conference championship and a national championship with the new alignment. If the WCHA lets Huntsville in, it may even save them, which wasn't happening without the shakeup.

Notre Dame might have been the final, final straw, but I really blame the NCHC more than anyone else. Without Minnesota and Wisconsin schools, the WCHA is still a fantastic conference. The CCHA without MSU, Michigan and Ohio State is weaker but still would have had ND, Miami and an up-and-coming Western Michigan. The Big Ten had to happen once six schools were available, because that's how all-sports conferences work, while the NCHC was an unapologetic overreaction/attempt at a hockey-only cash grab.

TMM: I have to bring it up - with everything that has happened at Penn State related to Jerry Sandusky, the hockey program started their season in what most outsiders looked at as an uncertain time in the history of Penn State Athletics. Do you believe the hockey program was impacted at all by everything that took place related to the football program? Did it impact the fan base for the hockey program at all by driving fans away or maybe bringing new fans in looking for something else related to Penn State to support?

TYT: I'm not sure whether the full impact of everything can be assessed just yet, unfortunately. I do know that in the early days of the scandal, hockey was at risk. There were rumors (credible, in my opinion) of legitimate worries about whether Terry Pegula would pull out and, even after he affirmed his support, of some in-fighting concerning the use of his donation by an athletic department suddenly worried about money. The ongoing costs of the scandal are certainly something that could have a ripple effect down the road, but the plan is for hockey to be self-sufficient by itself, to not have to depend on football for its budget. Plans change of course, and "self-sufficient" seems like kind of a reach when looking at hockey programs around the country, but that's the idea for now.

Beyond that though, I can't really think of any significant impact on hockey. Granted, I'm not on that metaphorical living room couch with the recruits and how things are received, but in general, recruiting has gone as well as can be expected. Most people see things for what they are, a horrible situation that, at worst from a Penn State standpoint, involves a few people at the top of the PSU food chain. My personal belief is that there was a little more involvement than from those who have been implicated, but regardless, this had nothing to do with students, student-athletes, alumni, the quality of education at the university, etc. Of course, opposing fans give it to us - Buffalo State's were particularly brutal, including graphic signs that had to be confiscated by police, as were Neumann's at the Citizens Bank Park game last year (so I'm told, I was in an enclosed press box for that one).

I can only really speak for myself on that last question, but I think that's a valid point - I was always a hockey-first guy, but I openly admit to being less of a football fan and doubling down on hockey since everything hit the fan. It's possible that I'm not the only one who has done something like that, including with other sports.

TMM: Speaking of fan support, how has everyone associated with Penn State (students, alumni, fans, etc...) embraced the hockey programs? 

TYT: It's a tough thing to read right now. I think there are some very positive indicators, but also some cause for concern. Despite living in Ohio, I bought season tickets for the ACHA team in the last year because it meant priority on the first NCAA season. Our current rink has 1,300 seats, we've waited forever for NCAA hockey, I thought it was be a virtually impossible ticket and that I was being smart. It hasn't really turned out that way. There were still walk-up tickets available on the day of the season opener, our first-ever NCAA game. The atmosphere has been great at times, lacking at others. Our last game, Tuesday against Neumann, was not a sellout. No-name opponent, Tuesday night, sure, but we'll be playing weeknight games sometimes thanks to BTN, so people should probably get over that. I am a little concerned about our ability to fill a 6,000-seat building once everyone's gotten through their "well, I've seen the building" trip to a game. Penn State also has a broader sports landscape than most schools, with five sports that draw more than 3,000 fans per game (wrestling and women's volleyball along with football and the two basketball teams). Is there room for one more?

The other side of the coin is that in some situations, there has been demonstrated interest on a fantastic level. Our game with AIC in Wilkes-Barre drew 5,389. The Three Rivers Classic games drew 11,663 and 10,797 (granted, with help from fans of three other teams). A big crowd is expected Saturday in Philadelphia for Vermont, and our game on February 1st against ACHA Ohio University will probably do pretty well. It seems like there is interest in Penn State hockey from around the commonwealth, but that it hasn't translated to getting people to campus for a Tuesday night game. That said, it's impossible to find a Penn Stater who isn't excited about what's happening, and it's entirely possible that next year will be different, with a full DI schedule, the arena and the Big Ten. In a lot of ways, the athletic department has framed that as the "real" beginning, so that might be reflected in the fan base too.

TMM: The Land Grant Trophy - like it or hate it? 

TYT: A lot of Penn Staters never understood being paired up with MSU for the end-of-the-season football game, but I've always liked the rivalry. It's certainly not a hate-filled rivalry - I consider MSU to be my second-favorite Big Ten school - but...1855, land grant origins, we both have to deal with superiority complex wielding schools also bearing the state name (at least ours isn't much of a factor in sports), blue and green are my two favorite colors...the schools are so similar, it's like playing your twin brother.

I know a lot of people hate the trophy - and it IS hideous - but making fun of the trophy is yet another thing we have in common. Without it, what would people tweet about on PSU-MSU week?

TMM: Should the schools consider moving the trophy over to the hockey season series winner - considering we'll actually play each other quite a bit more on the ice than on the football field? Or would we be better of just destroying the thing?

TYT: I'd absolutely love to do something with MSU, for the reasons I just mentioned, whether the Land Grant Trophy or something else. I'm a grad student at the University of Akron, and they play Kent State for the Wagon Wheel in football every year. But now they've started something extra, called the Wagon Wheel Challenge, where the two schools get points for head-to-head wins across all sports, and a winner is declared at the end of the year (this is the first year of it, so I have no clue if there's a trophy or what - the actual Wagon Wheel still goes to the football winner). So even something like that would be kind of interesting... with our new hockey program, your great basketball program and who knows what happens with PSU football over the next couple years, we could use the backup from women's soccer and volleyball. Whatever happens, I really hope something takes hold with someone. I get the sense that Ohio State will be our most hated opponent, but if they're always looking north like they do in football, that won't work like it should.

TMM: Any way-too-early predictions on the Big Ten season next year?

TYT: Well, I think you have to say Minnesota's the team to beat until proven otherwise. Michigan and Wisconsin always have tons and tons of talent going through - I just saw some of those Michigan guys with the NTDP, and they're pretty legit. Honestly, I think both of those programs tend to underachieve relative to where they should be, and both fan bases are sort of restless with their coaches about it. I'm a big Anastos believer - he's the type of guy who just makes people want to follow him - so I think you'll bounce back and be in that mix too. Someone just asked me about PSU on the blog...if we win five of the 20, I'll be happy with that. I'm not sure people understand that it doesn't work quite the same way when conference points are on the line as it does when you're a first-year independent. Ohio State played Olson instead of Hjelle against us, as one example. But for what it's worth, we'll be competitive, force people to earn wins, and really, there's no reason why we won't have at least a shot of beating OSU for fifth. Our rosters should actually look pretty similar next year.

TMM: Prediction for the weekend series?

TYT: I think the idea of playing to the competition is a little bit of a myth in general, but that's sort of how Penn State has read this year, and I really think it partly depends on the Vermont game Saturday. If we win that one, I think an MSU sweep is most likely. If we don't, I think the team's bounce back will help us steal a game. I expect two of our better games either way - to be brutally honest, we can't win an "A-game vs. A-game" match-up with a major-conference team right now, but hopefully you guys write us off a little.

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