Army and Penn State meet in a season-opening ice hockey game for the second season in a row; this time, it’s Penn State christening its recently finished Pegula Ice Arena. The game will be televised by Big Ten Network at 8 p.m.
Army coach Brian Riley likes what he’s seen from his team headed into the opener.
“We really like some of the combinations these lines have right now,’’ Riley said. He’s going with two offensive lines, a physical line and an energy line.
There was some doubt whether the game would take place given the partial shutdown of the national government and whether Army athletics would be utilizing frozen funds. The team got the go-ahead on Wednesday. Riley believes the team has the go-ahead to play games through the month of October – the Black Knights have off next weekend and take on Merrimack on Oct. 26.
“It’s been a crazy week with the shutdown and not knowing for a while,’’ Riley said. “But we are certainly thankful for the opportunity and glad everything has worked out. I appreciate the work that people have done, and the folks at Penn State have been really patient and understanding of our situation. I am glad that it worked out.’’
Riley said he was looking forward to seeing the newest college hockey venue.
“This will be a great experience for everybody to be part of a special opening of the new arena there and the atmosphere will be amazing,’’ Riley said.
The light schedule in October is rare for Army but Riley is not complaining seeing how he has to work with a team that has 21 freshmen and sophomores.
“It just worked out this way,’’ Riley said of the fortuitous scheduling. “This might not be a bad idea to have two non-league games (and) mostly for the month we can focus on practice.’’
Penn State won last season’s meeting, 5-0.
“I do recall, from start to finish, that was one of the game we were never in,’’ Riley said of the West Point whitewashing. “That was a credit to them.’’
This is only the second year of varsity hockey at Penn State, which emerged from years of success at the club hockey level and is now part of the new Big Ten hockey conference.
“Obviously their talent pool has increased with the players they have brought in, with NHL draft picks,’’ Riley said. “They will be very talented.’’
Riley said the key for Army is to break the game down into small increments and trying to win each segment.
“When you are in this type of environment, we talked about just worrying about the first 5-10 minutes,’’ Riley said. “They are going to be keyed up enough. You don’t want to give them any opportunities to spark them by getting on the board early. We’ll try to dictate the tempo of the game. Hopefully we’ll make it a 20-minute game (the third period) – at that point, the pressure is on them.’’