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Monday March 5, 2001

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Icecats lose to Penn State, finish 8th in ACHA tournament

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By Chris Suffecool

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Penn State continues dominance over Arizona

After finishing the regular season undefeated at home, the Icecats finally lost on their own ice, ending their dream of a national title.

After defeating Kent State 7-3 Friday night, the Icecats lost by that same margin Saturday night to No. 2 seed - and defending American Collegiate Hockey Association national champions - Penn State.

The loss took Arizona out of the running for the national championship and put them into yesterday's seventh-place consolation game against top-seeded Eastern Michigan University.

The Icecats lost that game as well, 8-6, to finish eighth overall in the tournament.

It was Saturday's loss to Penn State, however, that marked the end of UA's title chances.

The Icecats appeared ready to face Penn State when the puck was dropped Saturday night. Arizona came out skating hard and scored just 1:53 into the game as junior forward Kyle Neary took a pass from defender Dave Galardini and beat Penn State goalie Scott Graham. Arizona and Penn State battled back and forth all period, trading goals on their way to a 3-3 tie at the end of one.

The second period belonged to the Icers until halfway through the second frame, Penn State scored two goals in a 25-second span.

The Icecats never recovered.

"It definitely took the wind out of our sails," junior defender Tom Wood said. "We fell apart after that. Once they got up by three (goals), it was tough."

After the first period, Penn State outscored Arizona 4-0.

Icecats head coach Leo Golembiewski said most of those goals should not have found their way into the back of the net.

"I thought the defense played really tight," he said. "I'm really proud of the 'D'. Obviously, it takes a lot of wind out of the offensive sails when you give up goals from outside like that. We worked hard, we just didn't get it done."

Arizona had no problem disposing of Kent State in Friday night's matchup. The Icecats struck first when junior forward Kevin Meehan took a pass from Neary and slipped it past Kent State's goaltender for a power-play goal at 4:50 in the first period.

Kent State tied the game ten minutes later when Curtis Carr beat Icecat goalie Jason Morgan.

Just 90 seconds later, Icecat junior defender Pavel Jandura unleashed a slap shot from just inside the blue line, and senior forward Marc Harris tipped it in to put the Icecats up 2-1.

From that point on, the Icecats dominated the game.

Arizona scored two goals in the first five minutes of the second period as Harris scored his second of the game on assists from Jandura and Neary.

Two minutes later, junior forward Mike Graves scored his first goal of the tournament to put Arizona ahead, 4-1. The Icecats would score three more times to put the Golden Flashes away.

Arizona finished the season on a losing note, dropping yesterday's consolation game against Eastern Michigan after giving up four goals in the final 2:42.

Arizona lead 5-4 when EMU scored three goals in less than three minutes and added an empty-net goal to seal the victory.

Wood said Arizona - eliminated from the title hunt prior to yesterday's game - was still feeling the effects of the loss to Penn State.

"I think we were just tired," Wood said. "I think everyone was a little wiped out.

"I thought we outplayed them pretty much the whole game. We didn't lose to anyone we weren't supposed to."

The Icecats finished the season with a 30-4-1 record, the first 30-win season for the hockey program.

Golembiewski knows his team will be good next year, despite the loss of senior forwards Paul Dorn, Kyle McNeilance and Ed Carfora along with Harris and Ty Brush.

"We've had good teams year after year," he said. "This is a great group of players; these five seniors are just spectacular. It's a loss of not only five seniors but five great friends."