National tourney brings game, unique atmosphere to Laurel

Penn State, Illinois to meet for title today

College Hockey

March 03, 2002|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Robert Schapiro was talking about the American Collegiate Hockey Association national tournament. He was impressed by the caliber of play. He loved Friday's overtime game between Iowa State and Ohio. He enjoyed the banter of the Penn State fans.

But when Schapiro, a Cockeysville resident who works as a ticket taker at Camden Yards and a substitute teacher, thought about Iowa State's cheerleaders his eyes lit up.

"Cheerleaders!" he said. "Did you see them? That's fascinating. I'm like any other man. I like to look at cheerleaders. But, at a hockey game? I expect to see them at a football game or a Blast game. But I'm not used to seeing them at a hockey game. It added to the enjoyment so much."

At the far end of grandstand in The Gardens Ice House rink in Laurel, the cheerleaders cheered.

"Skate, shoot, score, Cyclones! One more!"

The Cyclones could have used many more scores last night, as they were beaten, 6-2, by No. 1 seed Penn State. The Nittany Lions have won the national title three of the past four years. Last night, they moved into their fifth consecutive final.

Today, at 2 p.m., they will meet No. 7 Illinois, which defeated No. 3 Minot State, 9-4.

"I can't say enough about our depth," said Penn State coach Joe Pattista. "We're without three of our top players. ... I think our fans helped us a lot. The enthusiasm they have, the roar we heard when we came on the ice, boosted our players."

"We'd like to play our Big Ten brothers," he added. "But Minot is probably the most talented and underrated team here."

The Minot Beaver fans - all 10 of them - eyed the Iowa State cheerleaders, who are the only cheerleading squad among the 35 Division I club teams in the ACHA.

"We'd like to borrow them," said Lisa Eriksmoen, Minot's team adviser and director of student life. "They are wearing our colors."

Jay Chrustowski, whose son Todd is a defenseman for Illinois, has enjoyed the tournament. Illinois had upset No. 2 Delaware and beaten Arizona to reach the semifinal, and he said the players' moms were the team's cheerleaders.

"I told Todd I made this with not much talent but with a lot of love," said Jodi Chrustowski, holding up a hand-stitched sign that read, "Illini Hockey"

The Penn State fans were most dominant. The Ice Palace holds about 2,600 plus standing room, and the vast majority of fans packed into the building yesterday evening were rooting for the Lions.

Penn State alum Mike McRedmond or one of his friends would put a yellow square with black holes and the goal number on the glass. "It's the Swiss cheese count," said McRedmond, explaining a term for goalies who give up scores.

Towson coach Marshall Stevenson, whose club was host of this national tournament (www.achanationals2002.com), said he is delighted by what has occurred here.

"It provided good visibility for the game," he said. "It has shown off a fine caliber of hockey, generated great enthusiasm from the fans and showed good community support."

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