T-D HS Hockey

Penn State to host LMHL title tilt

By: Mike Mastovich

The Laurel Mountain Hockey League was forced to improvise as available ice time in March became scarce at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
What might have been a negative situation turned into a positive.
The LMHL championship game will be played at Penn State University’s brand new Pegula Ice Arena next month.
“It’s gorgeous. It’s a state-of-the art arena,” LMHL President Brock Golesich said on Wednesday. “I think it will be a unique experience for the players to get a chance to play in an arena of that caliber. I’ve been up there and it rivals Consol (Energy Center) not in terms of overall size, but in quality. It’s a great ice surface and a nice environment.”
Traditionally, the LMHL championship has been played at the War Memorial.
“It is a neat solution to a unique problem of having too much demand on the building,” said War Memorial General Manager Tom Grenell, who worked with Golesich and the LMHL and supported the league’s decision. “If we have too much demand on the building, we’re all doing our job. Brock is a real class act and he’s been really great to deal with, and we’re looking to grow our business together.”
The LMHL title contest has attracted large and enthusiastic crowds in recent seasons, with big draws for last year’s game between champion Richland and Greater Johnstown and the 2012 contest between champion Johnstown and Somerset.
“There is no ice available at the War Memorial in the month of March with wrestling, three concerts and Disney on Ice,” Golesich said. “With the attendance we’ve been getting for the championship game, I don’t think we could do it at Planet Ice.”
Golesich said the date of the title game hasn’t officially been determined. He said March 20 or March 21 are the most likely dates.
The six-team LMHL playoffs open during the week of March 10. The top two finishers will have a first-round byes.
On Wednesday, RMG Sports announced it will televise the LMHL championship game on tape delay on March 30. RMG condenses the entire game into a fast-paced, 30-minute television program aired throughout the Johnstown/Altoona market and online.
“This will be the third consecutive year that RMG Sports has teamed up with the LMHL to televise their championship game and showcase our local athletes,” RMG President Jarred Romesburg said in a statement. “It’s great to be working with the league again, and the entire Power Play crew is thrilled to be covering the game in the new arena at Penn State.”
Richland coach J.J. Vasilko anticipates the move will be well-received.
“It’s a great opportunity for the two teams lucky enough to play in a venue like that one,” Vasilko said. “From people I’ve talked to, it is a state-of-the art facility. For these kids to be afforded that opportunity to play on the same ice as a Division I team is just phenomenal.”
Vasilko recalled a similar experience as a player with Richland during the 1999 PIHL Penguin Cup playoffs.
“The big thing is if you make it down there you don’t want the distractions of the big venue,” he said. “I remember when we played my freshman year at Mellon Arena, it was a little overwhelming at first.”
Golesich said the move to Pegula Ice Arena this year might lead to other title games being played at Penn State.
“This is going to be a trial year for us,” Golesich said. “We’re going to see how it works out and get feedback from fans, players and coaches.”
The only downside is that the Johnstown area will miss out on hosting a title event.
“We could not fit in them and all of our events,” Grenell said. “Brock and I had a very good conversation. The War Memorial actually participated in developing the idea for them to go to Pegula. We offered our other facility in Ebensburg. Brock said it was going to be on TV and he wanted to project his product at the best level. He proposed this and I endorsed it wholeheartedly.”
Vasilko said the league’s teams understand the situation.
“Playing at the War Memorial, it is a great venue and they’ve always been real good to us,” Vasilko said. “They run it, and it’s a business. At the end of the day, they have to sell the time. It worked out in our favor this year.
“I like the War Memorial. It’s a great place to play and a great place to coach. But at the end of the day, (scheduling conflicts) got us out to Penn State, and that’s a great thing.”

Mike Mastovich is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/masty81.