Catching the Game: Independent League Megabowl! (at Penn State, 2/8-9)

We’re still buzzing over the program’s admission into the WCHA, but this season goes on with four road games to go. The boys play for the first time in four weeks as the head to “Hockey Valley” to face Penn State in a battle between Division I’s lone (temporarily) independent programs. Or, as Nittany Lions forward Tommy Olczyk has dubbed it:

And yes, it is catching on:

Friday’s and Saturday’s games start at 6:30 p.m. with live stats, live audio and live pay-per-view video. We’ll also try to throw in some live tweeting as well (#IndependentLeagueMegaBowl).

PennStateHockeyThis is Penn State’s first season as a varsity program. Its creation made PSU  the sixth Big Ten school with varsity hockey, which made it possible for the Big Ten to have a championship in the sport. The creation of the Big Ten’s hockey conference essentially led to the birth of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference, the demise of the CCHA, and the reconstitution of the WCHA. And that gave UAH the opportunity to find its new home starting next season.

Of course, all that takes effect this fall. Right now, let’s look at UAH and Penn State, two programs with a some similarities and some history together.

The Nittany Lions’ inaugural varsity season features a schedule of opponents similar to UAH: a mix of Division I, Division III, and club teams, although Penn State’s strategy was intentional as they ease to the big leagues from club status.

While it’s the first time UAH and Penn State will meet as varsity programs, the two met six times as club teams in the 1980s.

The first was a 1982 National Club Hockey Championships quarterfinal. The Chargers battled to a 4-3 victory before cruising to their first national championship.

The 1983 rematch was in the championship game, and it was another thriller: 5-4 over the Lions as UAH defended its crown at the Von Braun (then Civic) Center.

Penn State visited Huntsville for a two-game series early in the 1983-84 season, and again the Chargers prevailed 6-3 and 4-3. The Lions finally got a win against UAH at Penn State later that season, beating the Chargers 5-4 after UAH won the first game 9-3.

UAH would still go on to win club national title No. 3 in 1984. However, Penn State, which wasn’t in the national club championship hosted in Huntsville, claims to have won a national title in 1984 as well. So what gives?

Apparently, by 1984 there was another season-ending tournament for club hockey called the National Invitation Tournamet. The Lions won that tourney while the Chargers won theirs. But that was the relative lack of organization in college hockey back then: It wouldn’t be until 1991 when the American College Hockey Association became the umbrella organization of club college hockey.

At any rate, it’s great to see these two schools meet again for the first time in 29 years. Hopefully Penn State will make a return to the VBC in the near future.

But for now, there’s a Megabowl to win.

For more about the Charger-Lion battles of 1983 and 1984, check out the Penn State blog Thank You Terry.

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