Bleary-eyed last Sunday morning from watching a second straight Penn State hockey game go into double overtime, Seth and Stacey Miller knew what they had to do.
As university alumni and season ticket-holders for each of the Nittany Lions’ four seasons in Pegula Ice Arena, they were dedicated fans.
And it didn’t matter that both had to work Friday, meaning waking up bright and early Saturday morning to drive from Bellefonte to the banks of the Ohio River.
“For us, a six-hour trip seemed like an easy decision for us,” Seth Miller said. “We were there for the first couple tough seasons.”
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It was an exciting moment for a number of Penn State fans Saturday evening at Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena for the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance, made even more enjoyable by a stunning 10-3 thumping of Union
The scene included a loud and enthusiastic bunch transported from Penn State’s “Roar Zone” student section to the first few rows of U.S. Bank Arena. They stood the whole game, gave their usual chants, taunted the Union goalie and generally gave the Lions a little piece of home.
It was appreciated. The team skated over to their section after the game to give a big “thank you.”
Another alum, Neil Nadel, knew he had to get to the arena to see it in person. The 2001 graduate, who now lives in the Cincinnati suburbs, was a hockey fan growing up and, though he didn’t go to Icers’ club games, often wished there was varsity hockey on campus.
When the Nittany Lions beat Wisconsin for the Big Ten title last weekend, and the NCAA sent Penn State to his hometown, Nadel made his plans.
“There was no way I was not going to be here,” Nadel said. “Being here where I live, there was no way I was going to miss the first-ever NCAA tournament game in program history.”
The Anthonys of State College also made up their minds pretty quickly last Saturday night. Brian Anthony went to Detroit by himself for the Big Ten tournament, since his wife Christine had to work. He called her after the Lions beat the Badgers to make plans for Cincinnati.
“I called her, she said she’s going whether I’m going or not,” Brian Anthony said.
They all cheered when freshman Brandon Biro made history with the first NCAA tournament goal in program history, and for the many Lion goals after that.
They had invested so much of their time and faith they could not miss such a special day.
“We just felt like it was a natural progression to keep following them through,” Christine Anthony said.
For the Millers, there isn’t much sleep this weekend. In addition to driving all Saturday morning and early afternoon, they were heading home after the game. An earlier start to Sunday’s game might have kept them around, but the 6 p.m. puck drop was just too late.
Seth Miller is the track and field coach at Bellefonte Area High School, and Stacey is the girls’ soccer coach and teaches in the district. It was tough to give up the Sunday tickets, but they also have an appreciative perspective for what their presence means.
“We know the support from fans means a lot,” Stacey Miller said.
The final score had to be beyond expectations, but having they Nittany Lions playing on this stage, they knew their team belonged.
Said Stacey Miller: “We’re looking like a playoff team now.”