The Chicago Steel announced that forward Zach Saar has committed to play collegiate hockey at Penn State University following his USHL career.
"I loved the campus, but the coaches were the reason I committed," Saar said. "Penn State was one of the first schools to talk with me and I got the opportunity to do an official visit earlier this year. The players were great and the people in the community were all very nice. To cap it off, University Park is a very beautiful place."
The second-year USHL forward is tied for the team lead with six goals this season and second overall with nine points (6g, 3a) in 13 games. Saar, who measures in at 6-5 and 200 pounds, opened the season with multi-goal games in two of the first three contests for Chicago. The 18-year-old from Plainwell, Michigan put up 10 points (4g, 6a) while being limited to 32 games because of injury during his rookie USHL season in 2010-11.
Saar's family ties to Penn State athletics run deep. His father, Brad, played two seasons of football under head coach Joe Paterno and was a member of the Nittany Lions' 1980 national championship team.
"My father was thrilled when I gave him the news," he said. "He didn’t put any pressure on any of my college options, but when I told him over the phone that Penn State was the one, I could hear the excitement in his voice."
Six other current USHL players are also committed to play hockey at Penn State; Connor Varley (Des Moines Buccaneers), Mark Yanis (Muskegon Lumberjacks), Casey Bailey (Omaha Lancers), Matt Skoff (Sioux City Musketeers), Kenny Brooks (Tri-City Storm), and Eamon McAdam (Waterloo Black Hawks). Penn State starts play as a NCAA Division I program next season and will compete as an independent in 2012-13 while its new 6,000-seat ice arena is constructed. The Nittany Lions will then join Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Minnesota when the Big Ten Conference begins sponsorship of ice hockey in 2013-2014.
"I felt I couldn’t go wrong with Penn State, especially getting to compete in what will be one of the top conferences in college hockey," Saar said. "On my visit they showed me the blueprints of the new arena and it is going to be unbelievably impressive."
"We are very proud of Zach," Chicago Steel head coach Scott McConnell said. "His leadership capabilities, his work ethic, and skills as a hockey player have allowed him to continue to develop and will help Penn State compete in the Big Ten Conference, sooner, rather than later. The Saar family is a great family and to see Zach go to the same school as his father is very special."
"It’s not easy to put a team together from scratch to compete in a conference as prolific as the Big Ten. A player of Zach's size and ability will be able to handle the pressure of going into hostile environments like the Kohl Center, Mariucci Arena, and Yost Ice Arena."
Saar is the second member of his family to make a college commitment this year. In April, his sister, Lauren, accepted a scholarship offer to play volleyball at Georgetown University.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)