Banners are good and bad.
They're a reminder of where you've been. The things that you've done. The accomplishments and moments that will last forever. Programs are built by banners and they are sustained by them.
But banners are also a reminder that the past is in the past. You can't win on the back of what has already happened.
So as Penn State raised two banners on Thursday night, one for the Big Ten Tournament Title, another for an NCAA Tournament appearance it was a reminder of not only how far the program had come, but what it had to do to stay there.
Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, Thursday night against American International and the ensuing 7-5 victory the symbolism only hung above Penn State brefily, never manifesting the ice itself.
Although the night was not without its drama. AIC scoring 5:01 into the game to give the visitors a 1-0 lead, but Penn State's trademark offense didn't flinch, rocketing 22 shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. It paid off as Trevor Hamilton pushed the puck in during a scramble in front of goal, and then again as Chase Berger registered the first of three assists, springing Andrew Sturtz for a point blank chance and a shorthanded goal.
The second period was more or less the same. Liam Folkes extending the lead before Dominik Florian cut back into the two-goal margin.
If the banners were a reminder of the past, then freshman Cole Hults was a showcase of the future. The defenseman charging in from the boards, twirling and scoring to extend the lead yet again. A late Brandon Biro tally only furthered what was an otherwise dominant night for the Nittany Lions, after two periods a 5-3 margin seemed plenty safe in the friendly confines of Pegula Ice Arena.
Denis Smirnov's fourth goal in as many games just 49 seconds into the final period seemed to shut the door on the night. The Russian native with eight points on the year, and has tied a program-best four-game goal streak. Kris Myllari's snipe put Penn State's goal count to seven, ahead by four.
The final 10 minutes of regulation were a reminder that nothing is for sure. Two AIC goals cut Penn State's otherwise straightforward 7-3 win to a 7-5 margin that looked far less impressive in the final box score.
But as so often is the case, it's not what it looks like that matters, just the result. And Penn State's 7-5 victory will go on the books as a win, the third in the early stages of the season.
And much like the banners hanging above the bench, it will never be taken away.
Both teams take the ice again on Friday night for the final game of the series.