By Jackson Thibodeau, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The rarity and probability of what's set to occur in Happy Valley this weekend is nothing short of remarkable. Two siblings--separated by 250 miles between their respective college campuses and over 2,000 miles from their hometown--will share the same sheet of ice in Pegula Ice Arena.
Penn State men's hockey sophomore Kenny Brooks will take the ice on Sunday (Jan. 12) at 7 p.m., a mere 24 hours after his sister, Brittney Brooks, finishes a game in goal for Colgate against the Nittany Lions' women's team.
The odds alone of two siblings raised in Las Vegas playing collegiate hockey on the east coast are slim, but to have games scheduled in the same arena within a day of one another is exceptionally rare.
There are 59 schools in the NCAA that field Division I men's hockey programs and 35 schools that have women's programs. The NCAA allows teams to play a maximum of 34 regular season games, meaning that over 3,000 games of collegiate ice hockey are played a season.
The odds of these siblings playing games in the same arena on back-to-back days: Slim to none.
Kenny, a forward for the Nittany Lions, began playing roller hockey when he was just five years old and made the switch to ice just a few years later.
"I went to a roller hockey rink for a birthday party and I saw some hockey games going on," he said. "I saw it and told my parents that if they let me play hockey, I'd never ask for anything again."
The sport stuck with the Nevada-native, and resonated with his younger sister as well.
"At first, I didn't want to play hockey," Brittney said. "It was a family thing--being at the rink all the time--but eventually I started playing because of my brother."
Brittney laced up the skates for the first time at just nine years of age, skipping the roller skates and going straight to the blades. The junior goaltender attributes her desire to play in goal because of an admiration of current Colorado Avalanche head coach and former goalie Patrick Roy.
Kenny and his father are both avid Avalanche fans and Brittany grew up watching the puck stopper win Stanley Cups.
Hockey certainly isn't the premier sport among Nevadan youth, which in effect created an even more intense sense of competitiveness between the siblings.
"There are not many kids that do play hockey [in Nevada]," Brittney said, "but the ones that do play love it, so it's a tight-knit, family-like community."
Brittney and Kenny compensated for the sport's lack of popularity in the state by creating their own forms of rivalry and competition. Frequently, Kenny would practice breakaways and practice shooting with his sister in net.
"There was certainly a competitive nature between the two of us," Kenny said. "We would always brag to each other about our teams and when I would shoot on her it was always a lot of fun."
Before their collegiate playing days, Brittney would enjoy denying her brother's goal-scoring chances.
"Kenny used to make me go on the ice for hours as he would practice breakaways," she said. "I used to be able to stop him...I'd like to think that I still can but that doesn't happen too often anymore."
Due to their hectic academic and athletic schedules, the siblings don't see each other very often during the school year other than briefly over winter break. The distance between their hometown and their respective universities is significant, making this occurrence even more special to their family.
"We have a lot of family coming out for our games," Kenny said. "I am really excited that she finally gets to come here and play and that I will get to see her."
Brittney has shared time in net with two other goaltenders for Colgate this season, and currently holds a 2-5-1 record in the cage with a 2.39 GAA. Kenny has registered three points (1 goal, 2 assists) for the Blue and White in 15 appearances as a forward this season.
The Nittany Lions' women's team will host Colgate on Fri., Jan. 10 at 7 p.m. and again on Saturday at 2 p.m., while the men's team will host Minnesota on Sunday and Monday at 7 p.m.