The game started with a very fast pace. Featuring two of the highest-scoring teams in the country, action was fast up and down the ice. Initially Robert Morris had an edge on the Lions, getting the better shots and controlling the puck in the offensive zone. That changed three minutes in to the game when Penn State had a flurry of shots on net in one offensive possession. RMU tried feverishly to clear the puck but could not, with their opponent keeping the puck in the zone every way imaginable. After the nearly two minutes of play in their own defensive zone, the Colonials were forced to take a very early time out only 6:25 into the game.
The tactic worked as RMU was able to put the pressure back on Guy Gadowsky's squad for the next few minutes. With just under ten minutes remaining in the period the teams alternated penalties, taking two apiece. The power plays slowed the game down, neither team was able to capitalize on the advantage. The period ended with no score.
The atmosphere in the home of the NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins was electric at the first intermission. PSU took 13 shots while RMU had nine. For a pair of teams that average the highest shot total in the country, having had two power plays each, the shot totals were surprisingly low. To the Lion's credit the implementation of a proactive, smothering play on the puck gave the Colonials little opportunity to get one on net outside the four minutes of power play time the team had.
The second period began as the game had, with an exhausting, unrelenting pace on both sides of the ice. There were few shots for PSU in this stretch and fewer for RMU. Then halfway through the period and game, a call was made that was simply a mistake by the referees. It could be described as a controversial call. It could be described as a tough call, one the refs didn't have to make. The only honest way that it can be described is to say that the worst play, and also the biggest play of the game, was made at the 10:42 mark in the period by the officials.
Keeping in mind that the game was not televised or streamed I feel that it is important to linger on this call longer than normally would be prudent. Nate Jensen was called for his first penalty of the year on a play very, very far from the puck. It would be ruled a five-minute major and a game misconduct. The penalty carries with it a suspension for Jensen in tonight's game against Western Michigan.
There was a stoppage in play lasting nearly ten minutes. The referees discussed the call between themselves, and then with the captains of both squads. Patrick Koudys, captain for Penn State was clearly appealing for leniency. His head was bobbing up and down as he spoke and at one point the ref put his hand on Koudys' shoulder as if to console the upset player. The captains and refs then skated to the RMU bench, stopping for less than five seconds while relaying the penalty details. Then the officials skated to a noticeably upset Guy Gadowsky.
The conversation that ensued lasted nearly five minutes. The two refs were taking turns talking to Gadowsky, and after one would stop talking, Guy would say something in less than two seconds and then the refs would continue to talk. At one point one of the refs had his hands extended toward the coach of the Lions with both palms facing upwards. It was as if to say that he had no choice but to make the call.
That unfortunately was not true. There was no penalty on the play. None at all. Neither player went to the ice on the hit, in fact, there was no hit. I've seen bigger collisions in a curling match. After the game coach Gadowsky, not known for blaming anyone besides himself and his team for a loss, had this to say about the play.
Obviously that's the entire game. It's a 0-0 game. I thought it was a great hockey game. I really did. You had two teams that are playing to score goals. I thought it was very evenly matched, two ranked teams. I'm not saying it was mistake free or anything but I thought it was a really good game. A call out of nowhere, that's how we felt. I'll tell you this, so (we) watched it over and over and we're going to tell Nate Jensen to make the exact play the exact way every single time.
There isn't much more to say about the call, though I could go on for another hour talking about it. The five-minute penalty took away one of PSU's best defenders for the second-half of the game and the entire game tonight. For three and a half-minutes the Lions were able to hold off the assault on the net by Robert Morris. Then the Colonials got two goals in a thirty-second span with the man advantage. During the major infraction the penalized team does not get the player back when the other team scores. It was demoralizing for the team that had fought long and hard to overcome the call.
Following the second goal the CONSOL Energy Center got louder than it had been all night. Sensing the team's fading spirits, the PSU crowd began the "We are Penn State" chant. The chant lasted for the remaining minute of the major penalty and the Lions were able to escape with only allowing two goals. It was a proud moment for Penn State hockey fans. The resilience of our crowd was inspiring, being topped only by the effort of coach Gadowsky's team.
A little more than two minutes after the penalty ended Scott Conway got his fourth goal of the season, cutting the Colonial's advantage in half. The period ended two minutes later, 2-1 Robert Morris leading.
During the intermission I spoke with PSU defenseman Connor Varley. Asking whether the team had a chance to see the penalty he replied, "It was soft." Gadowsky acknowledged the horrible call to his team during the break but also insisted that the team fight on to overcome the situation.
Coming in to the game RMU had averaged forty shots on goal per game on the season. On the night they had 33 shots on goal, with 17 of those shots coming during the five-minute penalty. The Lions fought hard all game to limit RMU's shots while getting many on goal themselves. PSU finished with 37 shots on goal.
The third period began as the game had. The teams were flying around the ice. Penn State was determined to tie the game and RMU was set on extending the lead and putting the match on ice. Four minutes in to the period the Colonials got the third goal of the game. The two point deficit did little to slow the Lion's fighting spirit. The team fought like crazy for the next fourteen minutes but were unable to get the puck to the back of the net.
With four minutes remaining in the game goalie Eamon McAdam skated to the bench for PSU and the extra skater came on the ice. With just under two minutes left the tactic paid off with Casey Bailey getting his eleventh goal of the year unassisted. For the next minute the teams played intense, RMU trying to hold on and PSU using the extra skater to try to tie the game. It was a very valiant effort on behalf of the Lions but with a minute left to play RMU got the final goal of the game on the empty net from their defensive zone. The game ended 4-2.
Three Rivers Classic Game Two
Game Time: 4:30 p.m.
Television and stream: None.
Tonight the Nittany Lions will take on Western Michigan who lost to Colgate 2-1 in the first game of the tournament. The Broncos nearly tied the game in the final seconds, getting three shots on goal late with the extra skater. The team, hailing from Kalamazoo, Michigan, is ranked 35th in the current Pairwise standings. The Broncos have talent and should be a good test for PSU coming off the tough loss the previous night.
Western Michigan features a balanced but low scoring attack with the leading scorer, Justin Kovacs having fifteen points and seven other players having ten or more points on the year. Goalie Lukas Hafner has a very respectable 2.09 goals against average while owning a 5-6-2 record on the season.
- With 6,252 fans in attendance for the game, in Robert Morris territory, roughly 75% of the crowd were Penn State fans.
- The comment section of this article will be used as the open-thread for today's game. I will provide more updates today than I was able to yesterday. If anyone can help out with details as the game goes on, we will all surely appreciate it.