Following an exhausting loss to Robert Morris, the Icers attempted to regroup in time to bring their "A" game against Western Michigan. The Lions came out for the second game of the Three Rivers Classic looking a little lethargic. This was understandable as the game the night before had ended roughly eighteen hours prior to the initial puck drop. Robert Morris looked similar to Penn State in the championship game against Colgate, losing 6-1 while being out-shot 52-27. Each team played hard but it was clear that the legs were not the same for the players as they had been the previous night.
Matt Skoff got the start in net for PSU in his hometown of Pittsburgh.
At the start of the game Western Michigan seemed to have the edge in overall energy. While Guy Gadowsky's team was playing hard they seemed to be a step slow for the first half of the opening period. At the same time the Broncos were executing a wise strategy. The goal for the team from Kalamazoo, Michigan was to make PSU expend massive amounts of energy in order to get an open shot. They pushed, poke-checked, and blocked most of the Icers attempts toward the net, blocking 8 shots while only allowing 9 shots on goal for the period.
Seven minutes in to the game W. Michigan found the back of the net with the first shot on goal it took. This was possibly the worst possible scenario for the weary Lions. Having expended more energy than their opponent, they found themselves down one goal.
Shortly after the goal PSU would go on the power play for 3:41 following two penalties in succession. The team made the best effort to tie the game but was unable to sneak one past goalie Lukas Hafner. With a 2.01 goals against average on the year, the Bronco's goalie is not an easy target to score a goal against. In addition, Western Michigan's entire team employs a strategy similar to Michigan State. Knowing that the strength of the team is the goalie, all skaters work in unison to protect the net-minder.
The period ended with PSU down 1-0.
Less than a minute in to the period Penn State senior forward Tommy Olczyk was called for a two-minute slashing penalty and a ten-minute game misconduct. The period was marked by penalties on each squad with a total of five being assessed on the teams for a total of twenty minutes of time.
Twenty-six seconds in to the penalty time on Olczyk Western Michigan scored the second goal of the game and eventual game-winner. This was exactly the result that the Broncos would have wanted coming in to the game. Having scored two goals, the same amount it gives up per game this year, the team was able to shorten the game with aggressive play in the neutral zone. The Lions fought hard but were constantly getting the puck knocked off the stick, having to change lines after having next to no chance of scoring on the shift. It was frustrating to watch the discipline employed by W. Michigan.
Making matters worse, Colton Hargrove took the lead to 3-0 with a goal fifteen minutes in to the second period. While the goal made it that much harder for PSU to mount a comeback, there was a sense in the stadium that the team was not ready to throw in the towel.
It was at this point that Gadowsky's squad began to play with the type of energy it had the night before against Robert Morris. Curtis Loik and Casey Bailey of Penn State began expending massive amounts of energy on the offensive end. Each had several nice looks at the net but were unable to capitalize. The period ended 3-0.
The Lions came out for the final period with a very admirable amount of enthusiasm. It looked as though the team was unaware of the three goal deficit. The free-flowing style of play that had been missing for the better half of the first two periods had returned. Two minutes in to the period PSU went on the power play. The team pulled out all the stops trying to get a goal to cut the lead to two. Unable to score a power play goal, the Icers did not hang their heads and quit. Six seconds after the penalty expired Curtis Loik scored on an assist from Erik Autio and Luke Juha.
With sixteen minutes remaining and owning one of the most potent scoring attacks in all of college hockey, the game was now on, 3-1. The Lions played with as much intensity as it had all season-long for the next ten minutes but were unable to cut the lead. To Western Michigan's credit it continued to work the strategy that had gotten the lead, and the discipline in maintaining the game plan payed off.
With just over eight minutes remaining Western Michigan scored the fourth goal of the game, concluding the scoring.
- PJ Musico, third goalie for Penn State, saw the first action of the season, relieving Skoff with eight minutes remaining in the game. Musico was forced to make two amazing saves in the first ten seconds in the game.
- Penn State will take on Ohio State in State College when returning to play on January 9th. The series will mark the return to home ice after two months on the road.
- Curtis Loik played an excellent game, scoring a goal and getting several great scoring chances, while grabbing the third star of the game.
- Zach Saar returned from injury for the tournament and played really well. His stamina may have been lacking, but his strength is in mid-season form. He sent a dozen players to the ice with clean, hard checks.
"Look into my eyes. You are getting very sleepy. Just relax and give the puck to me."