Three Rivers Classic: Second-Period Woes Haunt Penn State In Consolation Game


Penn State’s Curtis Loik, seen here in a game earlier this season, scored the Nittany Lions’ lone goal in a consolation game loss to Western Michigan in the Three Rivers Classic. Loik earned a spot on the all-tournament team with a two-point performance. (Photo: Penn State Athletics)

(Editor’s Note: Penn State alumnus Ross Insana is assisting City of Champions in covering the Three Rivers Classic college hockey tournament.)

by Ross Insana

A penalty with a ten-minute misconduct tacked on, which would eventually lead to a goal by the opposing team.

Add in a strong performance in net by the opposing team’s goalie to keep one of the country’s best offenses at bay.

That sounds like déjà vu all over again for Penn State (9-6-2), as they fell 4-1 in the Three Rivers Classic consolation game to the Western Michigan Broncos on Tuesday afternoon.

“What we have to figure out is I don’t think we have ever had a game where we just didn’t seem to match competitiveness or pushback and I thought that was the case,” said Penn State Head Coach Guy Gadowsky.

Appearing in his career-best ninth consecutive game in net, Western Michigan goaltender Lukas Hafner made 32 saves coupled with a resilient defensive effort from his teammates in front of him.

“I felt like I saw the puck for the most part tonight,” said the junior goalie. “At the college level for most goalies, if they are going to be able to see it it’s going to be a lot easier to make a good play and push it to the side.”

After a quiet start from both teams for most of the first, Sheldon Dries got the scoring started for Western Michigan. A shot in between the faceoff circles and traffic in front of Penn State netminder Matthew Skoff would give the Broncos leading goal-scorer his ninth goal of the season.

Not long after Dries’ tally, the Nittany Lions would have their best opportunity of the game. Western Michigan captain Nolan LaPorte was tagged for hooking and Penn State’s Casey Bailey was on the receiving end of a cross-check from Josh Pitt for a brief two-man advantage.

But the nation’s fifth-ranked power play was not able to capitalize on their brief 19-second 5-on-3 to create some potential offense.

Things would then start to get sluggish in the second period for a Penn State team that has only lost consecutive games once this season.

Just like Nate Jensen the night before against Robert Morris with a contact to the head call, Tommy Olczyk was tagged with a penalty and a ten minute misconduct for talking back to a referee.

The Broncos would do exactly what the Colonials had done the night before, capitalizing on a questionable call by the exact same referee pairing. Freshman Aidan Muir would collect his first of what would wind up being two goals for the 2013 fourth round pick of the Edmonton Oilers.

Colton Hargrove would capitalize on a turnover right in front of Skoff by the third-year alternate captain Jensen to make it 3-0 Western Michigan.

Curtis Loik would finally put a puck in the back of the net for Penn State with the man-advantage to cut the deficit to 3-1 and snap the shutout bid of Hafner. Loik, a junior, was the Lions’ lone representative on the Three Rivers Classic all-tournament team with a goal and an assist in two games.

After playing nine games away from Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State will begin the second half of the season with six straight games at home.

“We absolutely love playing at Pegula,” said Gadowsky. “Honestly, we look forward so much to every game there.”

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