Lions Play Hard, Fall 3-2 to Robert Morris

Story posted December 16, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Pat White

The Penn State men’s ice hockey team (7-8-0) dropped a hard-fought 3-2 game to the Robert Morris Colonials 3-2 Saturday night at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

After a rough three week span in which Penn State lost four of six games, Coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased with the effort of his team.

“I was happy with the way we played,” Gadowsky said. “Not happy about the result, but happy with how we played. I honestly feel we deserved the result we got in a certain aspect. It’s a matter of making sure we are learning how to put it all together. “

Both teams came out flying in a physical first period. Penn State generated good sustained offense, especially on two power plays in the first period.

Robert Morris would strike first on a snap shot in the slot by Chase Golightly. Giving up the first goal has been a problem for the Nittany Lions this season, but they were resilient in getting back into the game.

Just over a minute into the second period, Penn State would nod the game at 1-1. Freshman defenseman Luke Juha put a puck on net that deflected off of the hip of Tommy Olczyk and beat Robert Morris net minder Eric Levine.

Two minutes later, Penn State would strike again to take the lead on Curtis Loik’s fourth goal of the season. Loik had his helmet taken off on what appeared to be a high sticking penalty.

“David Glen made a great play putting it to the net and just went to the net hard,” Loik said. “I slipped it five-hole and got a stick to the mouth on the way there…we were up and it brought a little momentum.”

Senior defenseman Brian Dolan registered an assist on the play for his first point of the season.

The Nittany Lions played some of their most inspired hockey of the season during the second period. They got pucks deep in the Robert Morris zone and controlled the flow of the game.

“The beginning of the second period, for the first 10 or 15 minutes we were a whole other animal,” Olczyk said. “We were getting pucks to the net and getting opportunities. If we play a full 60 minutes like that, we’re a really good team.”

Robert Morris would answer when Jeff Jones put home a rebound off the initial shot by Brendan Jamison at 13:11 of the second period. Penn State led in the shot department 24 to 14 after a dominating performance in the second period.

The third period featured some tight checking hockey and a back-and-forth pace throughout. Penn State continued to get pucks deep in the Robert Morris zone and were responsible with the puck on the breakout and the neutral zone.

“I thought we had some flow and played better,” Gadowsky said. “We also had tempo in terms of not turning the puck over like we did three weeks previous. I think we had more flow.”

Penn State made one miscue in the neutral zone that lead to a goal for Robert Morris. Dolan turned the puck over at the red line to Tyler Hinds, who fired a wrist shot from the left circle over the blocker of goaltender Matthew Skoff. Robert Morris took the 3-2 lead, and never looked back.

Each team took four penalties in the final stanza, but neither was able to capitalize on the man-advantage. Penn State would go on a rarely seen four-on-three power play with 13:56 remaining in the game.

The Nittany Lions generated more good offense on the power play in the third period with eight shots on two power plays.  They were unable to score on the four-on-three due to a lack of familiarity.

“We haven’t actually done a lot of practice with it,” Gadowsky said. “We went with three forwards and a defenseman, and it’s probably the first time they’ve ever done that.”

Penn State’s power play woes continue, going zero for five on the man-advantage. The team is now five for 60 on the power play this season. Hopefully the Nittany Lions find a few power play goals lying under their tree on Christmas morning.

The 3-2 defeat is the team’s last home game of the calendar year. The Nittany Lions will take two weeks off for the holiday break before facing Robert Morris again in the Three Rivers Classic at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh on Dec. 28. The break could not come at a better time for team.

“We can use a break,” Gadowsky said. “We had four pretty good forwards not playing tonight. It’s very valuable for guys to go home and have a good Christmas with their family. I think they are very fortunate to get to do it and they want to take advantage of it.”

Olczyk is looking forward for some time off, but admits that there is a sour taste in his mouth from the loss.

"We get to play them right after break," Olczyk said. "We have two weeks until we get another shot at (Robert Morris). We showed that we can play at this level...and be a good team. There were times when we were outplaying them and we have to get ready to see this team again in two weeks."

Pat White is a senior majoring in print journalism. To contact him, e-mail pmw5072@psu.edu.