STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — The Robert Morris Colonials (7-4-2) fended off a furious Penn State attack in defeating the Nittany Lions, 3-2, at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion on Saturday night.
The Nittany Lions (7-8-0) came out with early energy, registering the game’s first three shots, but were unable to convert on two opening period power-play chances. The scuffling power play finished 0-for-5 on the night, falling to 5-for-60 on the season.
Fending off the early energy on the road, the cross-state Colonials cracked into the scoring column first. After the Penn State defense got its signals crossed below the goal line, Jeff Jones fed defenseman Chase Golightly, who was pinching down into the slot. The freshman beat Matthew Skoff on the blocker side to give Robert Morris the 1-0 lead. Penn State has now allowed the first goal in four of five NCAA home games.
As has been their modus operandi all season, the Nittany Lions responded immediately following the intermission. At 1:33 of the second period, Luke Juha fired the puck toward the goal from the right point. Captain Tommy Olczyk was cutting through the slot, and he redirected the puck off his chest and past goalie Eric Levine to tie the score, 1-1.
After the Olczyk tally, the Nittany Lions’ top line went to work and quickly vaulted Penn State to the lead. This time, David Glen fired the puck on goal, Levine kicked a rebound out, and Curtis Loik deked to the backhand and slid the puck past the sprawled Colonials’ netminder to give Penn State a 2-1 lead at 3:25.
Not to be outdone, the Colonials did not let Penn State get an insurance marker, killing off a third man advantage. Just 20 seconds after the kill, the Nittany Lions coughed the puck up behind their own goal line, and Jones chopped the puck past Skoff in the right circle to tie the game, 2-2, at the 13:11 mark.
The back-and-forth, physical battle continued into the third. A combined eight penalty infractions changed the flow of the game, but Robert Morris capitalized on an egregious Penn State giveaway.
After Brian Dolan failed to get the puck deep at the offensive blue line, Tyler Hinds picked up the puck, raced past Dolan, and then beat Skoff short-side and high to give Robert Morris the 3-2 lead and eventual victory. Penn State finished the night outshooting Robert Morris, 40-29.
Penn State had its chances in the game’s waning minutes, including a brief four-on-three power play, but Levine hung tough and stole the victory.
“Your best penalty killer has got to be your goaltender,” said Robert Morris coach Derek Schooley. “(Levine) made the saves when he had to, and we were there to clear rebounds.”
The raucous crowd of over 1,000 inside the Greenberg Ice Pavilion did not take a liking to the officiating in the third, but Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky did not use it as an excuse.
“There’s things you’re going to be frustrated with, but we have to learn to deal with it,” said Gadowsky. “Mentally tough teams do it very well, and hopefully we’re on our way to becoming that.”
The Nittany Lions and the Colonials will meet again on Dec. 28 in the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Olczyk is excited to see his team look for revenge.
“We showed them we can play at this level,” said Olczyk. “Everyone’s licking their chops getting ready to see (Robert Morris) again.”