The top ranked Nittany Lion Icers (28-4-1) shutout Big Ten rival and seventh ranked Illinois (24-10-1), 4-0 in the American Collegiate Hockey Association National Championship game in front of a standing room only crowd of over 2,500 at the Gardens Ice House in Laurel, Md. on Sunday.
The Icers were tested by No. 12 Drexel in a tight, 2-1 first-round victory on Feb. 27, before soundly defeating No. 8 Kent State, 8-2, on Friday, and No. 5 Iowa State, 6-2, in the semifinals on Saturday. The victories secured the Icers sixth National Title, their fourth in the past five years and their first ever “three-peat.”
“Avoiding the first-round upset bug was crucial,” said Icers head coach Joe Battista (394-97-21, 15th year). “After watching Ohio and Delaware lose their first-round games, we may have been a little too tight. We won ugly against Drexel but we at least we won. It was the wake-up call that we needed and it showed the guys just how important playing great defense really is if you want to win the title.”
Junior Goalie Scott Graham and the Icer defense turned away 23 Fighting Illini shots to register the first shutout in an ACHA title game since 1995 and to stop an Illinois offense that had scored 22 goals in their first three tournament games, including victories over No. 11 Arizona (5-0), No. 2 Delaware
(9-4) and No. 3 Minot State (9-4).
Sophomore defenseman Curtiss Patrick scored a goal and an assist despite playing with a partially separated shoulder, and senior captain Kyle Jordan, junior forward Neal Price and leading scorer Glenn Zuck each scored to pace the Icers to a solid 4-0 win. Penn State allowed only five goals in four games.
Neal Price was named the Tournament MVP as he led Penn State with two goals and seven assists, while Goalie Scott Graham (1.13 GAA, 95.6% save percentage), defenseman Josh Mandel (2-4–6) and forward Glenn Zuck (4-2–6) were named first team All-Tournament selections.