UNIVERSITY PARK — As the seconds on the clock ticked down to zero, members on the Penn State ice hockey team rapped their sticks on the boards in front of the bench.
When the game was over, after shaking hands with a beaten opponent, the sticks were used again as a salute, first tapping the ice and then waved in the air, saluting the fans who were there to witness their finale.
The Nittany Lions closed their old home, a building to be replaced by a gleaming ultra-modern facility, but not before the program gave the old place and their fans one final, happy send off.
After two periods of scoreless hockey, Penn State finally broke through for a 3-0 victory over Oklahoma on Saturday evening in the final Penn State varsity hockey game at Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
"We started out the game with all the seniors out there," senior defenseman Rich O'Brien said. "We got to finish it with that too. The fans were great, a lot of alumni in town, a lot of people I know. It was, overall, a really great time."
Curtis Loik, Kenny Brooks and Michael Longo scored the goals, Connor Varley assisted on two of the scores and goalie Matthew Skoff did his part at the other end with 26 saves for the shutout on Senior Day.
Greenberg Ice Pavilion, which opened in January 1981 and hosted numerous Icer teams that captured ACHA national club championships in addition to the womens program, high school and youth teams, adult leagues, figure skating programs and community events, will close its doors to events on ice this summer. The Pegula Ice Arena, which is under construction a few hundred yards away, is scheduled to open with its two sheets of ice this fall.
"Even just seeing these guys out there today, the seniors, I could see the emotion on them," Brooks said. "It made me want to play more. It even made kind of an emotional day for me, and I've only been here for a year. Seeing all the history come through here, how long they've been playing in this arena, I didn't realize how long they've been playing here. It's pretty cool actually."
The building itself could not quite make it to the end of the last game. A hard hit shattered a pane of glass at the scorer's table between the penalty boxes with 4:08 left in the first period. The teams took an early intermission while repairs were made, played the final time of the first frame, switched ends, and immediately played the entire second period.
"I saw that it was broken, not just fell out, and so, 'Let's just get off (the ice) and have them fix it and move on,'" head coach Guy Gadowsky said. ".. I knew they'd get it done, but I didn't want to sit around and wait for it."
Yet after showing a lot of energy and life in the abbreviated first period, the Nittany Lions slowed during the second and it seemed the send-off for the building might be spoiled. The road was even tougher when Penn State took a penalty in the final seconds of the second period, leaving them a man down to start the third.
"Obviously the immediate focus was to kill that and get back to work," Gadowsky said. "It was to get back to our objectives. We started to play a frantic game and gave up oddman rushes because of it and we just wanted to get back and play basically, this was the last 20 minutes to give Greenberg. This is Greenberg's last 20 minutes and a tie game. Let's figure it out."
Finally, 3:24 into the third, Loik skated backward a few strides parallel with the blue line, unleashed a rocket and cracked the ice on the scoreless game.
"We had the feeling that, once we got one, maybe the horseshoe would fall out and we would get a few more," Gadowsky said.
First, the Sooners, the No. 6 team in the club ACHA Division I standings, began to fall apart. A five-minute boarding major was called on Nic Power, and Brooks and Longo took advantage with goals 14 seconds apart. Brooks skated unchecked in from the corner and whipped a wrist shot past goalie Colin Fernandes. Then Longo banged home a rebound as the Lions peppered Fernandes with shots.
From there, more penalties ensued, including another five-minute major for spearing and a 10-minute misconduct on the Sooners, and all that was left was watching the final seconds tick away.
"We're not happy because that's not the type of team we run," Oklahoma coach Peter Arvanitis said. "We have a game plan, a game system, and unfortunately when you sway away from it, things happen. We got in trouble with some penalties. When you shoot yourself in the foot, it's bound to happen that they're going to score."
Notes: The Lions outshot the Sooners 51-26, with Fernandes making 48 saves. ... The weekends games were officially exhibition games and did not count in the standings or statistics. Penn State remained 12-13 on the season but finished 6-2 in exhibition games. Including the exhibition games, they were 9-6 at home this season . ... Penn State will close its season at No. 18 Wisconsin on Sunday and Monday.... Before the game the teams six seniors were honored George Saad, Rich OBrien, Michael Longo, Dominic Marrone, Eric Steinour and Brian Dolan. All of them started except Dolan, who is out with a concussion. Longo started on defense, with Gadowsky joking it might have been the first time playing the position in Longos career. ... During the first intermission, which came early from the broken glass, the 1998 and 2003 ACHA national championship teams were honored on the 15th and 10th, respectively, anniversaries of their titles. ... Despite Saturday being the final home game, a number of seats were empty in the student section, likely because of THON up the road at the Bryce Jordan Center. ... After playing with four defenders Friday and last weekend, Joseph Lordo rejoined the lineup Saturday to give the team five on the blue line.