A five-minute major penalty left the Penn State men’s hockey team in a deep hole, and it was never able to crawl out of it Monday night.
No. 19 Robert Morris scored twice during the major, and it proved to be the difference in a 4-2 victory over the No. 20 Nittany Lions on the opening night of the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center.
Brady Ferguson and John Rey scored during the key penalty, Daniel Leavens found the net in the third and Zac Lynch added an empty-net goal in the final minute for the Colonials (12-2-3).
Casey Bailey and Scott Conway scored for Penn State (9-5-2), which will face Western Michigan in the consolation game at 4:35 p.m. Tuesday. The Broncos lost 2-1 to Colgate.
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With the game tight and scoreless, the key play came in the latter stages of the second period, when the referees whistled the major penalty on defenseman Nate Jensen. The officials determined the senior assistant captain targeted a Colonial player’s head with a check, earning a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
“That was the game,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “We watched it over and over, and we’re going to tell Nate Jensen to make that exact play the exact same way every single time.”
Ferguson and Rey then found the net 30 seconds apart on the power play, peppering goalie Eamon McAdam with shots for the duration of the five minutes.
“The whole game was a five-minute major,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I thought Eamon battled hard, made some great saves, and when one went in, I thought he’d probably want the second one back. Obviously a little frustration showed the way the game took a drastic turn.”
McAdam finished with 29 saves in the game, and the Colonials outshot the Nittany Lions 17-14 in the period.
“I thought he played very strong, and actually I thought both goaltenders played very, very well,” said Gadowsky, whoe team outshot Robert Morris 37-33. “As far as Eamon goes, I thought he played a strong game. Obviously a little rattled the way the game (developed).”
Conway cut the lead in half late in the second. Dylan Richard won a faceoff back to Curtis Loik, who fed Coway for a wrist shot to beat goalie Terry Shafer, who stopped 35 shots.
Leavens made it a two-goal game again 4:36 into the third, and the margin stayed until the final two minutes when McAdam was pulled for an extra attacker, and Bailey pounced on a rebound with 1:49 left.
But with McAdam out again and Penn State desperate to tie the game, Lynch hit the empty net to close the scoring.
The team did get a boost with the return of forward Zach Saar, who had missed all of the previous games as he recovered from offseason surgery.
“I thought he was physical, I thought he got some good shots on net,” Gadowsky said. “He looked pretty comfortable out there.”
Gadowsky also said goalie Matthew Skoff will get the start Tuesday, a decision that was made before the team got to Pittsburgh and not impacted by Monday’s result.