Penn State Hockey

Penn State hockey: Western Michigan skates away from Nittany Lions

Penn State's Casey Bailey, right, fights for the puck with Western Michigan's Aidan Muir during the Broncos’ 4-1 win at the Three Rivers Classic on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
Penn State's Casey Bailey, right, fights for the puck with Western Michigan's Aidan Muir during the Broncos’ 4-1 win at the Three Rivers Classic on Tuesday in Pittsburgh. For the CDT

Penn State’s blazing start to the season hit a roadblock in the Three Rivers Classic.

Penn State (9-6-2) never led a minute in two tournament games and fell 4-1 against Western Michigan in the consolation clash at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday.

The Nittany Lions, who had not played since completing a weekend sweep of Wisconsin on Dec. 6, were outscored 8-3 in losses to host Robert Morris and Western Michigan.

They fell behind the Broncos early Tuesday. Nolan LaPorte used a behind-the-back pass to feed Sheldon Dries, who beat Penn State goalie Matt Skoff with a wrist shot 7:22 into the contest.

It stayed that way until early in the second period, when Penn State’s Tommy Olczyk picked up a hooking penalty. He was also assessed a 10-minuted misconduct penalty for arguing the call.

The Broncos needed just 24 seconds to score on the ensuing power play. Aidan Muir scored from the left dot after taking a pass from Taylor Fleming.

Western Michigan extended the margin to 3-0 as Colton Hargrove picked off a failed clearing pass in the slot and beat Skoff with a wrist shot with 5:02 left in the period.

The Nittany Lions outshot the Broncos 16-12 in the period, but could not beat Bronco goalie Lukas Hafner. Skoff prevented further further damage with a pair of sprawling saves.

Penn State finally got on the board 3:53 into the third period. Luke Juha fed the puck to Erik Autio, whose shot was stopped by Hafner, but Curtis Loik pounced on the rebound to score his fourth goal of the season.

The Nittany Lions would get no closer. Muir pushed the margin back to three by scoring off an an assist from Justin Kovacs at the 11:22 mark.

Hafner closed it out from there. The Western Michigan goalie finished with 32 saves.

Skoff made 24 saves before giving way in the third period to PJ Musico, who saw his first action in net this season. Musico stopped four shots.

Penn State was 0 for 4 on the power play, while Western Michigan was 1 for 2.

Notes: After playing nine straight road games, with nothing at home since Oct. 31, the Nittany Lions finally return to Pegula Ice Arena to host Ohio State in a two-game series beginning Jan. 9. ... Penn State fell to 2-4 all-time in the Three Rivers Classic. ... The Nittany Lions are 0-3-1 in neutral-site games this season. ... Defenseman Connor Varley returned to action for the first time since Oct. 31 against Bentley.

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