By: Ian Altenbaugh
Game 1: Western Michigan Broncos (6-8-2) versus the Colgate Raiders (9-6-1)
It was abundantly clear just moments after the opening faceoff of the third annual Three Rivers Classic that both the Colgate Raiders and Western Michigan Broncos were still thawing from their extended winter breaks. For the Broncos, it had been December 13th (a tie against Colorado College) since they last took the ice. Colgate on the other hand was frozen in a thicker block of ice, having not played a game since December 9th (a 4-3 loss against Providence). So while both teams managed to put a lot of rubber on net, neither appeared to be much of an offensive threat through the better part of the first two periods.
That changed however when Colgate broke the 0-0 tie at 17:22 of the second period. Raiders’ defenseman Spiro Goulakos fired a heavy shot from the center blue line, stick-side past Broncos goaltender Lukas Hafner, making the game 1-0.
Colgate would not relinquish the lead for the rest of the game, as Calgary Flames prospect Tim Harrison put the Raiders up 2-0 at 10:16 in the second when he knocked in a rebound from an Andrew Black slapshot. Colgate did their best to clog up the neutral zone after scoring their second goal and did a good job of forcing Western Michigan’s players to the perimeter of the ice.
“We actually talked in between periods, and reiterated a lot of that on the bench after we got up two nothing,” said Raiders head coach Don Vaughan. “We wanted to turn it into a 200 foot game. We wanted to make them earn their ice.”
Despite being down by two goals, the Broncos did not sway from their game plan and continued to hit Colgate’s players every chance they got. Western Michigan made things interesting with 5:30 left in the third, when Aiden Muir picked up a loose rebound from around the Raiders net and snapped it past Colgate goaltender Charlie Finn. The Broncos appeared to gain some momentum after Muir’s goal and peppered the Colgate net with shots during the final minutes of the final period.
“When they started stretching at the end, it’s hard to defend. Your defenseman’s gaps gets busted and we try to get numbers back. I thought we bent there a little at the end but we didn’t break. That was kind of the message on the bench. Just to continue to push the pucks to the outside and make [our goaltender] can see them.”
Game 2: The Penn State Nittany Lions (9-5-2) versus the Robert Morris Colonials (12-2-3)
With the air conditioning turned up to 11, the second game of the Three Rivers Classic was able to commence. Both Penn State and Robert Morris were coming off long winter breaks, with Penn State’s most recent game on December 6th, the second of back-to-back wins against Wisconsin. Robert Morris definitely had the fresher of the legs, having played back-to-back games against Mercyhurst on December 13th and 14th.
The game opened fairly quiet with both teams feeling each other out and still probably thawing. The opening period was mired in sloppiness and it was more of the same well into the second. The Nittany Lions in particular did themselves no favors by taking penalties. For example, defenseman Luka Juha took a tripping penalty 36 seconds into Penn State’s first powerplay, then Tommy Olczyk took a high sticking penalty less than a minute later. While the Nittany Lions were able to kill off those two penalties, they were not so fortunate in the second period, following a five minute major penalty to defenseman Nate Jensen, who was assessed a major penalty and misconduct for making contact with the head of an RMU player.
The major penalty resulted in a five minute powerplay for the Colonials and they made sure to capitalize, scoring two goals in a 30 second span. The first goal came from Brady Ferguson, who took a clean feed from Tyson Wilson and beat PSU goalie Eamon McAdams glove side. John Rey added to RMU’s total 30 seconds later but RMU’s lead would not last long. In the waning minutes of the second period, Penn State center Scott Conway, from in close, took a failed centering pass from winger Curtis Loik and cut the Colonials lead back to one.
“That’s a call out of nowhere. It was a 0-0 hockey game…and I thought it was evenly matched,” Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game. “That (penalty) was the game. We watched it over and over, and we’re going to tell Nate Jensen to make that play the exact same way every single time.”
Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley had a much different view on the penalty.
“The referees made the call. We got a five minute major and we capitalized on our opportunities,” he said following the game. “I’d have to look at it again, but live, it did look like there was contact to the head.”
Daniel Leavens and Chase Golightly would combine to extend the Colonial’s lead by another goal when Leavens retrieved a puck from the right corner of Penn State’s zone and threw it back to Golightly and headed for the net. Golightly bought a moment with the puck then tossed it towards the net, where Leavens redirect it past McAdams for Robert Morris’s third goal of the evening and only even strength goal of the game.
With about two minutes left, Penn State pulled their goaltender and made one final push. Forward Casey Bailey, who had been giving Robert Morris trouble for much of the evening with his physical play, scored his 11th goal of the season.
Robert Morris closed out the scoring at 19:12 in the third with an empty net goal from Zac Lynch.
Penn State will face Western Michigan in the Consolation game on December 30th at 4:30pm.
Colgate will square off against Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Championship game, on December 30th at 7:30pm.
Notes and Quotes
College is a Time for Taking Lots of Shots
Western Michigan finished the game with 67 attempted shots, and 29 shots on goal. Colgate attempted 59 total shots against the Broncos, with 27 managing to hit Michigan goaltender Lukas Hafner.
Facing a ridiculous amount of shots has become a sort of tradition for Robert Morris goaltenders at the Three Rivers Classic. In inaugural tournament in 2012, RMU goalie Eric Levine made 86 saves in two games against Penn State. In 2013, RMU starter made 59 saves against Penn State, and in 2014, Shafer saw 35. RMU has allowed an average of 31 shots a game this season.
Colgate defenseman Kevin Lough collided with the boards after getting tied up with Bronco’s forward Mike McKee in a footrace for the puck. After writhing in pain on the ice for about a minute, Lough managed to get up and make his way to the locker room without much help. Lough returned for the third period.
Colgate forward Tyson Spink was the recipient of a giant open-ice hit from Colton Hargrove at the 10:29 mark of the 2nd period. Hargrove was given a five minute major, a 10 minute misconduct, and sent to the locker room. The Raiders were unable to convert on the five minute powerplay, though Western Michigan coach Andy Murray was nonetheless unhappy about it after the game and made a lengthy statement to the media.
Andy Murray’s Lengthy Statement
“Colgate is a good team. They have great quickness,” Murray said, before pausing for a moment. “We can’t serve it up on a platter by taking an unnecessary five-minute major penalty, where you have to defend for a big part of the second period. We showed some resiliency and came back in that third and had a lot of tremendous opportunities. I thought we carried the game in the third period. Their goalie made some great saves and we had some players that were a little bit selfish. I say selfish, when you got a chance to shoot the puck and you don’t shoot it and you pass it. That’s being selfish. In kid’s hockey, when you didn’t pass it you were called selfish, but here, when you got a chance to shoot it, you don’t take responsibility, that’s being selfish. It hurts our team. We passed up too many scoring opportunities and got beat tonight by a good team.”
Maybe It is the Building
It a scenario all too familiar in the CONSOL Energy Center, a goaltender ventured from his crease to play a puck and almost created a scoring chance for the opposition. Western Michigan goaltender Lukas Hafner went out of his crease to play a puck only to be chased around by a Colgate player. Hafner regained his bearings though and managed to get the puck to Raiders defenseman Kenney Morrison, who in turn got the puck to safety. It would happen again in game 2, when Penn State goaltender Eamon McAdam was forced to make a spectacular save after misplaying a puck in the corner and leaving the one side of his net wide open.