Pittsburgh Roadtrip

(A Belated Post on the Three Rivers Classic)

Yeah, I know this was over a month ago now. (Dec. 28th and 29th to be precise.) But it's still hockey season and I think at least two OTE fanbases will be interested in this. Plus, when I asked if this late fanpost was still worth the effort, Jesse advised me to write it up. And I always listen to Jesse. smilyface.gif

Also, I apologize for all the face-off photos below. My point-and-shoot camera rendered every motion shot unusable. Just too blurry.

Friday Night

Robert Morris 6 Penn State 0
Our later than expected arrival-time got us into our seats after the first period had already expired. Robert Morris had jumped out to a huge four goal lead.

Penn State's Curtis Loik (15), Tommy Olczyk (14), and Peter Sweetland (6) try to capitalize on a Robert Morris penalty.

While PSU was able to keep the Colonials off the scoreboard in the second, the third period was not as nice to the Nittany Lions. RMU finished the night with 6 goals on 35 shots.

It was an ugly start to the tournament for Penn State. None of their lines played with much energy. Offensively shots were taken without players in position. Defensively they allowed the exact opposite and the Colonials made hay.

Gadowsky pulled starting goalie, PJ Musico, at the start of the second period for Matthew Skoff. The freshman netminder was able to stop 18 shots. But in the end the game belonged to RMU goalie, Eric Levine who made 48 saves on the night.

(Ultimately the tournament belonged to Levine who went 0 for 51 the following night allowing Robert Morris to capture the first Three Rivers Classic trophy.)

Miami 1 Ohio State 0
I haven't seen the Buckeyes play this well in a while. They held the then No.5 (now No.3) Miami Redhawks scoreless for two periods and played a tight aggressive game throughout. Goalie Brady Hjelle was stellar with 25 saves.

Ohio State's Alex Carlson (14) and Alex Lippincott (11) try to get the upper hand.

The Buckeye defense was stout as well led by blueliners Al McLean, Brandon Martell, and Curtis Gedig who combined for 16 of the 23 team blocked-shots. Miami's Curtis McKenzie scored the game's only goal 14 seconds into the third period. Unfortunately, Ohio State's game-tying goal was waived off due to a premature whistle.

Even Osiecki's game management impressed me. He pulled the Buckeye goalie for the final 1:04 minutes as a last measure to try to send the game to overtime.

So the consolation match was set. The first game on Saturday was to be Penn State's first matchup against a fellow Big Ten member. Given how both teams played on Friday, I was hopeful for a positive outcome for the Buckeyes. In fact, a Penn State couple remarked to my friend and I in the hotel elevator that the game on Saturday was most likely going to be a slaughter.

If I may quote Burns, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray."

Saturday Night

Ohio State 4 Penn State 5
Well.... that happened.

I don't know how to explain this. Buckeye over-confidence. A fired-up Penn State squad. A Buckeye let-down from the night before. Or the fact that Osiecki was preoccupied with his post-game flight to Ufa, Russia for the U20 World Junior Championships. (He's the assistant coach for the USA Hockey U20 squad.)

I'm going to go with (E) Guy Gadowsky is a top-notch coach with a talented team who hasn't quite jelled yet but are making progress.

OSU's Tanner Fritz (16) and PSU's David Glenn (11) search for the puck while OSU's Alex Szczeechura (28) and PSU's Kenny Brooks (13) battle for position.

Ohio State got on board first with a Ryan Dzingel goal at 3:56 in the first period. Penn State responded with three unanswered goals. The first a rebound by Curtis Loik at the 7:45 mark. The second a behind-the-net steal by Taylor Holstrom who then scored on a rebound from Casey Bailey. Bailey then went on to score the last with 1:17 left in the period while on a 5-on-3 power play.

Aggressive play ruled the night as seen by Ohio State's Darik Angeli (10) and Travis Statchuk (12) contesting Penn State's Dominic Morrone (19) and Eric Steinour (21).

Dzingel closed the gap with an unassisted goal at 2:39 of the second period. Penn State, however, regained their two point advantage (4-2) when Casey Bailey scored his second goal of the night with nine seconds left in the period.

Penn State's Taylor Holstrom scored his second goal of the night just 21 seconds into the third period. PSU's 5-2 lead remained until the 7:49 mark when Ohio State's Ryan Dzingel completed his hat trick. Then with more than four minutes remaining, Osiecki pulled freshman goalie, Collin Olson. Unlike the previous night, this time the team converted. Junior Alex Szczeechura scored Ohio State's last goal off of a rebound by Matt Johnson.

With the benefit of a month to digest this loss, I'd say the Buckeyes were just as agressive offensively as they were with the Redhawks the previous night. Ryan Dzingel especially was on game (almost single-handedly tying-up the match). Defense is where Ohio State fell down. They had some slip-ups which the Nittany Lions took advantage of almost every time. And often they allowed Penn State to get position without any sort of challenge.

Penn State, on the other hand, looked like a completely different team from the night before. They were uniformly focused throughout the game. The Nittany Lions were patient with their shots allowing opportunities to develop. Defensively, they were aggressive never allowing the Buckeyes any easy goals. But never out of control as witnessed by the Buckeyes having only two power play opportunities on the night.

As I wrote before, this win was a testament to Guy Gadowsky's coaching abilities. Getting his players focused for this matchup especially after such a mediocre showing the night before... well, it was pretty impressive.

What have they done since?

Ohio State has been fighting to separate itself from the middle of the pack in the CCHA. The middle being Ferris State, Ohio State, and Alaska-Fairbanks. Since the tournament they've split a series with Ferris State, Notre Dame, and Alaska-Fairbanks. They've also won a series against Lake Superior and lost a series against Northern Michigan. The Buckeyes have an opportunity to play their way into an NCAA playoff spot in the next three weeks. They host the CCHA second place Western Michigan Broncos (currently No.6 in the polls) in Columbus this weekend. And then three weeks from now they face the first place Miami Redhawks (No.3 in the polls) in Oxford to finish the regular season.

As an independent first-year team, Penn State has a lot of variety in their schedule. Following the tournament they lost a series with UConn. They then went on to split a series with the USA Hockey U18 team at home and Michigan State in East Lansing. They've also lost to Division III Neuman. But recently the Nittany Lions have been on a streak with wins against Vermont, Ohio University's club team, and Alabama-Huntsville. They close the season with a series against Oklahoma's club team and then on the road against Wisconsin.

For OTE readers who might be interested, both teams have upcoming viewing opportunities on BTN.

Friday, Feb. 22, 7:05 ET, Michigan @ Ohio State
Monday, Feb. 25, 7:05 CT, Penn State @ Wisconsin

One last word

I have to give props to the Penn State fanbase. They really showed up for this event. Attendance for Friday was 11,663 and 10,797 for Saturday. I'd say Penn State fans were easily a third of the gate each night. And they especially made their presence known during Saturday's game with the Buckeyes. Interesting sidenote: Penguins fans were the second most represented by my count. Heard lots of comments behind me about "just wanting to see some gd* hockey". (The tournament occurred before the NHL strike was settled.)

And last, a reminder that Pittsburgh and the Consol Energy Center are the host site for the 2013 Frozen Four. I had a great time in Pittsburgh in spite of the good guys losing and would unreservedly recommend the trip. I'll leave these last few photos for the OTE Minnesota contingent.

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