UMass-Lowell beat Clarkson 3-0 in the opening game of the 2015 Three Rivers Classic on Monday, while RMU defeated Penn State 6-4 in a wild showdown between two Keystone State teams. Joseph Guzy has recaps of both contests below.
The Golden Knights and Nittany Lions will face each other in the consolation game on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. before the Colonials and River Hawks square off in the championship game at 7:30 p.m.
UMASS-LOWELL 3, CLARKSON 0 The River Hawks – the team that Pens forward Scott Wilson played three seasons for before turning pro – punched their ticket to the championship game with a 3-0 victory over the Golden Knights thanks to a shutout performance from goaltender Kevin Boyle.
“I think I was able to see the puck, the first shot,” Boyle said. “I think my rebound control wasn’t great, but the defense in front of me, if there was a rebound they did a great job of clearing it to a corner.”
Boyle was tested all 60 minutes, starting with a point-blank chance by Pens 2013 seventh-round draft pick Troy Josephs, a junior forward for the Golden Knights, and a couple of breakaway chances from Jordan Boucher and Jeff DiNallo.
“I figured I could beat him low blocker just over his pad coming down,” DiNallo said. “I thought I could beat him just over his pad because he was coming down. I thought I had good speed but he made a good save on me. I wish I could get back and actually bury that one.”
As much as Boyle’s 25-save shutout helped the River Hawks secure the victory, having the fifth-ranked team defense in the NCAA in front of him certainly helped.
“(The defense) did an amazing job of letting me see the puck and letting me do my job,” Boyle said. “They do an amazing job day in and day out of letting me see the puck and letting me do my job. All the credit goes to them. They’ve been doing great.”
At the other blue line, the offense for UMass-Lowell began with a crisp pass from forward John Edwards to alternate captain Joe Gambardella flying through the slot for a blazing wrist shot to put the River Hawks up 1-0. C.J. Smith added a power-play tally in the second period on a bad angle shot for the two-goal cushion. Adam Chapie sealed the victory with an empty-net goal.
Contrary to the scoreboard, Clarkson managed to stayed in the game, posting 25 shots to UMass-Lowell’s 26. They had a plethora of prime chances from the slot but just couldn’t finish.
“The one thing we have to battle through right now, is we have to get some guys scoring,” Clarkson head coach Casey Jones said. “We don’t give ourselves much room for error because we’re not scoring.”
Set to face Robert Morris in the championship game tomorrow, Jones was more than ready for the task of facing them or Penn State.
“They’re both two high-powered offenses with great power plays,” Jones said. “I’m sure we’ll have our hands full. It’ll make for a great hockey game.”
ROBERT MORRIS 6, PENN STATE 4 An offensive showdown was expected with Robert Morris and Penn State tied for second in the nation with 4.38 goals per game. The result was an all-out shooting gallery, ending with a 6-4 victory for the Colonials over the Nittany Lions, despite RMU trailing 33-56 in shots.
“I look at scoring chances more than shots,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “The way defenses play now you want to protect the middle the ice. You’ll give up perimeter shots and count on your goalie to make saves from the outside. (Penn State) is averaging 44 shots a game so they’re obviously getting a lot of shots on a lot of people. It doesn’t concern me.”
Despite the Nittany Lions putting up six shots in the first three minutes of the game, the Colonials opened up the scoring on their first shot 3:57 into the contest.
Robert Morris forward Daniel Leavens banked a shot off of Penn State goaltender Eamon McAdam from behind the net to put Robert Morris ahead 1-0.
Penn State responded early in the second period with a shorthanded tally from Eric Shid all alone in the slot to put the Nittany Lions back in the game.
But Robert Morris buckled down and replied with three unanswered goals, starting with a power-play tally from defenseman Tyson Wilson 1:42 after the Penn State goal. A gritty goal from Spencer Dorowicz in the blue paint was followed by what was perhaps the back-breaking goal by Brandon Denham
Penn State had a 3-on-1 opportunity but shot it high and off the glass. The puck found Robert Morris forward Brandom Denham at the opposite blue line to set him up for 2-on-0 chance with Tyson Wilson. Denham paused for a split second before burying an absolute laser to put the Colonials up 4-1.
“Honestly I didn’t really see the chance going the other way,” Denham said. “I was struggling to get on the ice. I hopped on and the puck was right there. I saw that me and (Tyson Wilson) were in and did what I could.”
Robert Morris ended the period on a high note with goaltender Terry Shafer making three incredibly acrobatic saves on the doorstep to keep Penn State to a single goal after two periods.
In his fourth consecutive year playing in the Three Rivers Classic, Penn State defenseman Luke Juha cut the lead to two with a slapper from the point 4:51 into the third period to start what looked to be a comeback for the Nittany Lions.
“When you score a quick on in the third period, obviously the guys have a little bit more energy,” Juha said. “At no point did I think that we were going to lose that game.”
But despite a late surge to bring the Penn State within one, Zac Lynch sealed the deal for Robert Morris by tapping in a bouncing puck that McAdam just couldn’t settle down.
“I think you saw Christmas break come into play a little bit in the third period,” Schooley said. “But we found a way to get the job done. Big goal by Zac after (Penn State) had a little momentum.”
It was a big victory for Lynch, a Shaler native, but he’s keeping his eye on the prize.
“To be able to beat (Penn State) again is good for us,” Lynch said. “We just want to take that into tomorrow and be able to win another championship”