PITTSBURGH - After losing to Robert Morris, 6-4, on Monday, No. 15 Penn State (12-3-3, 2-0-0 Big Ten) rebounded to defeat Clarkson (7-2-2, 0-5-2 ECAC Hockey) on Tuesday afternoon in the consolation game of the Three Rivers Classic in CONSOL Energy Center. Behind a tremendous performance from goaltender Matt Skoff, the Nittany Lions soundly defeated the Golden Knights, 5-1.
Skoff, a Pittsburgh native, made 36 saves in front of his hometown fans on the way to his fifth victory of the season.
"This is my last game in Pittsburgh as a Nittany Lion," said Skoff. "And to go out with the win in that fashion, feels pretty good. Moving forward that feeling is going to help us."
Skoff also noted that his participation in the Pittsburgh Penguins development camp this past summer helped him prepare for his return to the CONSOL Energy Center ice. Skoff credited working with the Penguins coaching staff for helping him to enhance his existing skills and to enable him to compete effectively at college hockey's highest level.
Five different Nittany Lions scored during Tuesday's victory, including senior forward Kenny Brooks. Brooks played his 100th game with Penn State on Tuesday, joining fellow seniors David Glen, Curtis Loik, Tommy Olczyk and Eric Scheid, who have also reached this milestone.
On the defensive end, senior Luke Juha notched one goal and three assists in the two-game tournament. Juha represented the Nittany Lions on the Three Rivers All-Tournament Team.
With the tournament coming in the middle of winter break, the Nittany Lions had limited ice time prior to their arrival in Pittsburgh. However, head coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased that even with some unexpected injuries, his team was able to make necessary adjustments and get back on the winning track. Prior to the tournament, the Nittany Lions were on a ten game unbeaten streak.
"I really like the fact that they found a way to play a great third [period], I think things were just hard for us, I don't know if we were tired, the lines were all mixed up, but they found a way, so I think that's a really important step," said Gadowsky. "They showed some real, I think, some mental strength, to play a great third period."
Juha was able to sum up his final thoughts on the tournament.
"I think the guys are really excited to come here, obviously we have exams and we're not on the ice as much as we want and we come back from Christmas break ready to go and I think all the guys are excited to get back and start the second half of the season," said Juha. "There's always been great competition in this tournament and this year wasn't any different."
Gadowsky knows the toughest part of his team's season is right around the corner, but he also knows his team will do whatever is necessary to find success on the ice.
"I think that's something that we can build on as far as now we get into the bulk of the Big Ten conference and we know it's going to get tougher and I don't think we're at a level yet that we are to have the success we want but we're going to work hard at a number of things," said Gadowsky. "But it's nice to see that we finally got a game like this that I think was a great testament to the mental strength that we have."
The Nittany Lions return to Hockey Valley with a start of a new unbeaten streak and will face Minnesota in Pegula Ice Arena Jan 8 and 9.