STATE COLLEGE – Penn State tied RIT 3-3 Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena, even if it lost the shoot-out that didn't count but happened anyway following a five minute sudden-death overtime period 2-0. Even if most of the players on the ice were unaware it didn't count. Even if the 6,211 in attendance were led to believe it counted. It didn't.
That doesn't mean it didn't matter. At least, not to the now 1-2-1 Nittany Lions who felt like they should have won this game, a game they were outshot 32-22 and needed a strange carom after a shot from forward Curtis Loik to bounce by RIT netminder Jordan Ruby to take a 3-2 lead with nearly 11 minutes gone in the third. It was a lead they would surrender just under four minutes later when Tiger winger Brad McGowan beat Penn State netminder Matthew Skoff with a backhander he never had a chance at.
No, the shoot-out won't change Penn State's record heading into a 5 p.m. showdown with Vermont at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Saturday. Still, all that spoke after the game – head coach Guy Gadowsky and forwards Dylan Richard and David Goodwin – said this one felt like a loss.
"It feels like a loss. We played a great game today, but didn't capitalize on some chances," Richard said. "It feels like a loss. We really did lose. We're playing to win."
"We learned we have a lot more to learn," Gadowsky added. "I think they realized that a tie is a tie, but you always want to win. I think they feel proud of themselves for battling back after going down on a 5-on-3 and killing a five minute penalty. [RIT] is a good hockey team, and I think in the first two periods we gave up seven even strengths shot," he continued. "When you lose a shoot-out, I think it's still a negative feeling. But I think feels like there were some positives that they had."
Play of the Game: How strange was Loik's third period goal that briefly put Penn State? The Lions' bench initially didn't know it went in.
"It caught everyone by surprise," Richard said.
"The student section kind of helped us out there," Goodwin added.
Penn State had been struggling to gain and maintain the offensive zone throughout a back and forth start to the third period, and Loik's wrister from the blue line seemed more like a dump-in then anything.
But it got to Ruby (32 saves) quicker than he expected, and by the time he reacted with a kick of his leg, the puck was already ramping off his pad, ultimately finding the top right corner of the net.
"That's an example of us putting pucks on net, getting a bounce, and us getting rewarded for it," Richard said.
Three Stars: Goodwin and Richard took the first and third star, respectively, while RIT forward Brad McGowan, who scored a goal and added an assist, was sandwiched in between. The three starts were voted on by the media.
The combination of wingers Casey Bailey and Eric Scheid, centered by Goodwin, proved to be a positive juggle by Gadowsky on this night, but so, too, did the power play unit involving both Goodwin and Scheid.
It was that unit that pulled Penn State into a 2-2 tie at the 15:21 mark of the second after a pair of RIT goals, both in the first, gave the visitors a 2-1 lead at the end of 20 minutes of play. It was a lead they held for much of the second, until a tripping minor sent Tiger defenseman Alex Perron-Fontaine to the box.
A minute later, State broke out for a 3-on-2 odd-man rush started by forward Zach Saar. He slung it to fellow Scheid, who worked along the half board until he found Goodwin in the slot, who then buried it past Ruby.
"It was kind of a quick transition. I noticed it was a 3-on-2 and that Zach was driving, so I tried to take my time and find open space," Goodwin said. "Eric made a phenomenal pass, and Saar was driving the net, so it was a great goal for our line.
"It was a great play by Schied and Zach, and a great shot by Goodwin," Gadowsky added. "It was kind of ironic he got the goal, because he's been making great passes in those same odd-man rushes, so it was fitting he scored it."
Major Miscue? The idea of player safety is nothing new to hockey players at any level. Really, the argument being made on football fields everywhere is being made in hockey.
Penn State found that out the hard way in the final seconds of the first period, when a minor for elbowing to forward Kenny Brooks seemed to be the only penalty called when play stopped with 31 seconds to play. But State would soon be without its assistant captain, too.
That's David Glen, who was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing RIT defenseman Nolan Descoteaux, who did not return. Penn State killed the resulting 5-on- 3 and five minute penalty which spilled into the second, and shuffled Goodwin and Richard to fill Glen's vacant center spot.
Gadowsky said afterward that he had watched the replay of both penalties, and elaborated on his disagreement for the calls. It was the second time he expressed his displeasure with both, as he also addressed referee Peter Feola before the start of the second.
"It's tough right now with hockey. I know the one that put us down 5 [on three], I thought Kenny's was a really good hit. I really did. I looked at it three times; I thought it was an excellent hit," Gadowsky said. "Then David Glen; they collided, one guy went down, and that's my problem and that's what my discussion was. It seems now that if one guy goes does and gets hurt it doesn't matter. It's a penalty.
"I do think we came out with a focus to check with really good technique, and I thought we did. Sometimes, when guys go down, it's very difficult to avoid those penalties," he continued. "This is something that's in all level of hockey right now, and it's a real fine line. I thought Kenny Brooks' technique was excellent. When guys go down, hitting in hockey is a real tough thing. I hear the conversations going on in football, and we're having the exact same thing. "
Strange Shoot-out: As noted above, Penn State will have shoot-outs that matter in Big Ten Conference play. The one Friday night however, did not.
It briefly crossed Gadowsky's mind to replace Skoff in fear of injury, but he said he quickly abandoned that idea, opting rather to give him the experience he needs for December.
Penn State sent Scheid and Loik to do its shooting, but neither were able to solve Ruby. On the other side, Skoff was beaten twice, once by Perron-Fontaine and once by forward Mike Colavecchia, who scored earlier in the night.
"That's an interesting thing in NCAA hockey, especially with non-conference games, because the game does down as a tie," Gadowsky said. "This was great to get used to it. It was the first time our [zamboni] drivers ever did that I think, so that's a good run through. You always want to win."
• According to RIT, Friday night's shoot-out was the first it ever took part in.
• Richard's first period goal, in which he came in with a Tiger defender draped on his back forcing him to glide right-to-left before sliding it behind Ruby, was his first career goal.
• Penn State was better in the penalty department save for the Brooks' elbow and Glen major. State killed four of six RIT penalties, while converting one its own five opportunities.
• Lion defensemen Patrick Koudys and Mike Williamson were both a game-high +2, as both were on the ice for Richard's first period marker and Loik's third period tally.