The Western Michigan Broncos overcame yesterday’s semifinal loss and defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 4-1 in today’s consolation game of the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center.
This is Penn State’s third time playing in the classic, and their first time coming in 4th place, despite getting another injured player, junior defenseman Connor Varley, back from injury after adding fellow junior Zach Saar the night before.
“We just didn’t seem to have the same compete level that we’ve had, the same push,” said Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky. “I thought [the returning players] played well, that’s encouraging, but today it’s hard to say that anyone was spectacular.”
The Broncos shut down the high-powered Penn State offense, which came into the game ranked number one in the country in shots per game.
“We’re obviously pleased with the win,” said Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray. “The way that we played, we were solid defensively. We lost a little respect for the game in the second period; we started to think it was easy. The game of hockey is hard, and as soon as you think it is easy, it’s troublesome. We came out in the third period and had good puck possession, we are pleased with the win for sure.”
Broncos forward Sheldon Dries started off the scoring with his ninth goal of the season with 12:30 remaining in the 1st period, with an assist from Nolan Laporte.
Freshman Aidan Muir of the Broncos scored three goals during the Three Rivers Classic, giving him five on the season. He had two on Tuesday, scoring a power play goal with just 1:19 left in the second period, assisted by Taylor Flemming, and another in the third.
“Playing on a line with Kessel and Kovacs, two veteran guys, makes the game easy,” said Muir. “All I have to do is go through the middle and … drop it back to Kovacks and he made a nice pass. I’ve been working on my deflections in practice.”
Scoring his fourth goal of the season, Broncos forward Colton Hargrove gave his team 3-0 lead by scoring an unassisted goal with 5:02 left in the second period.
Penn State finally scored with 16:07 remaining in the third period. Curtis Loik scored his 4th goal of the season with an assist from Erik Autio. Autio was almost unable to play in the tournament as he was one of the last cuts for the Finnish team at the IIHF world junior championship, which is occurring in Montreal this week.
Broncos goaltender Lukas Hafner was exceptional, making 32 saves to earn a win on his second start in the tournament.
“I think our guys just do a great job of keeping the outside … and really letting me see the puck tonight,” Hafner said. “Penn State puts a lot of pucks on net, I think that’s their game plan, and its a lot easier to control your rebounds when there isn’t a second opportunity and our guys did a really great job of boxing guys out in front.”