In their toughest test as a second-year Division I program, the Nittany Lions (4-10-1) were clearly outmatched against the No. 7 ranked Boston College Eagles (12-4-2) in the 8-2 loss at Consol Energy Center.
Boston College became the highest-ranked opponent in program history for the Nittany Lions and their seventh ranked opponent played in the past eight games.
But it seemed like for the majority of the first period, the shoe was on the other foot with Penn State controlling play.
“Penn State started the game with a little bit of an edge and a head start on us,” said Boston College Head Coach York, the NCAA’s all-time leader in wins. “They are a pretty good club and they gave us all we could handle early,” said York. “I thought it was more what they did than what we did early.”
Penn State would strike first in large part to Boston College defenseman Jake Sloat’s clearing attempt giveaway in his own zone along the boards. The puck made its way right to the stick of Jonathan Milley and then Milley was able to immediately find Casey Bailey right in the slot for a one timer past Boston College goalie Brian Billet.
“I felt pretty good about how we were playing,” said Penn State Head Coach Guy Gadowsky about their early start. “We were playing our game and felt very good about it and optimistic and looking to see if we could sustain it.”
Nittany Lions goaltender Matt Skoff, the Pittsburgh native playing in front of family and friends, made the saves he needed most of the first period to keep Penn State in the game. But Boston College was able to show why they are consistently one of the elite programs in college hockey, scoring two goals late in the period to swing the momentum in their favor going into the intermission.
The son of longtime NHL player and current Pittsburgh Penguins executive Tom Fitzgerald, Ryan, would get the scoring started for the Eagles. A redirected pass from freshman defenseman Austin Cangelosi would lead to Fitzgerald’s eighth goal of the season. 33 seconds later, Kevin Hayes would pounce on a rebound from Fitzgerald’s attempt at a highlight reel goal to between his legs to make it 2-1.
“I don’t think we took our foot off the gas,” said Gadowsky. “I think we got a little tentative when they started to roll. You have to give them a lot of credit. They are just a scary offensive team. They make so many plays and they really did put us back on our heels.”
In the second, the Eagles’ Destry Straight would grab his first goal of the game a little over six minutes into the period. Straight then scored the next goal to make it 4-1 on an Issac MacLeod shot from the point. He would later complete the first hat trick in Three Rivers Classic history after goals from one of college hockey’s most decorated players Johnny Gaudreau and Danny Linell.
Michael Sit would be the final scorer in Boston College’s onslaught with his fifth goal of the season at the 13:51 mark of the third period.
David Goodwin’s fourth goal of the season late in the third from an Eric Scheid two-on-one pass wound up being Penn State’s only other goal.
Gaudreau was named tournament MVP with two goals and three assists. He joined his line mates Bill Arnold and Hayes, who combined for 12 points in the tournament, on the all-tournament team.
“Johnny is Johnny,” said Hayes. “He’s special and one of the best players in the country.”
Second year alternate captain defenseman Nate Jensen was the lone Nittany Lion to make the all-tournament team.
Penn State and Boston College will meet again at Pegula Ice Arena on January 25.