PITTSBURGH -- Penn State didn't get to enjoy the big stage of an NHL arena for long.
The Nittany Lions gave up a goal 1:49 into their Three Rivers Classic semifinal game against Robert Morris on Friday at the Consol Energy Center and never recovered en route to a 6-0 defeat.
That first tally by the Colonials' Andrew Blazek started a crippling four-goal first period for Robert Morris, which forced Penn State to play catch-up all afternoon. It was a start coach Guy Gadowsky thought was hard to come back from.
"You're not going to win many games not scoring any goals but certainly we put ourselves in a deep hole," Gadowsky said after the game. "It could have been a little different."
Starting goaltender PJ Musico gave up all four of the early goals and was pulled after the first period in favor of freshman Matthew Skoff. The McKees Rocks native responded by stopping 18 of the 20 shots he faced in the second and third periods.
Gadowsky said that Skoff will start Penn State's consolation game on Saturday and that he was pleased with the goalie's performance.
"Skoffer played very well," Gadowsky said. "Unfortunately he had to come in today but he was strong when he came in."
Meanwhile, Robert Morris goaltender Eric Levine stole the show, stopping every one of Penn State's 48 shot attempts.
The senior was especially strong in slowing Penn State's attack in the second period, turning away all 14 of the Lions' shots as the Colonials generated just four of their own.
"When we made mistakes, Eric was there to bail us out," Colonials coach Derek Schooley said. "We probably had a half-dozen big saves."
Several of those stops came when Penn State had a man advantage, but Levine was equal to the task, helping Robert Morris shut down the Lions' six powerplay chances.
Casey Bailey and Tommy Olczyk were active offensively for Penn State, registering a combined 15 shots. Their performances helped Penn State outshoot Robert Morris 48-41 despite its troubles in the defensive end. They just couldn't finish enough to keep the Lions in the game.
"David Glen had a breakaway, I think on a powerplay, We score that and a couple of them stay out and it's a different ball game," Gadowsky said. "But that's 'ifs' and 'buts.' Bottom line is we put ourselves in a hole and we couldn't come out of it."
Gadowsky was happy with the turnout, though.
A total of 11,663 showed up for the semifinal match ups despite a 4:30 p.m. faceoff in the heart of Pittsburgh's rush hour, and the coach praised the number of fans who came out to see the team. He just wished the result was different.
"Everywhere we've been, there's such great alumni at Penn State. I love Penn State," Gadowsky said. "The student body, the alumni are unbelievable. I couldn't wait to come here and see how it is and the atmosphere was tremendous. Tremendous. I took a look and the first period wasn't done yet and it was phenomenal and you see a lot of blue and white. That's why I'm disappointed."
Penn State will face Ohio State in the consolation contest at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday back at the Consol Energy Center.