December 29, 2012 at 6:57 PM
PITTSBURGH -- Penn State didn't let the disappointment from a crushing shutout loss against Robert Morris on Friday spoil its Three Rivers Classic experience.
The Nittany Lions' offense came alive on Saturday to lift the team to a 5-4 win against Ohio State in the tournament's consolation game at the Consol Energy Center.
Forwards Taylor Holstrom and Casey Bailey scored two goals apiece and linemate Max Gardiner added three assists. Their efforts helped Penn State hold off a furious effort from the Buckeyes, who outshot the Lions 40-37 and got a hat trick from captain Ryan Dzingel.
And afterward, players and coaches alike were thrilled to get a win in their first NCAA game against their future Big Ten foe following a stinging 6-0 defeat against the Colonials a day earlier.
"I think after the loss we kind of pulled ourselves together. We had to come back," Holstrom said. "We didn't want to disappoint the fans because it was a big rivalry and our first Big Ten game. I think we all just pulled together and played the way we know we can play."
Penn State gave up the first goal for a second consecutive game when Dzingel scored at the 3:56 mark of the first period. This time, though, the Lions fought back with three-straight goals to take a 3-1 lead to the first intermission.
They held the lead for the rest of the game.
The Buckeyes fought for the tying goal late after closing to 5-4 on the strength of two third-period goals, but they couldn't finish the comeback as the Lions locked down defensively to complete the victory.
Penn State's performance still early in its first season at the NCAA level impressed Ohio State associate head coach Steve Rohlik.
"They're a hard-working team. They play with a lot of heart," Rohlik said. "That's what it takes at this level right now, and when you bring that to the table, they're going to compete with anybody."
The showing also excited the dominant crowd of Penn State fans among the the 10,797 in attendance. Loud "We Are...Penn State" chants echoed through the massive NHL building and the Lions got the biggest roars of the weekend for their goals.
For a second-straight day, coach Guy Gadowsky was effusive in his praise of those who turned out to take in the action.
"If you looked in the stands and heard the Penn State alumni, I mean, how much fun is that to play in front of them?" Gadowsky said. "Anyone that can see that wants to be a part of it. I thought the fans were fantastic."
After the buzzer sounded to end the game, players skated over to a group of fans and saluted them. Afterward, they expressed hope that the victory can invigorate the fledgling fan base moving forward.
"They came out, they paid good money for those tickets," Holstrom said. "They were here to support us and we just wanted to show them appreciation."
NOTES: Penn State goaltender and McKees Rocks native Matthew Skoff turned away 36 of 40 shots...Penn State was just 1-8 on the powerplay over the weekend but did get a goal from Bailey in a 5-on-3 situation late in the first period...Bailey was named to the Three Rivers Classic All-Tournament team for his efforts...Robert Morris won the tournament with a 1-0 upset victory of Miami (OH) in the championship game.