Penn State Claims National Championship
Penn State 6 Central Florida 2
by Richard Graham
San Jose, CA - In a B Division elimination game, UC Santa Barbara defeated West Chester, 3-2, in overtime, despite being outshot 34 to 26. During the game, Michigan State coach Frank Caliguri gave an axle to Gauchos’ forward Bobby Burns, who scored the winning goal in overtime, and as the Santa Barbara players came off the rink after the game, several yelled, “We love you, coach. Go MSU!”
In the elite eight, Penn State shut down St. Charles Community College, 4,-0; before dispatching Lindenwood, 8-3, in the final four. That set up a championship match up with the Central Florida Knights. The Knights had closer games on their way to the final, holding off Arizona State by a score of 5-3 before squeezing past the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos, 4-3.
In the championship final, Penn State drew first blood at 9:34 of the first period on a power play after Central Florida’s John Duhe was sent off for tripping. It was the second period where the Nittany Lions took over, scoring four straight goals, two by Jesse Patnesky. At the beginning of the third, Penn State’s Jason Bogert made it a 6-0 lead just 32 seconds in. The Knights scored two quick goals, at 4:38 and 4:53, making it 6-2, but it was too little, too late, and that’s how the game ended.
“The game plan didn’t work,” said Knights’ defenseman Craig Hughes, a freshman. “They came out with the box, they came out strong, and we couldn’t score. They didn’t tire us out; we just couldn’t get decent shots off. We were taking shots from the point and we couldn’t get them through. They’re a great team. There’s not much we can do about it. We played a great tournament. We had a great season; we played a lot of DII and upper-level teams. We came in strong, we played our best, and we got as far as we could.”
“In pool play, we weren’t doing so well, so we had a meeting right before the elimination round started,” said Penn State Coach Bryan Ollendyke, who captained the team the previous three years. “We changed our system completely, changed up our lines, and we threw a completely different look at every team that was here; no one knew how to read us. Fortunately, they didn’t pick it up in this game, either.”
Ollendyke gave props to Penn State’s veteran players.
“The senior class this year has been huge – Bryan Reel, Eric Kleinberg, Jason Bogert… and Jesse Patnesky, especially,” Ollendyke said. “He’s the offense, by far. We stuck to a system; we made sure our guys didn’t jump up into the play. We let them come to us, and they got exhausted. Our whole system was built around keeping our guys fresh, jumping off turnovers and just took it from there. We had faith in our scorers that they could pick any goalie.”
“We learned the new system yesterday afternoon in the hotel,” said Bryan Reel, a Nittany Lion forward. “We played it against St. Charles, and it worked against Lindenwood and again today. We kept them to the outside and made sure our goalie could see all the shots.”
Lions’ defenseman Jason Bogert said that the three-days of Penn State’s tournament were some of the best days of his life.
“The game against Lindenwood was incredible. They’re always the top dogs of the league. We were kind of joking around, saying we were like Team USA [of the 1980 Olympic Games] – beat the Soviets and take home the gold at the end.”
Comparing Lindenwood to that great Soviet team was not really a stretch – since the inception of the NCRHA, Lindenwood B had won every single championship – until this week.
“This was my first season on the team,” said Penn State’s Nick Sirera. “It’s a pretty big way to go out. It’s definitely the best time of my life.”
“The B Division teams are here to play,” said NCRHA tournament staffer Ned Farkas. “They want to win and they want to play hard, and it’s been fun for them. They also seem to have deeper benches, so each shift means a whole lot more to each guy. Division I teams may only have eight or nine guys; these are all showing up with 12 plus.