Lion hunting

The rivalry between Penn State and Robert Morris hockey continues to intensify

In one corner, at six feet, we have Zac Lynch. Across from him, his opponent, Penn State defenseman and captain Patrick Koudys measuring in at six feet, three inches.

With his back to the boards, Lynch spouts some choice words at Koudys, who in return, reaches out and snatches his stick. They stand, staring at each other with arms hanging at their sides like its high noon in a classic western.

This is a Robert Morris/Penn State hockey game.

“Just some friendly words,” said Lynch of the encounter. “Both teams don’t like each other very much so yeah, we exchanged some blows, but it’s all good and in the game.”

I wish I could tell you (where it stems from). There was just some good rivalry right off the bat as soon as they came into the league. Some good competition.”

Both teams don’t like each other very much.”

— Zac Lynch

Penn State entered the Three Rivers Classic in its inaugural NCAA season in 2012 without a conference to call their own.

By the time the Three Rivers Classic rolled around, the Nittany Lions had faced teams from two different divisions and four different conferences. The season after continued to be a hodge-podge of opponents.  Now they’re a Big 10 team.

Whereas two years ago, key stats were buried behind the front page of the media guide, they’re now proudly displayed on the front cover.

It’s been interesting watching the Penn State program unfold. There’s been some changes, but the Nittany Lions and Colonials are still oil and water: They don’t mix.

It was a hot-blooded rivalry from the beginning. During the first ever Three Rivers Classic matchup, Penn State’s David Glen (who’s now an assistant captain), received a five-minute major and game misconduct. RMU took the game 6-0.

It’s really easy to get up for games like these.”

— Terry Shafer

The year after, Penn State took advantage of a then-dysfunctional Colonial team for a 3-2 win. No game misconducts, but there were ten minors.

Two years later, history is repeating itself.

Largely in part to a surprising game misconduct calls on Nate Jensen for contact to the head, RMU was headed to the championship game once again after winning 4-2.

“Any time you play, you want to win, but any chance you get to go up against a big school like Penn State, an in-state rival, there’s some bragging rights on the line,” said Terry Shafer.

“They took it to us last year, so it’s a great rivalry and it’s really easy to get up for games like these.”

There wasn’t a stoppage of play without some sort of exchange afterwards, whether it was Chase Golightly, Greg Gibson or really any other Colonial. Even the normally level-headed Cody Wydo took part in the festivities.

Even though it was Daniel Leavens’ first experience against Penn State, he felt the same drive as the rest of the team throughout the contest.

“Watching the guys play last year, especially losing here, it just…I could see the anger and how much we were rivals. Tonight it was good to get them back,” said the forward.

The in-state rivalry makes for some heart-pounding hockey, but means even more in the grand scheme of NCAA hockey.

“Both teams have come a long, long way. (RMU is) ranked in the top 20 right now, they came off a tournament placing and I think that’s wonderful for Pennsylvania hockey,” said Penn State head coach Guy Gadowski.

“It’s great for our rivalry which I think will help both programs in the future. This was a great game.”