Sunday, July 22, 2018

It's hard for a team two win back to back championships, it is even harder for a team to win back to back to back championships. This becomes especially difficult with a program like PSU, who turns over a new roster every other year. Coming off a year that only two returners to the roster, questions surrounded the Nittany Lions roster. The goal was always the same, to win The CHE Championship. After a convincing win against Pitt Greensburg, PSU would be on a collision course with Case Western, who had an equally convincing win against Saint Vincent. These two teams met twice in October with PSU outscoring Case 20-5. However, as the Lions would find out this was a different Case Western team in February. Both teams would play a very conservative first period, knowing that any mistake could lead to a devastating result. Case put sustained pressure on a Lions offense who scored at will all season and created fits for PSU players. Brendan Gertz would give the Lions a 1-0 lead with a shot from the right circle. However, before the period would come to a close, Case Western would tie the score at 1-1. Gertz would score his second of the game giving PSU a 2-1 lead assisted by Catcher Cumming and Maxim Lesnikov. Then with both defensemen caught on the same side, a long stretch pass to the blue line sent Case in on a breakaway, and once again tying the score 2-2. Heading into the third period the coaching staff addressed the team, simplifying the game plan. Then a players only meeting stressed gut check time. PSU had everything to lose and Case everything to gain. From the time a player first puts on his skates, it is his dream to score a game winning goal in a championship game. Would it be a more fitting end to the story for the PSU captain, Jon Bilek, to go on an end to end rush and score on a breakaway giving PSU a 3-2 lead. With over eight minutes to play, PSU would play a very defensive 1-2-2 system limiting Case's opportunities. And the chances they did get, goaltender Jonah Brous would shut the door. Brous would turn away 24 of 26 shots with the win. Every player sacrificing their body on every shift to preserve the victory. And when the clock finally wound down to zero, PSU would celebrate its third consecutive championship. For most players this would be their first title and the smiles on the ice spoke volumes. This was probably PSU's hardest fought victory, and give credit to a Case Western team, who came a long way since October. Gavin George would win the teams MVP belt, with an amazing effort blocking shots and throwing hits. George was quoted in the locker room..."I want to thank my teammates for accepting me onto this team. I didn't try out for the team my freshmen year, but this championship and memories make this year and trying out for the team worth every practice, every bump, and every bruise.