By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
The tradition spans the generations of the Rochester Institute of Technology Corner Crew.
When the starting lineups are announced, the fiercely loyal student section provides a boisterous “welcome,” if you will, to each visiting player, making sure they know their place.
Even when a holiday break or spring break depletes the Corner Crew population, the decibel level coming from the southwest corner of the Gene Polisseni Center has really never waned.
But on Friday night, when public address announcer Rocky Perrotta introduced Kevin Wall, the cheering section for the Penn State senior forward was all that could be heard.
It turns out the family and friends of the former Penfield High School hockey and lacrosse standout can make some noise.
And since Wall had his own fan club, he made sure he put on a show. Wall scored two goals and set up another as No. 5 ranked Penn State thumped No. 20 RIT 6-1 in front of 3,704 fans at the Gene.
“I couldn’t have drawn it up any better, I’m just so excited,” Wall said.
Conversely, the game couldn’t have gone much worse for the Tigers. They fell behind 3-0 in the first 18 minutes and never recovered. They couldn’t deal with Penn State’s speed, they were hesitant with the puck and they generated no sustained offensive-zone pressure.
The final shots on goal – 47-29 – were very much an accurate indication of Penn State’s domination.
“We just tried to play our game and when we play our game it’s tough to beat us,” Wall said. “We stuck with that for three periods and that’s why the outcome happened.”
Heading into the weekend set with the Nittany Lions – the rematch is at 5:30 p.m. Saturday in University Park, Pa. – Wilson said the two games would be a good measuring stick for RIT. The Tigers learned there’s a gap.
“This is where we are, we’ve got some ground to make up,” he said after Friday’s loss dropped the Tigers record to 12-5.
Penn State, meanwhile, looked very much like a top-five team.
“I think they’re a team that could be in the Frozen Four,” Wilson said. “Who’s their top line? They might not have a guy that signs an NHL contract but they call play at a high level.”
Like Wall, a sixth-round draft pick of the Carolina Hurricanes in 2019. He was credited with the game’s first goal just 3:05 into the first period when his centering pass caromed off the shin of defenseman Ryan Nicholson and past goalie Tommy Scarfone.
While the bounce was lucky, the goal was very much deserved. Wall burst out of the Penn State zone, darted past two defenders at center, and then carried down the left wing before making the pass into the slot.
Cue the fans from Penfield.
“Relatives on relatives on relatives; high school buddies,” Wall said of his supporters. “It means so much to me.”
Goals just 19 seconds apart by Tyler Paquette and Ashton Calder in the 18th minute gave the Nittany Lions (16-5) a 3-0 lead before Tyler Mahan’s short-handed goal 1:07 into the second period gave the Tigers hope.
However, Wall deflated RIT 4:32 later with his second goal of the game and team-leading 11th of the season. Taking a pass from Ryan Kirwin, he zipped down the slot by himself before snapping a shot into the top right corner of the net.
He later assisted on the game’s final goal by Connor MacEachern 4:49 into the third period, an exclamation point on his first and only collegiate visit in his hometown.
“I tried to take in every moment and really appreciate it,” Wall said. “I might not get anything like this again so it was an absolute honor.”
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