According to coach Guy Gadowsky, the star of Penn States massive 7-1 win over UConn wasn’t who you’d think it would be.
"You wouldn’t normally think your goalie is the player of the game in a 7-1 win, but I think for us, he definitely was," the fourth-year coach said, following his team’s massive victory in the second game of its season-opening series.
Less than a day after drawing game one of season two in Pegula Ice Arena with the Huskies, the Nittany Lions scored their most goals in a single game since moving into the $102-million arena last year, but Gadowsky was most pleased with the way his goaltender played.
"It could’ve easily been 3-0 [in favor of the Huskies] early on," the coach said.
Forwards Taylor Holstrom and David Goodwin led the way offensively with three points each on the afternoon.
After an early penalty from Patrick Koudys, Connor Varley’s afternoon came to an early conclusion, as the defenseman was docked with a five-minute major boarding penalty, setting up a lengthy five-on-three power-play for the Huskies.
Killing both of these penalties, followed by some super-strong play from goaltender Matthew Skoff, set the tone for the Lions for the rest of the afternoon.
"If you’re going to have a good penalty kill, your goaltender has to be your best killer, and he definitely was today," Gadowsky said.
A slow but solid 1-0 lead after one period became a massive 6-1 lead, as the Lions exploded for five goals in the game’s second act.
Amidst the offensive barrage, Skoff was tremendous as usual in goal, amassing 28 saves in the game while only allowing one to get through.
The Lions struck first in the game, as David Glen was able to recover a UConn defensive zone turnover, before skating to his right, and dropping a pass at Curtis Loik’s feet. Loik took a quick shot at Nichols, and after the goalie blocked the shot but failed to cover it up, Glen was right there to slam it home at 13:27 for the game’s first score.
Despite the promising start in period number one, the Lions truly opened the floodgates in the second, scoring five goals, their most ever in one period.
Last year’s leading scorer, Eric Scheid began the barrage only 43 seconds into the second period. After a feed from Jonathan Milley, Scheid shot it right into Nichols’ chest, and the UConn goaltender again failed to cover it up. Scheid saw, immediately followed his shot, getting his own rebound and burying it in the back of the net to put the Lions up 2-0.
The Lions were back at it again only a few minutes later despite being a man down, as Taylor Holstrom tapped a long pass from Dylan Richard at the right point behind Nichols to make the score 3-0.
The goal was the first short-handed goal of the season after the team scored five a year ago. Less than two minutes later, the Huskies got onto the scoreboard, as winger Spencer Naas got one past Skoff off a feed from captain Ryan Tyson to make the score 3-1.
The scoring just kept coming for the Lions, as they scored two more goals in the thirteenth minute of the second period.
The first came at 13:01, when Holstrom got his second of the game off a snipe from the right slot. Forward Casey Bailey and Goodwin assisted the goal.
Before the arena PA announcer was even done announcing Holstrom’s second goal, the Lions struck again, as Goodwin scored his second of the season. The sophomore put yet another goal between the legs of Nichols. Holstrom assisted on the goal, and UConn coach Mike Cavanaugh pulled Nichols from the game in favor of his backup, Tom Comunale.
The goalie change didn’t make too much of a difference for the Lions, as they just kept up their scoring barrage. Jonathan Milley scored his first of the season at 18:52 into the second, as his massive, 6-foot-4 frame was able to recover the puck after a scrum and bury it behind Comunale. Assists on the goal went to Goodwin and Juha.
After 16:27 had passed in the third period, Bailey put the exclamation point onto the game for the Nittany Lions, scoring his first goal of the season after Juha’s good vision found him wide for a slap shot in front of the net, to settle the score for good at 7-1.
Playing together on the same line, Holstrom, Goodwin, and Bailey were voted the three stars of the game, and Gadowsky was proud of the way the three of them played, citing his belief in the "hockey gods."
Similarly, the coach was pleased with the play of Glen, Holstrom, and Bailey, who all started slowly a season ago, but were able to get into the scorebook for game number two this season.
"It’s kind of a weight off our shoulders," Holstrom said after the game.
Gadowsky was hopeful that the three would be able to keep it up.
"It’s up to them to keep their foot on the gas," he said. "We’ll see if they’re able to do that."