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Penn State Hockey Falls to UMass-Lowell 5-3

In a game that was controlled by the River Hawks, the Nittany Lions fought hard through the end of the game. (Thanks for this picture, Giraffelover)

First Period

The River Hawks of UMass-Lowell jumped out to an early advantage against PSU, taking control of both the tempo and the scoreboard in the first period. In the first minute of play, Lowell forward Chris Maniccia got a clean breakaway and shot on goal against PSU starting goalie Matthew Skoff. The aggressive play by Lowell would be the mark of what was to come in the first period. While the teams played fast and back-and-forth through the first ten minutes of the game, Lowell controlled the puck for the majority of the time.

Eleven minutes into the first period, the River Hawks made the effort pay off with a goal off the stick of Robert Francis. With a minute remaining in the first period, Lowell added a second goal by Zach Kamrass. The two-goal lead that was created by this score seemed to be a fitting spread between the teams at this point in the game since Lowell had been playing with the upper-hand for the first twenty minutes.

Each team had one penalty called against them in the first period, but neither team was able to capitalize with the extra skater. The two first period penalties would be the only two penalties of the game, which is a huge improvement for the Lions who came into the game averaging just under four penalties per game after allowing five penalties per game last season. Penn State out-shot Lowell in the first period 11-9, but Lowell got more quality chances overall. The one aspect where PSU held the advantage definitively was in the hitting category. The Lions were smacking around the smaller, faster River Hawks throughout the first period.

Second Period

After the first intermission there was concern that PSU had not matched the speed or intensity that UMass-Lowell came out with from the start. This concern would not last for very long as Penn State forward Casey Bailey scored his sixth goal of the season just seventeen seconds into the period, assisted by Taylor Holstrom.

The goal got PSU back in the game but the joy didn't last long for the visiting team. Two minutes later the River Hawks answered with a goal of their own scored by John Edwardh making the lead 3-1.

For the next six minutes the teams played even and PSU began to show a willingness to fight to the finish of this game. With eleven minutes remaining in the second period, Lowell scored a fourth goal on Matt Skoff. At this point Skoff was pulled from the net in favor of Eamon McAdam. Down 4-1, the goalie change was not a statement of how Skoff had let the team down, but rather than a chance for McAdam to get some quality playing time, and to protect Skoff from letting in 6-7 goals on the night.

For McAdam this was the first playing time between the pipes this season. He faced an immediate tough shot just fifteen seconds after coming onto the ice and was able to turn it away with his blocker.

The teams would play fast but scoreless for the remainder of the second period. Although UMass-Lowell outscored PSU 2-1 in the period, the play was much more even than in the first period. Shots were 12-11 in favor of the River Hawks, but PSU got as many quality chances as their opponents.

Third Period

The teams played even for eight minutes of the third period until Lowell got the fifth goal of the night, off the stick of C.J. Smith. The lead was now 5-1 in favor of the fourth-ranked team in the country. This would have been a great opportunity for the Nittany Lions to start folding up the tents and packing it in for the night. But that's not what happened.

From this point forward, PSU played harder than UMass-Lowell. Forgetting about the four goal deficit, the Lions upped the tempo, hitting, and aggressiveness on the boards. With nine minutes remaining in the game, the gutsy effort by PSU was rewarded with a goal by Tommy Olczyk, his second of the season, assisted by Curtis Loik. Loik had carried the puck behind Lowell's net, grabbing the attention of the defense, while Olczyk got open in front of the net for the pass.

While the final outcome of the game was not affected by this late-game surge in effort by the Lions, the young visiting team gained a great deal of confidence by matching the intensity of their opponent. Then, with a minute and fifteen seconds to go, Holstrom and Bailey struck once more.

With 45 seconds remaining, PSU cleared the zone, down two goals. Eamon McAdam started to skate off the ice for PSU in an effort to give the Lions an extra skater. Unfortunately, the puck quickly came back to PSU's end of the ice, and McAdam was forced to keep himself in play. Although this is common practice in hockey, it showed that Guy Gadowsky's squad wasn't willing to just throw in the towel. The willingness to pull the goalie while down two goals with under a minute left in the game, showed the team that their coach was thinking about the win until the final horn sounded.

PSU out-shot (15-9), out-hustled, out-scored (2-1) and out-hit Lowell in the third period. The Lions were able to keep to their strategy of peppering the net with as many shots as possible, and were able to get 37 shots on goal against a great opponent. They out-shot Lowell 37-30 on the night.

The Lions played tough and even with a great team for the final two periods of the game. It was clear in the first period that Lowell is the more talented team, but the effort of the Lions made this game something that the team can build on leading into tonight's second game of the series.