Penn State took it to the fourth-ranked team in the country, earning a 4-1 win over a great University of Massachusetts-Lowell hockey team. From the start of the game it was clear that the Nittany Lions intended to play hard for the win, contesting each loose puck, and playing hard on the defensive end. Penn State sophomore goalie Eamon McAdam got the start for the first time this season after relieving regular starter Matt Skoff the previous night. The young goalie played solid all night, allowing only one late goal while turning away twenty-four shots.
This is a landmark win for a hockey program that is just ten games into its third year of division one competition. The River Hawks are the highest-ranked team Penn State has ever defeated. The Lions were ranked #26 in the country coming in to the game but may break into the top twenty for the first time in school history when the USCHO rankings are released on Monday afternoon.
From the first dropped puck, the Lions were the more aggressive team. Casey Bailey lit the lamp just six minutes into the game on a power-play goal assisted by Taylor Holstrom to give Penn State a lead that they wouldn't relinquish. Just over two minutes later, Bailey scored again, assisted by Holstrom and David Goodwin. With over ten minutes remaining in the first period, the early scoring barrage gave the Lions a cushion to work with, allowing the young team to skate free and loose. Bailey nearly added a third goal moments later on a clear breakaway, but River Hawk goalie Jeff Smith made a wonderful glove save.
The teams played even for the next ten minutes of the first period until, with nineteen seconds remaining in the period, Eric Scheid put the Lions up 3-0. The late goal was assisted by James Robinson and David Thompson. The third goal, so late in the period, stunned the home crowd and silenced the stadium between periods.
The atmosphere in the Tsongas Center was uneasy to start the period. Trailing by three goals at home, UMass-Lowell was not out of the game, but the crowd could sense that the home team was in trouble. Their concerns turned to nightmares when Tommy Olczyk scored Penn State's fourth goal of the night just seventeen seconds into the second period. Taylor Holstrom got a third assist, registering Penn State's first play-maker of the season. (Ed note- for those unaware, a play-maker is the assist equivalent of a hat trick, as in three assists in one game -NP)
At this point the River Hawks attempted to halt the momentum of the visiting team by switching goalies. Starting goalie Jeff Smith allowed four goals in just over a period of play before he was pulled in favor of Kevin Boyle. The young Lowell goalie made a half-dozen saves that very well could have found the back of the net.
For the final nineteen minutes of the second period the teams played even. There were four penalties but neither team could find the back of the net while on the power play. A strong Penn State contingent of fans enjoyed the lead during the final intermission of the game.
At the start of the final period it became clear that the River Hawks did not intend to coast to the end of the game and allow PSU to walk out with an easy win. Facing a great deal of pressure, Penn State goalie Eamon McAdam held tough between the pipes, turning away several strong attempts on net. The River Hawks successfully killed a penalty by C.J. Smith and then went on the power play with just over ten minutes remaining in the final period. A few seconds later, Joe Gambardella scored on the power play for Lowell, cutting the Penn State lead to 4-1. With just under ten minutes remaining in the game the home team began playing with a sense of urgency. Penn State was able to match the effort though, turning back each Lowell shot for the remainder of the game. Penn State had sixteen blocked shots on the game, with many coming in the final ten minutes. It was a complete team effort to preserve the 4-1 win.
- Penn State held the highest-scoring team in the nation to just one goal, the fewest UMass-Lowell has scored all season.
- UMass-Lowell, 7-2-2, has played Penn State twice, Michigan and Michigan State once for a combined record of 2-2 against the Big Ten. All games were played in the Tsongas Center.
- While outnumbered, there were many Penn State fans at the game representing Nittany Nation. As seen in the picture provided by Giraffelover, one lucky Lion got to ride on the zamboni between the first and second periods.
- Penn State faces the Michigan Wolverines this weekend in Ann Arbor. Having defeated Michigan three times last season, knocking them out of the playoffs for only the second time in two decades, the Lions will surely face a great deal of effort by the home team. Penn State will enter the match-up as the higher-ranked team, which can only stoke the fire burning inside Michigan that has been smoldering for over a year.
- As a result of this game, Penn State forward Taylor Holstrom is the NCAA D1 leader in assists with 13, and is in a five-way tie for first in overall points, with 16 (3 goals, 13 assists).
- Check out some of the highlights from the game
Additional Penn State hockey note, Taylor Holstrom now leads the nation in points.— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) November 16, 2014