|Team||First Period||Second Period||Third Period||Final Score|
|1||16:56||Niagara||PP||Johnny Curran||Noah Delmas/TJ Sarcona|
|1||19:16||Penn State||PP||Andrew Sturtz||Denis Smirnov/Erik Autio|
|2||9:47||Penn State||EV||Vince Pedrie||Denis Smirnov|
|3||0:32||Penn State||EV||Andrew Sturtz||Nate Sucese|
|3||4:10||Penn State||PP||Zach Saar||Brandon Biro|
|3||14:04||Penn State||EV||David Goodwin||Denis Smirnov/Vince Pedrie|
Shots On Goal
|Team||First Period||Second Period||Third Period||Final Score|
Penn State hockey (7-1-1) is off to the best start in program history. Riding a seven-game unbeaten streak, the team has soared to the highest PairWise Ranking in program history, holding the No. 3 position. It’s early in the season, there is a great deal of hockey to be played, but the team has the attention of the college hockey community.
College hockey is similar to football in that there are unscientific opinion polls and also a set-in-stone computer model that selects the teams that will make the playoffs. Just as the Penn State football team has experienced, the hockey team is rated much higher by the system that selects the playoff teams than it is by the opinion polls. Last week Penn State hockey was ranked No. 14 by the USCHO.com poll, the most highly-regarded opinion poll, while being ranked No. 6 by the PairWise. The PairWise is the formula used to select the teams that will play in the NCAA hockey tournament at the end of the season.
The voters are sure to move PSU up a few notches this week, which will be the highest position in program history, but what matters is the PairWise Ranking. The No. 3 ranking is an absolute shock to even the most optimistic of fans, much as the No. 12 ranking for the football team was earlier in the week.
Unlike the football playoff standings, which are released once each week, the PairWise is adjusted after every NCAA hockey game is completed. So the number that a team is ranked may move a slot or two as the results come in, but for the most part a team will stay in the same general area regardless to what other teams around college hockey do for the week.
Penn State will host Alaska-Anchorage next weekend for a two-game series at Pegula Ice Arena. After that it will host Arizona State. There is a legitimate chance that the team could sweep each series as it has the past two. That would lead into the first Big Ten series of the season, at home versus Michigan.
With a power play winding down, Penn State gave a last-ditch effort to capitalize for the second goal of the game. The moment after the man advantage ended, Vince Pedrie corralled a pass from Denis Smirnov and slid it past a diving Joe O’Brien, the Niagara goalie.
Pedrie’s third goal of the season gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the night and stood as the game winner as the Lions completed their sweep over Niagara.
“I think a lot of our new faces have gained a lot of experience in this short time,” coach Guy Gadowsky said following the game. “We’ve had some very good results and now it’s a matter of just now continuing to improve.”
The two squads traded power play goals during the first period.
Johnny Curran got the Eagles on the board with just over three minutes remaining in the opening period. With the man advantage, Curran hammered a shot from the right circle. Though Peyton Jones stretched his 6-foot-4 frame as far as he could, the puck banked in off the goalie’s right pad.
With under a minute to go, the Lions’ leading goal scorer answered with a power play tally of his own. After a pair of saves by Joe O’Brien, the puck bounced into the slot as the Eagles’ goalie slid out of position. Sturtz tapped the puck into the vacant goal for his seventh goal of the season. The goal tied Sturtz with Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork for fifth in the nation in that category.
Early in the third period, Sturtz added to his team-leading total. Off an offensive zone face-off, Nate Sucese fired a quick shot on goal. Sturtz deflected the shot, sending it fluttering over O’Brien’s glove and trickling into the back of the net for his eighth of the season. The goal lifts Sturtz to second in the nation in goals scored.
“There’s a huge difference between a one-goal game and a two-goal game,” Gadowsky said.
Prior to heading out for the third period, Gadowsky explained that he and the team’s trainer, Justin Rogers, talked about how it would be nice to get a goal early in the final frame. Whether by coincidence or the grace of the hockey gods, Sturtz fulfilled the prophecy just 32 seconds into the third period.
Shortly after Sturtz’s second goal, Zach Saar extended the Lions’ lead to 4-1. Saar gathered the puck at the top of the offensive zone, deked past an Eagles’ defenseman, then rifled a shot past O’Brien’s glove. It was the second goal in as many games for the senior forward. Saar missed the first five seven games of the season as a healthy scratch, but may force his way into the lineup with his stellar play.
The Lions weren’t done yet, however. With just under six minutes remaining, David Goodwin fired a wrist shot over O’Brien’s blocker for the captain’s first goal of the season. It was also Goodwin’s 99th career point for Penn State, the most in team history and just one away from joining the century club.
“I think that speaks a lot to how good he’s been consistent throughout his career,” Gadowsky said. “Any time you can get 100 points in college hockey, that says a lot.”
The senior forward has played with different linemates during each of his four seasons with the Lions. Goodwin took the time to praise those he has played alongside throughout his career.
“I’ve been fortunate to play with a lot of great players,” he said after the game. “I can’t say I’ve gotten 100 points on my own.”
Here are some of the highlights of the game.
Check out tonight's highlights as we complete back-to-back weekend sweeps with a 5-1 victory over Niagara #WeAre https://t.co/VcbaVVJVIe— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) November 5, 2016
Stars of the Game
First Star- Denis Smirnov, Penn State. Three assists, which is called a ‘playmaker’ in hockey. It is the assist version of the hat-trick, which signifies a player that had three assists in one game. Smirnov now has 10 assists on the season, which is good for second in the nation. He is also a sniper while shooting the puck, able to score when the chance presents itself as he has scored five goals through his first nine college hockey games.
Second Star- Andrew Sturtz, Penn State. Two goals. Sturtz scores goals, that is no secret. What is lost among the highlight reel finishes is that he tends to score when the team really needs it. He scored very late in the first period to tie the game heading into the first intermission. Prior to his goal, the team had little to show for a dominating first period, and faced the prospects of going to the locker room down a goal. It was a huge weight off the team. His second goal was less than one minute into the final period. It extended the Penn State lead to 3-1, and gave the team the breathing room it needed to play free and loose, which led to two more goals and an easy win for the team.
Third Star- Vince Pedrie, Penn State. One goal, one assist. Pedrie is one of the most dangerous offensive-minded defensemen in Big Ten hockey, and that may extend to all of college hockey if the sophomore continues to improve. He had ten shots on the night, nearly half as many as the opposing team, and finished a great Denis Smirnov pass for what would become the game-winning goal.