While momentum isn’t necessarily a measurable stat, it often plays a large role in determining the outcome of a game. A 15-second stretch late in the third period provided the perfect spark to lift No. 1 Penn State (16-2-1) over Michigan State on Saturday.
With exactly five minutes remaining in the game, the Nittany Lions went on a run that gave them all the momentum. A hooking penalty by Jerad Rosburg provided the Lions with a late power play. Just six seconds in, Dylan Richard lifted a rebound over Minney to give the Lions their first lead of the game, kicking off a key sequence that turned the tide in the Lions’ favor.
Nine seconds later, David Goodwin sent a pass from behind the net to Berger in the slot. In one motion, the sophomore forward gathered the puck and sent a shot past Minney’s blocker to double the Lions’ lead. The game went from tied to having the Lions lead by two so quickly it made heads spin.
The contest didn’t start as smoothly for the Lions. For the second straight evening, the Spartans opened the scoring, though it took longer on Saturday than the prior night. Just over halfway through the first period, the Spartans were pressing in the Lions’ zone. After Taro Hirose’s first chance was turned aside by Peyton Jones, the Spartans’ freshman jumped on his own rebound, firing a wrist shot through Jones’ legs.
Moments into the second period, the Lions made the most of an opportunity to tie the game after a tripping penalty to Spartans’ defenseman Rhett Holland. Just 16 seconds into the man advantage, Kevin Kerr fired a shot-pass from the right circle that Chase Berger redirected through Minney’s legs for his second of the weekend and ninth of the season.
Later in the period, the Spartans capitalized on a power play chance of their own after Brandon Biro was called for goaltender interference. Just 30 seconds into the power play, Hirose took a shot from the point that was deflected by leading scorer Mason Appleton. Jones got a piece of the shot, but couldn’t squeeze it between his arm and body as it rolled into the net.
The Lions spent the opening half of the third period pressing hard for the tying goal, outshooting the Spartans 10-2 through the first 10 minutes of the final frame. That pressure paid off on the last shot of that run, as Ricky DeRosa finished off an end-to-end rush by Vince Pedrie for his fourth of the season.
Pedrie attempted to send a cross-ice pass to James Robinson, but a Spartans’ defenseman broke up the pass. DeRosa, the late man to the play, found the puck and jammed it and himself into the net.
A few minutes later, the Lions’ 15 seconds of domination began, setting a new tone to the game and leaving the Spartans scrambling to recover. Notice that the fans inside Pegula Ice Arena, notably the Roar Zone student section, were lively while the game was still tied at 2 apiece, providing an edge to the home team. As the Lions scored consecutive goals to take control of the game, the unique atmosphere inside the Peg erupted with joy. This home-ice advantage is noticed by the players.
“They thrive on that,” Spartans’ coach Tom Anastos said of the Lions’ ability to get the crowd going. Anastos felt his squad took the crowd out of the game through the first two periods, but a series of mistakes allowed the Lions to come back and the crowd to get energized.
“When Rocket [Richard] scored, that was the most excited I’ve seen our bench all year,” Berger said. “It was unbelievable.”
“Felt like the roof blew off the building,” Pedrie added.
The run did not end with Berger’s second of the game, however. Two and a half minutes later, Denis Smirnov found himself one-on-one with Minney. The freshman forward deked to his backhand, outwaited Minney and lifted a backhand shot into the top corner of the net. The goal moved Smirnov into sole possession as the leading scorer in the Big Ten.
While the Spartans had trouble slowing the Lions’ outburst in the last five minutes, Damian Chrcek added a goal for the Spartans with just 12 seconds remaining.
In a weekend where each of the top three teams in the USCHO.com poll dropped at least one contest, a sweep for the Lions, even against a struggling team like the Spartans, could lift the blue and white into greater recognition as a national powerhouse.
|3||17:50||PSU||EV||Denis Smirnov||Trevor Hamilton|
Additional highlights from the game.
Here are tonight's highlights from our 5-3 win over MSU and our 6th series sweep of the season, a new program best! https://t.co/XqL4G5jMFM— Penn State Hockey (@PennStateMHKY) January 15, 2017