After deflecting a shot toward the corner, Peyton Jones meandered his way back to the net. The freshman netminder assumed the referee had already blown the play dead, as Jones was sure he redirected the puck over the glass and into the safety netting.
The official nearest him saw something else, however.
Play continued on as Jones and his teammates slowed up to reset for the next faceoff. At the same time, Princeton’s Ben Foster redirected a shot past Jones.
The referee pointed toward Penn State’s net, signalling a goal for the Tigers. A shocked Jones began gesturing first toward the official, then toward the netting in the corner to his left.
As Jones plead his case, the officials gathered around the penalty box to bring light to what just happened. The review confirmed the call on the ice and gave the Tigers the winning goal in their 5-4 victory over the Nittany Lions Saturday night. The play came with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
While Guy Gadowsky could have quickly blamed the loss on an error in officiating, he instead pointed to his players’ attitudes leading up to the winning goal.
“Three of our guys stopped playing, including Jones,” he said. “It looked like he saw it pretty clearly that it hit the netting, as did Trevor Hamilton in front and [Kevin] Kerr who went out, so they all stopped. But... Play until the whistle. Princeton didn’t stop, so give them credit.”
Having his players give up on the play leading up to the winning goal served as the culmination of a third period in which the Lions failed to put the game away. Heading into the final frame with a 4-2 lead, the Lions gave up two goals in a span of a minute and a half before the period was five minutes old.
Then, midway through the period, the Lions received a full-length 5-on-3 opportunity. While they had consistent pressure in the Tigers’ zone, the Lions best chances were either blocked or sent wide of a near-gaping net. Though the penalty kill seemed to give the Tigers all the momentum in the final seven minutes of the game, Gadowsky didn’t pin the loss on this stretch of the game.
“I still don’t think that’s what cost us the hockey game,” he said.
While the game ended on one of the lowest notes for the Lions, they opened the game with a surge. Andrew Sturtz got the Lions off to the quick start. Just 51 seconds into the game, the sophomore forward dangled the puck past several Tigers before lifting a backhand shot past Colton Phinney.
The lead didn’t hold for long, however. Just 34 seconds later, Max Becker fired a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Jones clean past his blocker.
Midway through the period, the Tigers capitalized on their first power play of the game as David Hallisey redirected a point shot over Jones’s blocker.
Exactly one minute later, the Lions took advantage of their own power play. Creeping in from the right circle, David Goodwin fired a wrist shot through teammate Nikita Pavlychev’s legs and over Phinney’s glove.
A little less than three minutes later, the Lions took their second lead of the night. Kris Myllari gathered the puck a the point, scanning the ice and looking for a better shooting lane. The freshman defensemen fired a quick wrist shot through a crowd, beating a screened Phinney over the glove.
A quiet middle frame saw a goaltending duel emerge between Phinney and Jones. The Tigers and Lions combined for 29 shots during the second period, but only Sturtz found the back of the net.
With just over five minutes remaining in the period, a scramble sparked in front of Phinney. As the senior netminder tried to stretch his legs across the crease to cover the net, Sturtz, while falling forward, slid the puck under Phinney’s pad for his second of the game.
Not even three minutes into the third period, the Tigers cut the Lions’ lead in half. On a delayed penalty, Liam Grande hammered in a loose puck from the slot, beating Jones to the blocker side once again.
Per college hockey rules, even if a goal is scored during a delayed penalty, that penalty must be served. As a result, Kevin Kerr went to the penalty box, giving the Tigers a chance to build momentum quickly with the hopes of tying the game.
The Tigers accomplished both of those tasks.
Left alone in front of Jones, Hallisey took a pass from Ryan Kuffner and one-timed a shot past a helpless Jones. Just a few minutes later came the enormous penalty kill for the Tigers, followed just minutes later by Foster’s game winner.
With Jones pulled for the extra skater, the Lions threw everything they could at Phinney in the final minute and a half. In the dying moments of the game, Goodwin found himself with a prime opportunity to send the game to overtime.
Receiving a pass in the slot, Goodwin quickly dropped a pass off behind him, hoping a teammate would swoop in for a better scoring chance. Unfortunately for Goodwin, behind him sat open ice. A last ditch effort came up empty as the remaining seconds ticked off the clock.
With the loss factored in the Lions remain in the No. 5 spot in the PairWise Rankings and still own the highest winning percentage in college hockey. The next 6 games will be very important for the team. The team will travel to Minnesota and then Wisconsin, before hosting Minnesota during THON weekend. Four of the next seven games will be carried on the Big Ten Network. Each of the three games that are not televised will be streamed free of charge for BTN subscribers via BTN2go. So it will be very easy to follow the team during the very important upcoming stretch of games.