The Lions came out with a sense of purpose to start the game but the effort was not immediately reflected on the scoreboard. The game was tied into the final minute of the first period even though Penn State dominated the action for most of the frame. In the closing minute, Andrew Sturtz scored to give Guy Gadowsky’s team a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Penn State continued to pull away, adding three goals in the second period, but AIC wasn’t ready to call it a night, as they answered many of the Lion’s goals with a quick score of their own.
The final period went Penn State’s way initially, starting with two quick goals by Denis Smirnov and Kris Myllari. The Yellow Jackets were not ready to go away just yet, as they added two goals late in the final period to make the game competitive, even as most of the fans inside the Pegula Ice Arena had vacated their seats and headed for home.
The teams will face off on Friday night at 7 p.m. to conclude the series.
American International got on the scoreboard first when Martin Mellberg put a shot past Peyton Jones with five minutes off the clock in the first period. Penn State went on the power-play five minutes later and had several chances to score but were unable to cash in the opportunities. Midway through the opening period the Lions held an advantage in shots on goal, 14-5.
A few minutes later the Lions went on a power-play once again. It didn’t take long to capitalize this time, as Trevor Hamilton scored just a few seconds into the advantage.
Erik Autio assisted on the play. Following the goal, AIC was called for another penalty, so the 5 on 4 advantage continued for the home team. The Lions did not score, but the extended period of time shorthanded tired the Yellow Jackets considerably.
Late in the period Erik Autio was called for a penalty but that did not slow down the Nittany Lions. Andrew Sturtz scored a short-handed goal on the first shift of the penalty kill.
The second period began where the first left off, with the Lions holding a clear advantage. Five minutes in, during the first few seconds of a power-play, Liam Folkes got the third goal of the night. Folkes took the draw off the face-off and found room to get a quick wrist-shot off and it found the back of the net.
The celebration inside the Pegula Ice Arena did not last for very long. AIC scored to tighten the game 3-2 with 13 minutes left to play in the second period. The Lions led by just one goal while holding a 29-11 shots on goal advantage. Not to be outdone, PSU answered right back. Cole Hults scored his first goal as a Nittany Lion to stretch the lead back to two.
A few minutes later Blake Gober was called for a hooking penalty, which would have given AIC a power-play. Instead, Hugo Reinhart was sent to the box with Gober for embellishing on the play. Gober did in fact pull Reinhart to the ice, but he did not need to fall as though he had been shot by a sniper rifle.
The Lions added to the lead during the 4 on 4 skating when Brandon Biro netted his second goal of the season.
Once again AIC found a way to answer the Penn State goal. Less than a minute later, Stephan Kyle got the game back to just a two-goal spread with five minutes left in the second period. It felt like the Lions were ready to pull away but to the credit of the visiting Yellow Jackets, the was not yet in hand heading into the final period.
Denis Smirnov didn’t take long to stretch the PSU lead. Forty-nine seconds after the second intermission, the elusive sophomore sniper got a goal, making it four straight games with a goal scored.
Kris Myllari extended the lead to 7-3 five minutes later and it appeared that the route was on for the home team playing inside the Pegula Ice Arena for the first time this year. Brett Murray has played very well this season and his efforts have not always been rewarded in the stat sheet. Tonight this was the only point that Murray scored, but he was a constant presence on the ice. The 6’5”, 222-pound sophomore is looking like he will have a significant impact this year.
Unfortunately, AIC was not done. The visiting team got another goal past Peyton Jones, this time during a short-handed stretch to make it 7-4 midway through the final period. The Yellow Jackets added another goal, this time on a power-play, to cut the lead to 7-5 with four minutes left to play.
Penn State did not close this game out in a dominant fashion as it appeared that it could have, which leaves room for improvement on Friday night.