When Penn State took the ice it was ranked No. 14 in the PairWise rankings, a result of Ohio State’s win in the opening game of the Big Ten tournament, who leapfrogged the Lions, pushing Guy Gadowsky’s squad to the edge of the NCAA tournament bubble. With the win, Penn State is heading to the second round of the Big Ten tournament, a match-up with Minnesota at 8 p.m. on Friday night which will be televised by the Big Ten Network. The Lions jumped back over OSU into a tie for the No. 12 spot in the PairWise rankings with the win, and may have done enough to earn its first NCAA tournament bid.
Early in the game the teams seemed content to skate short shifts, taking few chances, but also hitting hard and legally. There were a dozen hits that sent players to the ice hard. Penn State broke through first, scoring a power-play goal by Liam Folkes. Shortly after Nate Sucese added a second goal for the Lions. Late in the period David Goodwin added another, giving the team a 3-0 lead that it earned with hard work and consistent play through twenty minutes.
Vince Pedrie added a fourth goal a minute into the second period. Michigan answered with a power-play goal midway through the game. Michigan played with heart at the end of the period, looking like a team that was giving its final effort to continue its season, but was unable to cut into the lead.
The Wolverines made another push a few minutes into the final period but the Lions held steady and were able to hold on to a three goal lead. Late in the game a couple of penalties gave the Lions a chance to bleed the clock, and the teams skated to a 4-1 final.
The Lions’ chances of making the NCAA tournament are greater than 70 percent if the team loses on Friday. If Penn State wins, it will go to the Big Dance for the first time. The results around the country on Friday night should make the scenarios much clearer. We’ll keep you updated over the weekend, leading up to the NCAA selection show on ESPNU at noon on Sunday.
The teams came out skating under control, not taking any chances to allow an early odd-man break. The hitting was hard but legal and there were several players that fell hard to the ice following contact.
Michigan was the first to blink when Liam Folkes took a high hit from Drake Slaker, giving the Lions the first power-play of the game. The referees looked at the hit on replay to determine the length of the penalty and decided on a two-minute infraction for contact to the head.
Penn State was able to take advantage as Folkes got revenge when he took a great pass from Brandon Biro for the goal. Biro did a nifty spin move behind the net and found his fellow freshman for the 1-0 lead. Erik Autio got an assist on the play.
Minutes later the Lions added to the early lead when Denis Smirnov made a great crossing pass to Nate Sucese who finished past a helpless Zach Nagelvoort. In the defensive zone, Ricky DeRosa made a gritty play to clear the puck from his stomach, getting the puck out for the goal-creating breakout. It was a play typical to DeRosa’s style over the past four years for the Lions, hard work leading to success, or in this case it was Sucese.
Andrew Sturtz took a vicious but legal hit behind the net from Alex Kile and had trouble getting to the bench. He was taken into the locker room for a look-over by the medical staff. Sturtz did not return to the game and it is uncertain whether he will be available for the remainder of the weekend.
In the final minute of the first period, senior captain David Goodwin got the lead out to 3-0 when he took a nice pass from Alec Marsh on a 2 on 1 break.
The second period started the same way the first ended, with PSU getting a goal from Vince Pedrie on a shot from the point that bled its way through Nagelvoort, just barely wobbling over the goal line.
Michigan answered back a minute later when Alex Kile finished a centering pass from Adam Winborg. After the play the referees took a look at an off-side play that occurred as the Wolverines entered the scoring zone on the goal. The call was determined to be off-side and the goal was overturned, returning the score to 4-0 in favor of the Lions.
Midway through the period Penn State took its first penalty of the game. At the very end of the power-play a floating puck in front of the net was knocked in by Michigan’s James Sanchez to cut the lead to three goals with thirty minutes left in the game.
Trevor Hamilton, Penn State’s leader in blocked shots by a large margin, took a hard shot to the leg when he got in front of a blast from the point. It would have been an open shot, but instead it smacked off the back of Hamilton’s unpadded calf. He struggled to the bench but was able to stay in the game. The selfless play came at the end of the period as Michigan was pouring all that it had to try to cut the lead to two goals heading into the final period.
Five minutes into the final period Michigan held the puck in Penn State’s zone for nearly a minute, forcing Peyton Jones to make a few tough saves. It was an effort that looked like a team that was putting it all on the ice, hoping to get a goal and cut the lead to just two. The Lions fought back, blocking shots and making gritty clears, holding Red Berenson’s team off the board.
Penn State went on the power-play with seven minutes left in the game and it used the advantage to kill more of the clock, as time became its greatest ally. Michigan had a power-play in the final couple of minutes but the time continued to whittle off the game clock. The Lions killed the penalty but were called for another with 1:07 left in the game, leading 4-1. Red Berenson took a timeout to discuss the options with his players in the closing moments of the game. They returned to the ice with six skaters and no goalie.
The Lions were able to hold on, down two skaters, for the 4-1 win.
Stars of the Game
First Star- Peyton Jones, Penn State. Win, 30 saves.
Second Star- Nate Sucese, Penn State. Game-winning goal, one assist, 10-17 face-offs.
Third Star- Liam Folkes, Penn State. Goal.