Penn State has won its first NCAA Tournament game in program history. A solid win over a very tough Union team will bring much happiness to Hockey Valley. Penn State never trailed in the game and scored a touchdown and extra point worth of goals to pull away from the Dutchmen.
After a slow first ten minutes of the game where neither team had a quality scoring chance, a flurry of goals in just a couple of minutes got the action started. Brandon Biro scored to give the Lions a 1-0 lead. Less than one minute later Brendan Taylor answered for Union to tie the game. A couple of minutes later Penn State gained the lead again when Chase Berger scored. Once again, the lead lasted less than one minute when Spencer Foo got the second goal for the Dutchmen.
Kris Myllari got the Lions back on top early in the second period when he fired a shot from the point that made its way to the back of the net. Six minutes later Union scored on a power-play to even the game up for the third time.
Penn State answered the call with a second goal by Chase Berger and then took a two-goal lead when Dylan Richard scored as well. The teams went to the locker room for the second intermission with PSU leading 5-3.
Nate Sucese extended the lead to 6-3 in the opening minutes of the final period. The mood inside U.S. Bank Arena became very loose as Penn State fans could sense victory getting nearer. Denis Smirnov fed off the buzz in the stadium and added to the PSU lead a couple of minutes later. His fellow Russian Nikita Pavlychev added an eighth goal for the Lions midway through the final period.
Vince Pedrie added another goal to give PSU a 9-3 lead in the waning minutes of the game. Nate Sucese scored his second goal of the day with 2:50 remaining in the game for the 10-3 lead. It’s fitting that a team playing its most important game in program history, just now emerging from the large shadows cast by Beaver Stadium and those who inhabit it, put up a football score to advance to the new most important game in program history.
Penn State will face Denver at 6 p.m. on Sunday for a chance to go to the Frozen Four with a win. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Denver is the top seed in the tournament and will be a very tough opponent.
The teams came out skating with purpose and under control. The first five minutes was a feeling-out process that resulted in just a couple of shots per side. Midway through the opening period the teams began to increase the hitting, and as a result players began to talk to one another after the play. Penn State had 4 shots on goal and Union had 3 at the halfway point of the opening period.
Penn State was the first to break through when Brandon Biro took a pass from Chase Berger for the goal. It prompted an ‘It’s all your fault’ chant toward the Union goalie from the Penn State fans but the happiness didn’t last long.
Union answered back with 7:48 left in the first period. Brendan Taylor got the goal on a pass from Mike Vecchione to tie the game up at one apiece. A couple of minutes passed and the Lions were back on the board when Chase Berger redirected a shot in midair for the goal.
Penn State fans were once again not finished celebrating when Union tied the game. This time it was Spencer Foo that got the Dutchmen even.
After a slow start, the first period had four goals in less than four minutes, one per team, and the game was tied 2-2.
Penn State had a couple of early chances to score in the second period but were turned aside. Two minutes into the second frame the Lions broke through when Kris Myllari fired a shot from the point to get the team the lead for the third time. Liam Folkes and Nikita Pavlychev assisted on the play.
With 12:23 left in the second period the first penalty of the game went against Penn State. Nate Sucese was called for slashing on a play that may have resulted in a breakaway shot had he not intervened. It proved costly as Union scored just 17 seconds into the power-play to tie the game.
At the 10:25 mark Penn State scored to take the lead when Chase Berger finished a nice cross-ice pass by Blake Gober. The play went under review as the net came off its moorings before the puck crossed the goal line. Union’s goalie was responsible for knocking the net off, and after review, the goal stood. Andrew Sturtz also assisted on the play.
The Lions broke the back and forth scoring trend when it added a goal by Dylan Richard. PSU had several high-quality scoring chances, including a point-blank shot by Liam Folkes on a 2 on 1 break but it wasn’t rewarded for its effort until Richard closed the deal.
With five minutes left in the second period, the teams combined for 31 total shots and 8 goals. The action was immense but the shots on goal resembled an ECAC-type of affair rather than the hyper-speed pace that Penn State is accustomed to playing. Chase Berger took the second penalty of the day in the closing minutes of the period but the Lions were able to kill it off without incident.
Only 70 seconds had expired off the third period clock when Penn State added to its lead. Nate Sucese atoned for his earlier penalty with a goal that was assisted by David Goodwin. The Penn State crowd inside U.S. Bank Arena began to taste victory and it was evident in their steady vocal support of the team on the ice.
Denis Smirnov iced the game with 14:00 on the clock when he snapped a nasty wrist-shot into the back of the net. The score gave the Lions a 7-3 lead and with the momentum it built leading up to that point, it seemed like more than a four-goal cushion. That feeling would soon become a reality.
The blowout continued when Nikita Pavlychev added goal number 8 for the Lions. Vince Pedrie added a short-handed goal late in the game to take the lead out to 9-3. Nate Sucese made it an even 10 goals for the day to conclude the scoring.
Stars of the Game
First Star- Chase Berger, Penn State. 2 goals, 1 assist.
Second Star- Kris Myllari, Penn State. 1 goal, 2 assists.
Third Star- Spencer Foo, Union. Two goals.