Heading into the weekend, Penn State sported a perfect 5-0-0 record this season when leading after two periods.
So when the Nittany Lions went into the second intermission of their Big Ten opener against Michigan on Friday with a 4-2 lead, the game seemed to be well in the Nittany Lions’ favor.
Penalty trouble plagued the Nittany Lions, however, as the Wolverines scored four straight goals in the final frame as they rallied to beat the Nittany Lions 6-4.
The Wolverines scored shortly after their third power play of the night ended and picked up the game-winning goal on another man advantage with just over five minutes to play. Gifting the Wolverines five power plays — three in the third period alone — sealed the Nittany Lions’ fate.
With the recent crack down on penalties, coach Guy Gadowsky knows his team needs to be more careful with their sticks, especially in conference play.
“The stick penalties are called very tight and we’re taking stick penalties. That’s completely on us,” he said following the game. “When you do that, bad things are going to happen. Especially against a team with talent like Michigan.”
The Nittany Lions largely held the Wolverines in check through the first two periods, outshooting Mel Pearson’s team 27-20 and limiting any quality chances in front of goaltender Chris Funkey. Dropping a contest which the Nittany Lions appeared to have full control over only adds to the sting of their second loss of the season.
“Every loss is bad. When you’re up going into the third, it’s even worse. When careless play with your sticks plays such a big part in it, you feel even worse,” Gadowsky said.
His squad’s performance through the first two periods does give Gadowsky some optimism as the Nittany Lions’ enter their conference schedule.
“It’s not that we do anything different, but in Big Ten games, everything is amped up, so every little play is a little bit more important,” he said. “You have to be more careful with your stick. You have to be better on the blue line. You have to battle harder and faceoffs are going to be tougher.
“You don’t have to change anything, but you have to amp it up, and that’s what we have to do.”
How It Happened
Early in the first period, the Wolverines took advantage of their first man advantage of the game. With Nikita Pavlychev in the box for holding, the Wolverines worked the puck around the zone before Joseph Cecconi fired a point shot through a crowd and through the legs of Chris Funkey.
Just a minute and a half later, the Nittany Lions responded with a power play goal of their own. After a scramble in the corner, the puck popped out to Evan Barratt in the slot. Barratt fired a shot under the crossbar and quickly back out. Though originally ruled no goal on the ice, review clearly the showed the puck cross the line.
With just over five minutes to play in the opening frame, Ludvig Larsson put the Nittany Lions in front, chipping a shot from right in front of the net over Strauss Mann’s glove.
Early in the second period, the Nittany Lions doubled their lead thanks to special teams once again. After killing a penalty to Kris Myllari, Nate Sucese took a breakaway pass from Brandon Biro and went to his patented move, slipping a backhand shot through the legs of Mann.
Just a few minutes later, the Wolverines cut the lead in half as Nick Pastujov redirected a point shot by Jack Summers through Funkey.
With just over one minute to play in the second period, the Nittany Lions restored their two-goal lead. On a broken play, a bouncing puck fell to the stick of Liam Folkes. The junior forward reacted quickly, swatting the puck over the blocker of Mann.
Early in the third, the Wolverines once again cut the Nittany Lions’ lead to one. Shortly after a power play ended, Funkey had trouble corralling a rebound. Will Lockwood poked the puck over to Josh Norris, who buried a shot as Funkey tried to recover.
Four minutes later, the Wolverines drew even with the Nittany Lions. After a miscue off a faceoff led to a defensive breakdown, Jack Becker chipped the puck into the net to tie the game at four.
With just over five minutes to play in the third, the Wolverines went back to the power play on a questionable tripping call to Ludvig Larsson. Just 10 seconds into the man advantage, Jake Slaker gathered a loose puck right in front of the net and lifted a shot over Funkey’s shoulder to put the Wolverines back in front.
With time winding down, Gadowsky pulled Funkey for an extra attacker in a last-ditch effort to tie the game. With just 18 seconds remaining, the Wolverines chipped the puck out of the zone and Slaker slid it into the open net to cap off the Wolverines’ comeback.