After an inconsistent 2017-18 sesaon, Guy Gadowsky knew he had a number of issues to correct in order for Penn State to have more success in 2018-19. Paramount among them was the Nittany Lions’ trouble with giving up odd-man rushes.
An aggressive group of defensemen would far too often get caught in the offensive zone and leave Peyton Jones and Chris Funkey out to dry.
As the Nittany Lions jumped out to a 6-0-0 start to the season, it appeared that problem had been fixed.
But as Johnny Walker buried a breakaway goal in overtime as Arizona State handed Gadowsky’s squad its first loss of the season, it seemed there was still work to be done.
Along with Walker’s breakaway winner, the Sun Devils capitalized on a pair of odd-man rushes during the second period to build a two-goal lead heading into the third period.
“It’s nothing new. We just haven’t done a good enough job of fixing it,” Gadowsky said.
While Penn State’s aggressive defensemen are often the scapegoat when the team gives up odd-man rushes, its forwards understand and shoulder their share of the responsibility.
“We’ve just got to take care of the puck,” Evan Barratt said. “We’ve got to make the decision to get it deep every time we cross that blue line.”
After Friday night’s dramatic comeback that led to victory, the Nittany Lions once again had their backs against the wall on Saturday.
Once again, the Nittany Lions responded, as Evan Barratt scored a dazzler early in the third while Nate Sucese knotted the game at three with just over two minutes to play.
Gadowsky has certainly been impressed with how his team has performed in such situations, but would rather not be in that position at all.
“We like that, but you can’t be happy with us putting ourselves in that position,” Gadowsky said. “I think it says a lot about the character and the fight that’s in that team, but I sure would like to see that sense of urgency a little earlier.”
How It Happened
Arizona State jumped out to a lead early in the first period. Just over three minutes into the game, PJ Marrocco gathered a loose puck in the slot and fired a wrist shot over the glove of Peyton Jones to open the scoring.
After neither team found the back of the net through the rest of the opening frame, the Nittany Lions took advantage of their second power play chance five minutes into the second period. After receiving a pass from Nikita Pavlychev, Denis Smirnov walked to the right faceoff circle and buried a wrist shot into the top corner of the net to tie the game at one.
Midway through the period, the Sun Devils responded with a special teams goal of their own. After a wealth of shorthanded opportunities for the Nittany Lions, Johnny Walker finished off a 2-on-1 to put the Sun Devils back in front.
A little more than five minutes later, the Sun Devils took advantage of another odd-man rush, as Dylan Hollman netted his third goal of the weekend on another 2-on-1 chance.
Early in the third period, Evan Barratt responded for the Nittany Lions in the most spectacular of manners. Words can’t truly describe how exceptional the goal was. Only video can do it justice.
With time winding down, Guy Gadowsky pulled Peyton Jones with just over two minutes to play in a last ditch effort for the tying goal. The move paid off almost instantaneously, as Nate Sucese snuck a shot short side on Daccord to level the game at three and force overtime.
Early in the extra session, Walker escaped behind the Nittany Lions’ defense on a breakaway. The sophomore forward fired a shot into the bottom corner of the net to give Arizona State the win and hand Penn State its first loss of the season.