It’s a general rule of thumb in hockey to avoid giving up goals early or late in periods. At two separate points on Saturday, Penn State was guilty of both.
In the Nittany Lions’ 6-4 loss to Michigan State, Guy Gadowsky’s squad surrendered a pair of goals with under a minute to play in the first period, then allowed a goal just over a minute into the third period.
The goals were more than just the result of the Spartans being in the right place at the right time. Gadowsky commented following the game that his squad wasn’t prepared for the contest from the get go.
“I think that was the worst mentality that we came out with,” Gadowsky said of his team’s performance. “Obviously that’s my responsibility to make sure that we’re ready to play at the drop of the puck. Clearly we weren’t, and clearly Michigan State was. Regardless of what happened after the first period, that set the tone.”
Seldom is Penn State outshot in a period, but the Spartans roared out of the gate in the opening frame, outshooting Penn State 14-9. The Nittany Lions nearly escaped the first period tied at one after Alec Marsh got them on the board with just over four minutes to play.
The Nittany Lions slow start came back to bite them in the final minute of the period, however. The Spartans netted a pair of goals in those final 60 seconds.
“The comment was made [in the locker room] that if we did get away with that period even that we probably wouldn’t learn our lesson,” Gadowsky said.
His players echoed that sentiment, as Marsh noted that situations like that can sometimes be necessary for a team to finally wake up for the game. The lesson seemed to be learned during the second period, as captain Chase Berger led a comeback that saw the Nittany Lions even the game at three.
Berger netted a pair of goals in the middle frame, willing the Nittany Lions back into the contest. Those two goals also moved Berger up the all-time points and goals list, passing Andrew Sturtz for second in points and David Goodwin and Casey Bailey in goals.
Personal accolades aside though, Berger’s focus was entirely on his team’s performance.
“It’s awesome to recognized with names like that. Obviously, they’re really good players. It’s cool, but I’m obviously a little more worried about our season and the implications from this game,” Berger said.
Whatever lesson the Nittany Lions took from the final minute of the first period was quickly lost as the Spartans regained the lead for good just a minute and a half into the third period. Mitchell Lewandoski doubled the Spartans lead five minutes later.
After Nate Sucese brought the Nittany Lions within a goal with six and half minutes to play, they poured on the pressure. Brennan Sanford iced the game for the Spartans with an empty net goal late in the third period.
How It Happened
After a slow start to the game, the Spartans opened the scoring seven and a half minutes in. After Peyton Jones made a flurry of saves on a net front scramble, Logan Lambdin knocked the puck over his pad.
After being shut down for much of the first period, the Nittany Lions took advantage of a fortunate bounce to level the score. After collecting the puck in the corner, Brandon Biro sent a hopeful pass into the slot. Alec Marsh gathered the puck and fired a wrist shot through the five hole of John Lethemon.
Any momentum the Nittany Lions built was quickly squashed in the final minute of the first period. Tommy Apap put the Spartans back on top with just 52 seconds remaining, then Taro Hirose gave the Spartans a two-goal lead after wristing a shot over Jones’ glove with just 5.2 seconds remaining.
Early in the second period, the Nittany Lions cut the Spartans lead in half. Shortly after the Spartans killed off the first penalty of the game, Chase Berger flipped the rebound of Kris Myllari’s point shot into an open cage.
Late in the period, Berger knotted the game at three with his second goal of the night. On Penn State’s second power play of the night, Berger fired a wrist shot short side on Lethemon with Sam Sternschein providing the screen.
Early in the third period, the Spartans took advantage of an offensive zone turnover by the Nittany Lions. After Myllari fanned on a slap shot, the Spartans broke out on an odd-man rush. Brennan Sanford fired a shot from the left circle that beat Jones through the legs to put the Spartans back in front.
Five minutes later, the Spartans took advantage of their first power play of the night. With Nikita Pavlychev in the box for tripping, Mitchell Lewandowski finished off a tic-tac-toe play as the Spartans regained a two-goal lead.
With six and half minutes to play, the Nittany Lions converted on another power play chance. In a virtual carbon copy of his goal on Friday night, Nate Sucese brought the Nittany Lions to within a goal as he one timed a shot from the left circle past Lethemon.
With the clock winding down and an extra attacker on the ice, Sucese mishandled the puck in the attacking zone. Sanford jumped on it for the Spartans, icing the game with an empty net goal.