Three goals in a 52-second stretch doomed the Lions on the road in Michigan. It was the eighth-consecutive loss for Penn State at Yost Arena in Ann Arbor, dating back to 2014.
Penn State fell to 20 in the PairWise Rankings, so even with the setback, it is not time to panic about falling too far in the standings. There is plenty of hockey to be played. Every Big Ten team is currently in the top-30 of the PairWise, so no losses in-conference are fatal, but eventually the team needs to get back to winning.
It was the fourth loss in a row for Guy Gadowsky’s squad so the team badly needs a win on Saturday night. It was freshman goalie Oskar Autio’s first career start, and he played well enough to win had the bounces gone in his favor. Two breakaway goals and a power-play goal are not all on the goalie and Autio was on the bench for the final goal.
The teams will take Friday off and then finish the series on Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Madison Square Garden. The game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.
How It Happened
The teams were crisp from the start, skating from end to end with fluidity and making nice passes. Five minutes in, Liam Folkes was hit hard at mid-ice on a play that was a clear interference call that the refs missed. Folkes’ helmet went flying and play was stopped but there was no call. It could have gone for a 2-minute advantage or possibly even a 5-minute power play had the refs seen it clearly.
Shots on goal through 5 minutes were 6-2 in favor of the Lions. A couple of minutes later the first power play of the game gave Penn State an extra skater. Two shots challenged Michigan goalie Hayden Lavigne but the game remained tied when the penalty ended.
Brandon Biro dove to keep a puck in the zone on a possession the led to two Kevin Kerr shots. It was the assistant captain Biro’s first game back after missing last week with an injury. On the next trip down the ice, Alex Limoges nearly scored during a lengthy possession in Michigan’s zone.
Chase Berger had a nice shot on net in the closing seconds but Lavigne made a save with his left arm to send the teams to the locker room tied 0-0.
Early in the second period Michigan scored when Dakota Raabe took a nice long pass and beat Autio on a breakaway. The Lions led 20-10 in shots on goal but trailed 1-0 on the scoreboard. With 11:43 to go in the period Alec Marsh took a penalty and Michigan had a man advantage.
Oskar Autio made a nice save early in the power play and the Lions killed it off. Shortly after Autio had a friend behind him with the Wolverines hit the post. Penn State took another penalty on the ensuing possession. This time the Lions couldn’t kill it off and they went down 2-0. On the next possession the Wolverines scored again on a breakaway to take a 3-0 lead.
Seconds later another goal found the back of the net and just like that, it was 4-0 Michigan, the crowd was engaged. Three goals in less than one minute, but there wasn’t much that Autio could do.
Evan Barrett drew a penalty but then was called for one during the delayed whistle, so the teams skated 4 on 4 in the closing minutes of the period. Barrett drew another penalty in the last minute of the period when he had a breakaway and was pulled to the ice.
In a situation that a young goalie such as Autio could have gone into a shell, instead he played very aggressively in the final period. He made a poke-check to stop a breakaway goal, coming out of the crease.
Autio made a save on a power-play breakaway with 13 minutes to play then covered the rebound on the ice with his bare hand, having lost his glove on the play. The Lions killed the penalty and thankfully Autio kept all of his fingers.
During the broadcast of the game, Brian Tripp speculated that Autio played so well that he may have earned the start on Saturday. While it is likely that Peyton Jones will get the start, Autio played a very strong game. Three of the goals that he let in were as much the team’s fault as his, and he stopped several breakaway and odd-man rushes.
The Lions went on a power play with 11 minutes to play in the game. Shortly after the advantage expired, with Michigan still scrambling, Ludwig Larsson scored to cut the lead to 4-1. The goal ended a 260-minute scoreless streak at Yost Arena other than a late extra-attacker pair of goals last year in a game that was already in hand.
Guy Gadowsky pulled the goalie with 4:34 to go while on a power-play, down 3 goals, to try to gain a 2-man advantage. Instead Michigan added an empty-net goal.
- It will be interesting to see who coach Gadowsky goes to other than Peyton Jones when a second goalie is needed. It is possible that Jones could go the rest of the way without a breather. Senior Chris Funkey will turn 25 in March and has played a lot of hockey at Penn State, but he may have already seen his last ice time.
- Autio apparently had been playing well in practice and coach Gadowsky let him know that he would start a week ago. The freshman was visibly nervous at times initially but he held in without letting in a goal in the early-going.
- The Lions lost the previous 7 games at Yost Arena, no player on the team has ever won a game on Michigan’s home ice.
- The flurry of goals in the second period by Michigan was a team effort by the Lions. There were a couple of breakdowns that led to two of the goals. It was a brief, 52-second lapse but it cost the team the game.
- The Lions have a week off following the game on Saturday, so it will be a great chance for the team to get a win to end the four-game skid before the layoff.