Penn State’s focus this offseason, as it has been the past couple of summers, was on improving the team’s defensive play. More specifically, coach Guy Gadowsky was insistent on finally reducing the number of odd-man rushes allowed by the Nittany Lions.
Though the Nittany Lions are one-for-one on weekend sweeps, early returns haven’t been great, and there’s only so many times Peyton Jones can bail out his teammates.
Such was the case as Penn State held on to beat Sacred Heart 5-4 on Saturday.
As we’ve seen from the Nittany Lions in recent seasons, they seemed to take their foot off the gas as they entered the third period with a 4-0 lead. The Pioneers made them pay, outscoring the Nittany Lions 4-1 in the final frame to leave a bitter taste with the weekend sweep.
“Just because it’s 4-0, guys think it’s automatically point night,” captain Brandon Biro said of the team’s tendency to take its foot off the gas. “Once you think it’s point night, you see what happens.”
Gadowsky understands the trend that has been following the Nittany Lions for quite a while now. Coming up with a solution to that problem isn’t as easy to figure out.
“I want to ask [the players]. We’ve sort of done things as coaches,” Gadowsky said. “Before I say anything, I’d like to get their ideas.”
How It Happened
Cole Hults continued his weekend bender with another special teams goal. With the Nittany Lions on the penalty kill, Aarne Talvitie won an offensive zone faceoff back to Hults, who floated a wrist shot to the top corner for his fourth goal of the weekend.
Near the end of the period, Brandon Biro doubled Penn State’s lead. Skating four players aside, Biro finished off a 2-on-1 with Nate Sucese, firing a wrister past Benson’s glove.
Early in the second period, that duo teamed up again to give the Nittany Lions a three-goal lead. After Biro’s shot from the slot was denied by Benson, Sucese followed up and knocked in the loose puck as it fell in the crease.
Late in the period, they combined once again as Biro picked up his second goal of the game. Sucese slid a pass to Biro as he was streaking toward the net. Biro made a quick move and lifted a backhand shot over Benson’s glove.
A little over a minute later, the Pioneers made it a two-goal contest, as Jason Cotton beat Jones blocker side with a wrist shot from the slot.
Mason Snell halted the Pioneers’ momentum shortly after Cotton’s goal. Snell followed up a two-on-one and found a hole in Benson’s five hole to restore the Nittany Lions’ three-goal lead.
Unfortunately for Penn State, that momentum was only halted momentarily. With under five minutes to play, the Pioneers scored twice in just six seconds to make it a one-goal game. Austin Magera caught Jones out of position as a Sacred Heart power play was expiring.
Off the ensuing faceoff, Jason Cotton found himself on a two-man breakaway and fired a shot past Jones’ glove.
The Nittany Lions held on despite a late push by the Pionners to complete the weekend sweep.