Penn State (3-0) came out ready to play, scoring four goals in the opening period to take control of the game early. Seven Nittany Lions scored a goal on the night while Guy Gadowsky’s squad cruised to a comfortable home victory.
Alaska (2-3) showed signs of life but was never able to make a serious push to threaten the lead during a scoreless second period while winning the shots on goal battle 16-11. The Lions added 3 more goals in the final period while goalie Peyton Jones continued to play solid, holding on for the shut-out.
Through three games Jones has a .924 save percentage, which is up from his career pace of .903 at Penn State. Nate Sucese had three assists in the game which in hockey is called a playmaker, the assist equivalent of a hat-trick.
The teams will play game two of the series on Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Pegula Ice Arena.
How It Happened
Nikita Pavlychev got the start after missing the games last weekend against Sacred Heart. It didn’t take long for the senior center to make an impact. With a couple of tough plays to keep the puck in the offensive zone, just 32 seconds into the game the Lions scored. Tyler Gratton redirected a Kris Myllari shot from the point. Pavlychev chased the puck into the zone initially, kept it behind the net before it cycled to the point where Myllari let it go.
No. 28 Gratton (6-foot-2) was set up in front of the net alongside No. 13 Pavlychev (6-foot-8), giving the Lions two large obstructions in front of goalie Gustavs Grigals. You can see that Pavlychev drew the initial attention.
Five minutes later Connor MacEachern found Aarne Talvitie in front of the net for a quick 2-0 lead. MacEachern made a nice move around an Alaska defender into the zone and then threatened to take a shot before passing to an open Talvitie. Penn State had a 7-2 shot advantage through six minutes.
With Pavlychev out for the opening series, MacEachern centered the fourth line with fellow freshmen Tyler Gratton and Connor McMenamin. MacEachern looked great and may factor in at center as the season goes on, but Penn State is loaded at that position. Nate Sucese, Aarne Talvitie, Evan Barratt, and Pavlychev are all very talented centers and accomplished players.
Liam Folkes got behind the defense and squeezed a breakaway goal just inside the pads of Grigals, who tried his best to pin the puck against the outside of the net. It appeared that Grigals had succeeded but after looking at the replay, the puck was in the net. Halfway through the opening period, the Lions led 3-0.
If you use the controls on the video to slow it down by pressing the back arrow a couple of times, you can see the puck cross the goal line. Folkes skated into the zone a few minutes later and got the puck to Alex Limoges for a shot. The puck found its way to Paul DeNaples at the point, who flipped it into the net through a bunch of traffic.
Alaska finished out the opening period playing hard, holding its own while down four goals. Shots were 13-7 in favor of Penn State and the puck was in their offensive zone for much of the first 20 minutes.
The second period was a much more even match, with the teams swapping penalties and scoring chances in the opening ten minutes. Midway through the frame the shots were 7-6 in favor of the Lions but the action was tight and the play was crisp on both sides. At the end of the scoreless period shots on goal were 16-11 in favor of Alaska.
Brandon Biro took a hard wrist shot from the slot and extended the lead to 5-0 with 13 minutes to play. Nikita Pavlychev added a power-play goal a couple of minutes later when he smacked a loose bouncing puck into the net.
Denis Smirnov added another goal when he picked up a loose puck in front of the net on a Penn State power play. While the game ended well for the Lions and the team was able to preserve the shutout, there were moments of doubt.
Cole Hults took a routine puck behind the net with four minutes to play and coughed it up to Alaska for a point blank chance. Hults scored four goals last weekend but nearly blew the shutout with a late mistake.
It was a brief lapse in attention for Hults, thankfully it did not cost the team. It wasn’t a perfect night for the Penn State defense but any game that ends without a puck in the back of the net is a good night.