Penn State (3-1) ran into a focused and disciplined team on Friday night. Alaska (3-3) was able to score early and as the lead continued to grow, the defensive pressure increased. The Lions tried to mount a comeback several times but Alaska was up to the task.
Oskar Autio played a very solid game, making his first start in net for the Lions. It was a complete team effort for the Nanooks, not a deficiency on the side of Penn State. Guy Gadowsky’s squad never got it going but their opponent had a lot to do with that and deserve the credit for the win. Earlier in the season Alaska played top-ranked Denver tough twice and then swept Michigan Tech on the road last week.
There is no reason for concern, this was just one loss, the first of the season. Alaska played well and looks like a team that will finish with a respectable PairWise ranking by the end of the year. The Lions came in averaging over 6 goals per game and were held scoreless, that was not a fluke, Alaska played well.
This is what coach Gadowsky had to say after the game.
“I think when you look across at the other bench you saw a lot of heart and guys that were committed to outworking their opponent and it was unfortunately at our expense, but it is really impressive to see. It’s just our hope that we learn a lesson from a great example.”
How It Happened
For the first time this season Penn State gave up a first period goal, just a little over a minute into the game. Alaska dominated the opening minute and finally Colton Leiter smacked the puck over Oskar Autio’s right shoulder. It was a tough start for Autio, who was making his first start of the season.
There wasn’t much that the freshman goalie could have done on the play, the puck was on edge, Leiter shot it and it came off perfectly in the top corner of the net.
Kenny Johnson got the first penalty of the game while playing in the first game of his career. Johnson put his large, 6-foot-4 230 pound body into a player, unfortunately it was away from the puck. As with most big freshmen, Johnson is still learning how to use his extra size to his advantage, similar to what we saw from Zach Saar or Nikita Pavlychev early in their career. Johnson’s older brother Jack plays defense for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Lions went on the power play with 4 minutes to go in the opening period when Evan Barratt was tripped in front of the net but were unable to score. Alaska finished the period on the power play but the game remained 1-0 at the break.
Penn State had just got to full strength but the skater was not able to join the fray when Alaska scored on a rebound in front of Autio. It was less than 30 seconds into the period. The teams swapped penalties and the Lions led the shots on goal battle 20-9 with 12 minutes to play in the second period, but the Nanooks had the lead 2-0 in goals scored.
Kris Myllari took a shot to the back of the head and drew a penalty, which after reviewed by the officials became a 5-minute major for Steven Jandric, who was the leading scorer last year for Alaska. Initially the Lions had some scoring chances but then a few minutes went by without a good shot. The penalty time ended without a goal for Penn State.
Sam Sternschein took his second penalty of the night when he ran into goalie Anton Martinsson behind the net. Martinsson had made several nice saves to keep Alaska ahead by two goals to that point. As a result the Lions were on their heels for the rest of the period.
Four minutes into the final period Alaska added to the lead when the defense allowed a Nanook skater to get clean into the high slot for an open shot. With 16 minutes to play Penn State trailed 3-0 while having a 28-12 shots on goal edge.
With the lead, Alaska began to focus on disrupting Penn State’s attempt to get set up on offense. It was a struggle for the next five minutes to get any chance to set up in the offensive zone. Finally Guy Gadowsky began juggling combinations on his lines to try to get something going, playing just the most experienced players.
With 8 minutes to play, Alaska added a 4th goal and with it the crowd inside the Pegula Ice arena began to empty. It was a shame to see the largest crowd of the season leave so disappointed. Guy Gadowsky emptied the net to try to get a goal with 3 minutes to play when the Lions got a power play, gaining a 6-4 advantage.