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Penn State Sneaks Past Niagara, 3-2

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Connor McMenamin’s third period goal served as the difference for the Nittany Lions.

Heather Weikel | Black Shoe Diaries

Goals By Period

Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Team 1st 2nd 3rd OT Final
Notre Dame 2 0 2 x 4
Penn State 0 1 1 x 2

For a moment, it seemed Connor McMenamin had iced the game for Penn State. With under five minutes to play, McMenamin intercepted a pass in the Niagara zone, charged to the net and found a hole in Chad Veltri, giving the Nittany Lions a two-goal cushion over the Purple Eagles.

“I was kind of in my spot and luckily I read that kid’s pass a little sooner than he made it, so I was able just to get a stick on it. I saw I had a step on the [defenseman] so I tried to drive to the net. I couldn’t tell you where it went, I just tried to get it there,” McMenamin said of his spectacular individual effort.

That moment was short-lived for the Nittany Lions, however. Just 24 seconds later, Ryan Naumovski answered for the Purple Eagles to make it a one-goal contest once again.

Instead of relaxing a bit and running down the clock, the Nittany Lions — historically not adept at holding onto third period leads — were forced back into the pressure-packed task of protecting a one-goal lead.

The Nittany Lions didn’t panic, though, as they might have in prior seasons. As the insurance-turned-game-winning goal scorer said, they knew they had the ability to close out the game.

A few hectic moments in front of Peyton Jones later, the Nittany Lions held on for the narrow 3-2 victory. Though they came away with the win, coach Guy Gadowsky wasn’t thrilled with how the final few minutes — let alone the other 55 minutes — transpired.

“It was shocking, I’ll tell you that. It was an emotional swing,” Gadowsky said. “I’m not going to say we handled it great because we didn’t let any goals in but they certainly had their chances.”

Those chances weren’t just limited to the closing moments of the contest. The Nittany Lions were guilty of some egregious turnovers in the defensive zone. Fortunately for them, Peyton Jones, who faced limited but dangerous action for much of the game, was there to save the day, finishing the game with 26 saves, 12 of which came in the third period.

“I thought we actually played really well in the first period except that we gave up two really bad odd-man rushes that were tough plays,” Gadowsky said. I thought it was a really tough game to play but in the end when we were poor in the third period, he was great and he did his job.”

How It Happened

The Nittany Lions opened the scoring early in the first period, before Niagara even managed a shot on goal. Nikita Pavlychev used his long reach to tip a stretch pass past a Purple Eagles defenseman, then went short side on a breakaway to give Penn State the lead.

Just a few minutes later, the Purple Eagles responded in a similar manner. Luke Edgerton picked up the puck in the Nittany Lions’ zone and picked the corner over Peyton Jones’ shoulder to knot the game at one.

Early in the second period, Sam Sternschein restored Penn State’s lead with a power play tally. Sternschein collected a loose puck off a blocked shot and fired a wrist shot past Veltri’s glove.

Late in the third period, Connor McMenamin gave the Nittany Lions an insurance tally as he forced a turnover and beat Veltri as he charged to the net.

The Purple Eagles responded just 24 seconds later as a strange bounce off Noah Delmas floated over Jones and into the Nittany Lions’ net.