The game wasn’t exactly on his stick. By the time Kevin Wall stepped up to take his penalty shot, Penn State was up two goals on Niagara with a little more than two minutes to play.
Team success was all but assured. Personal success was hanging in relative balance.
Wall made no mistake, though.
He moved methodically over the blue line, changed the angle ever so slightly and fired a wrist shot past Jake Sibell’s glove. Seconds later, the hats started flying.
Wall’s penalty shot tally marked the 10th hat trick in program history and helped propel the Nittany Lions to a 6-2 win and series sweep over the Purple Eagles.
Goals By Period
“Obviously Kevin’s a great guy, great player. Hat tricks don’t come very often,” defenseman Clayton Phillips said. “[For it] to be on the penalty shot made it a little bit cooler than a normal one.”
The penalty shot goal capped off a dominant series for the Carolina Hurricanes draft pick. Entering the series with just one goal in the first four games of the season, Wall tallied five goals against the Purple Eagles.
While Wall was dominant in his own right putting the puck in the net, the Nittany Lions as a whole were largely able to shut down the Purple Eagles attack, particularly on the penalty kill.
The Purple Eagles went 0-for-11 with the man advantage, including a five-minute major assessed to Connor McMenamin on Friday. Forward Tyler Paquette explained that the Nittany Lions adjusted their penalty kill to match the Purple Eagles power play setup.
“They kind of do a 2-3, so we kind of adapted our kill to match that and play more passive compared to [how] we normally play aggressive,” Paquette said. “And then sometimes they switch into an umbrella so we did a good job communicating, trying to work those things out.”
The backbone of that penalty kill is the goaltender, and the Nittany Lions certainly benefited from exceptional goaltending this weekend. A night after Oskar Autio pitched his fourth career shutout, Liam Souliere made 33 saves on 35 shots, with 20 of those coming on the penalty kill.
“If your goaltender is not your top penalty killer, you’re not going to have good stats,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “However, I thought that we adjusted really well to their two looks. Sometimes that’s caused us trouble, transitioning one to the other.”
How It Happened
Midway through the first period, the Nittany Lions opened the scoring with a shorthanded tally. After Connor McMenamin was ejected for a check from behind, Tyler Paquette picked the corner on Jake Sibell for his first goal as a Nittany Lion.
A few minutes later, Penn State’s special teams came through again, this time on the power play. Kevin Wall collected a pass near the blue line and wired a wrist shot past Sibell for his third goal of the series.
Near the end of the first, the Purple Eagles got one back. After the Nittany Lions had trouble escaping their defensive zone, Albin Nilsson beat Liam Souliere over the blocker on a 2-on-1.
Early in the second period, the Nittany Lions regained a two-goal lead. After blocking a shot at his own blue line, Ryan Kirwan escaped on a breakaway, made a quick move, and lifted a shot over Sibell’s right pad.
Midway through the third period, the Purple Eagles once again brought it back within a goal. Walker Sommer weaved his way through the Nittany Lions and fired a shot far side that barely eluded Souliere’s right pad.
A few minutes later, the Nittany Lions once again restored their two-goal lead. Wall netted his fourth goal of the series as he drove hard to the net and flipped a shot against the grain on Sibell.
Late in the third, Wall was hooked on a breakaway and awarded a penalty shot. With a hat trick on the line, Wall made no mistake, burying a quick wrister past Sibell’s glove.
Paquette potted his second of the game on an empty net just moments later.