After all the heartbreaking losses suffered in its disappointing 7-25-2 regular season, Penn State was able reverse its fortunes on Thursday afternoon against No. 12 Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. Zach Saar’s goal in the second OT period propelled Penn State past Michigan 2-1, and kept the Nittany Lions’ season alive for another game.
After a scoreless first period, Taylor Holstrom put Penn State on the board with 23 seconds left in the second period, giving the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead heading into the intermission. Luke Juha hit Holstrom with a pass behind the Michigan defensemen, who then buried it past Wolverine goaltender Zach Nagelvoort (63 saves, .969 save %).
However, Michigan tied the game midway through the third period on a Phil Di Giuseppe goal. A turnover from Mike Williamson in the corner allowed Michigan’s Cristoval Nieves to find Di Giuseppe wide open in the slot, who promptly put it past Matthew Skoff (52 saves, .981 save %). Both teams were unable to score in the remaining nine minutes, and the game headed to overtime.
Each team had plenty of chances in the first OT, yet neither was able to capitalize on its respective chances. Michigan almost ended the game with six minutes left on a puck that trickled by Skoff, but Eric Scheid kicked the puck off the goal line to keep the Nittany Lions’ chances alive. Both goalies were incredible in the first OT, as Skoff made 13 saves during the period, while Nagelvoort made 15.
As both teams began to tire in the second OT period, the Nittany Lions had an offensive zone face-off opportunity with 13 minutes left. Dylan Richard proceeded to win a face-off directly to Saar, who snapped a wrist shot past Nagelvoort to seal the upset for the Nittany Lions, 2-1.
The win is the third victory for Penn State against Michigan this season, and the Nittany Lions take home the season series against the Wolverines, 3-2. Skoff was instrumental in the victory with 52 saves, and picked up his eighth win on the year. Skoff is still the only goaltender with a win on the Penn State roster.
Penn State will play No. 6 Wisconsin today at 3 p.m. for a spot in the Big Ten Championship game tomorrow. The contest can be seen on BTN.