No. 15 Penn State (22-11-2, 10-9-1 B1G) opened up the Big Ten Tournament with a solid 4-1 win against a red hot Michigan Wolverines team who swept them the previous week.
How It Happened
The opening 10 minutes of the first period featured fairly even play, with neither team giving up many quality scoring chances. Most of the puck possession was lost in the neutral zone, preventing both teams from creating sustainable offensive pressure. The tide turned when Michigan’s Jake Slaker took a penalty for a nasty hit on Liam Folkes. Penn State capitalized on that very power play at the 10:50 mark. The Nittany Lions corralled the puck behind the net while Folkes swiftly moved in from the left circle and one-timed a snap shot over the shoulder of Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort. Penn State tallied again just four minutes later, as Nate Sucese tapped in a perfect pass from Denis Smirnov during a 2-on-1 attack. With 29 seconds remaining in the period, David Goodwin gave Penn State a 3-0 lead after he was left all alone in the slot. At the end of the first, The Nittany Lions held a 3-0 lead and a 13-9 shot advantage.
Penn State extended its lead just 1:03 into the second period, as Vince Pedrie beat Nagelvoort with an absolute laser from the point to become the highest-scoring Penn State defenseman in program history. Michigan (13-19-3, 6-12-2 B1G) thought it finally got on the scoreboard and made it 4-1 at the 2:22 mark; however, the play was reviewed and overturned because a Michigan player had been offsides. The score remained 4-0 in favor of Penn State. The Nittany Lions very characteristically found themselves on the penalty kill mid-way through the period and this time Michigan was able to punch one in. James Sanchez batted a shot out of mid-air past Peyton Jones at the 10:19 mark. Michigan spent most of the second half of the period in the offensive zone and were able to create several scoring opportunities. If it weren’t for stellar goaltending and courageous shot blocking, Michigan may have cut the deficit even further. At the end of two, Penn State led 4-1 with a 22-20 shot advantage.
Michigan continued its offensive pressure early in the third and was robbed from scoring several times by Jones and the goalpost. Penn State eventually halted Michigan’s momentum by generating offensive pressure of their own, which led to a couple of Michigan penalties. The final score was 4-1 with Penn State leading in shots 34-31.
- This win significantly increased Penn State’s chances of making its first ever NCAA tournament. Its back to No. 12 in the PairWise.
- The Joe Louis Arena was completely empty, I’ve seen bigger crowds at Champs midget wrestling.
- Peyton Jones played an outstanding game. He prevented Michigan from getting back into the game when they had complete control of the puck in the offensive zone for a majority of the game.
- This was exactly the performance Penn State needed. The Nittany Lions had lost three of their last four coming into tonight and needed a big win if they had any hopes of making the NCAA tournament. A fast start combined with tremendous hustle in all threes zones is why Penn State won this game and was very reminiscent of how they played early in the season.
- If Penn State continues to play like this against Minnesota tomorrow night, it will have a very good chance of advancing to the championship game.
- When Smirnov is on the scoresheet, Penn State has been very successful. He had an assist tonight and Penn State won, get the puck to Smirnov. Very much a “pass it to the Italians” situation if Smirnov was Italian.
- Andrew Sturtz went to the locker room with an apparent injury midway through the second period and did not return. Hopefully he is ok and has a speedy recovery.
Penn State will take on No. 5 Minnesota at Joe Louis arena tomorrow night at 8 p.m in the Big Ten semifinals.