For the second consecutive year, Pegula Ice Arena hosted an NHL preseason game. The Pittsburgh Penguins opened their preseason against Terry Pegula’s Buffalo Sabres, with the Sabres winning 4-3 in overtime.
Although they were technically the away team, the Pens’ black and yellow were the dominant colors in a sold-out Pegula Ice Arena.
Last year, the Roar Zone clearly favored the Sabres when they took on Minnesota, but they seemed to cheer for the visitors tonight, declaring their allegiance with a “Let’s Go Pens” chant early in the first period.
Both teams got a warm reception from the standing-room only crowd when they took the ice for pre-game warmups. As expected, however, the roar from the student section was much louder for Pittsburgh.
For a mid-September preseason game, the Sabres fielded a surprisingly strong lineup. Star center Jack Eichel played alongside wingers Evander Kane and Jason Pominville on Buffalo’s top line, and this combination will likely be the team’s top line on opening night of the regular season.
Eichel’s appearance generated even more excitement for the game, as Penn State fans would have an opportunity to see a bona fide NHL star play on their campus.
Last season, the No. 2 pick in the 2015 draft did not play against the Wild last year at this same event. The Boston University alum assisted on Buffalo’s first two goals, and then buried the overtime winner off a 2-on-1 rush.
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) September 20, 2017
In contrast, the Penguins faithful in attendance were disappointed in terms of star power — Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Kris Letang, and Matt Murray didn’t make the trip to Hockey Valley for tonight’s game.
The NHL talent on hand was extremely impressed with the quality of Pegula Ice Arena. Penguins winger Carl Hagelin and head coach Mike Sullivan both had high praise for the university’s five-year old rink and the atmosphere inside it.
“It’s a great facility,” Hagelin, a Michigan hockey alum, said postgame. “I wish I was able to play here [as an opponent]while I was in college.”
“I thought it was a great experience,” Sullivan said. “This is a really neat environment here; Penn State’s got a beautiful facility. The fans are on top of you, so I think it’s a unique environment from that standpoint. It has that college feel, which I think was great for our players. There was a lot of energy in the building.”
Fans of both teams were disappointed because the Penguins opted not to bring the Stanley Cup with them on this trip. The defending champs missed an opportunity to give Penn State hockey fans a glimpse at one of the most famous trophies in all of sports.
While teams never really parade the Stanley Cup around during the preseason, it was still disappointing to not see it tonight.
Nevertheless, it was an awesome night for the game of hockey in the Penn State community, further establishing Happy Valley as a hockey town.