No. 11 Penn State men’s hockey (3-2-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) played its first home game of the season against American International, winning 7-5 Thursday night.
Penn State had seven different players score goals, and 12 Nittany Lions recorded at least one point in the game. Chase Berger and Brandon Biro led the charge with three points apiece, while Andrew Sturtz, Denis Smirnov, and Cole Hults each recorded two points on the evening.
Goaltender Peyton Jones made 28 saves for Penn State, and he even got involved in the offense with the secondary assist on Biro’s goal.
How It Happened
The game got off to a tough start for Guy Gadowsky’s squad, with American International taking a 1-0 lead 5:01 into the first period. A defensive breakdown by Penn State saw a wide open Yellow Jacket deposit the opening goal past a sprawling Jones.
After AIC’s second penalty of the game, Trevor Hamilton finally opened the scoring for Penn State. Erik Autio threw a shot on goal, and Hamilton stuffed the puck past the goaltender. Berger also had a whack at the puck; he picked up the primary assist on Hamilton’s first of the year.
Despite taking a late penalty, Sturtz buried a shorthanded goal to give his team a 2-1 lead with 33 seconds left in the first. A pass from Berger saw Sturtz all by himself in front of the net, and he made a beautiful move to beat AIC goalie Alex Murray.
Penn State scored an early goal on the power play to open the second period. A Liam Folkes snapshot from the left circle flew past Murray’s left pad, giving the Nittany Lions a 3-1 lead. Biro picked up the lone assist on the team’s second power play goal of the evening.
After this goal, the game became an offensive shootout. AIC responded with a goal of their own on a breakway; the goal came at 12:22 of the second period and cut Penn State’s lead in half.
Penn State responded just 1:30 later to re-extend its lead to two goals; Cole Hults’ first NCAA goal. The Los Angeles Kings’ draft pick picked up the puck on the boards, cut to the net, and tucked a backhand shot five-hole on AIC’s goalie.
Gadowsky on freshman Cole Hults: "He's always been pretty calm. That was a really nice goal for any forward, and he's a d-man."
— Onward Sports (@OnwardStSports) October 20, 2017
Berger recorded his third assist of the game on the goal, and Sturtz also added a helper for his second point. After matching penalties, Brandon Biro’s second goal of the season slid through AIC’s goaltender’s legs, but the Yellow Jackets quickly responded to cut the deficit back to two goals.
Biro’s goal was assisted by Denis Smirnov, who recorded his team-leading seventh point on the goal, and goaltender Peyton Jones. The second period concluded with Penn State holding a 5-3 lead on the scoreboard, and a 37-18 advantage in shots on goal.
Once again, Penn State got off to a fast start to begin the third period. Denis Smirnov scored a wraparound after collecting the rebound of a Cole Hults point shot to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to 6-3. The goal came just 49 seconds into the period, and Biro picked up his third point of the evening with a secondary assist on the goal.
Penn State continued to pour it on early in the final frame. Kris Myllari got in on the scoring with his second goal of the season to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to four. The tally chased Murray from the Yellow Jackets’ net, as Stefano Durante assumed netminding duties for the remainder of the game. Alex Limoges picked up the only assist on the goal.
A shorthanded goal by AIC midway through the third period trimmed the Penn State lead back down to three, and a 5-on-3 goal put the Yellow Jackets right back in the game with 4:06 remaining in the third. These two goals proved to be nothing more than consolation goals, as the Nittany Lions improved to 3-2-0 on the season.
Player Of The Game
Chase Berger | Junior | Center
Berger’s three-assist effort powered Penn State’s attack en route to a seven-goal performance.
Berger’s vision, passing, and puck movement were on another level Thursday night. His second assist on Sturtz’s short-handed goal was the prettiest of them all. He perfectly placed the puck on Sturtz’s stick, allowing him to easily deposit the puck into the back of the net.
The Nittany Lions are back in action Friday at 7 p.m. to finish this week’s series with American International.