Men’s hockey (4-3, 1-0) took on the Michigan Wolverines (3-2, 0-1) at Pegula Ice Arena on Friday night to open up Big Ten action for the season. The Nittany Lions won an exciting overtime game against Big Ten rival Michigan 5-4 thanks to some late-game heroics.
How It Happened
The Nittany Lions came out strong and forced a flurry of mistakes from Michigan, but Michigan made its first chance of the game count. 2:03 into the first period, Will Lockwood was the first to a loose puck and beat Peyton Jones in goal through the 5-hole to open the scoring.
Minutes later, Cooper Marody made an unbelievable move to beat a Penn State defender and laid a pass off to Dexter Dancs along the left flank. With 14:10 remaining in the first period, Dancs made no mistake about the shot and gave Michigan a 2-0 lead.
Alec Marsh put on the moves on the breakaway with about 10 minutes remaining in the opening period, nearly forcing a handful of tough saves from LaFontaine in net. The Michigan goalie came up with yet another huge save just minutes later, stuffing Brandon Biro in front of goal after a great pass from Smirnov.
13:04 into the first period, Marody was sent to the penalty box for slashing, but Sturtz was sent to join Marody seconds later for holding. The ensuing four-on-four hockey, didn’t lead to anything.
But as soon as Sturtz got back on the ice, he made Michigan pay. Sturtz found himself with one defender to beat, and fired a shot at LaFontaine. The Michigan goalie couldn’t corral the shot, which deflected off of his glove, over his head, and – with no idea where the puck was – directly into net. Guy Gadowsky’s squad made it 2-1 with 3:54 remaining in the opening period and went into the first break down a goal.
The second period of play opened up slowly. At the 15-minute mark of the period, Liam Folkes came up with a fantastic clearance to relieve some pressure around Jones’ net, but neither side really threatened other than that.
At the 5:31 mark, Jake Slaker was sent to the penalty box for boarding, putting the Nittany Lions on the power play. LaFontaine gloved a wrister from Trevor Hamilton along the left wing, before making another unreal reaction save from what would’ve been a Pavlychev goal.
Penn State couldn’t capitalize on that power play, but as soon as that advantage ran out, Adam Winborg was penalized for cross-checking. That particular power play was over with 10:18 left in the second period, and the Nittany Lions had nothing to show for it.
Sucese led a 3-on-3 breakaway through the heart of the Michigan defense before finding Smirnov along the left flank. Smirnov did the rest, beating the Michigan goalie at the far post with deadly accuracy, tying it all up at 2-2 with 9:48 left in the period.
Peyton Jones came up with a pair of excellent saves about 30 seconds later, keeping the Wolverines from notching a quick response goal. Jones’ run of terrific play didn’t end there, as yet another impressive save about 13 minutes into the second period. Not only was the offense beginning to look like itself again, but Jones was also really showing his worth and ability.
With 5:34 remaining in the period, the towering Russian Nikita Pavlychev was penalized for interference. Michigan capitalized on the advantage with impressive man-up offense, as Dancs netted his second of the night. Penn State certainly had its chances to tally another goal before the break, but couldn’t quite tie things up.
The Nittany Lions went into the third period with a 33-20 advantage in the shots column, looking to translate that into a goal. Chase Berger nearly gave Penn State that goal 30 seconds into the final period, firing a shot from the left wings that clinked off of the far post. LaFontaine came up with two impressive saves in the ensuing possession, continuing his role in keeping Penn State from tying it up.
Limoges came up clutch for Guy Gadowsky’s side after he collected the rebound of Liam Folkes’ shot on net, tying the game. But the 3-3 score didn’t last long, as Marody scored again for Michigan with 14:01, reclaiming the lead.
Penn State’s Barratt – slashing after the whistle – and Michigan’s Cecconi – roughing after the whistle – were both given penalties during a scrum in front of LaFontaine’s goal. The four-on-four play didn’t lead to any goals, but the hectic and chaotic feel of the game increased steadily.
With just two minutes left in the third period, Biro was left in front of goal with only the goalie to beat, but couldn’t tie the game up. It ultimately didn’t matter, though, as just seconds later Chase Berger tied it up at four a piece. Berger’s goal came after Michigan seemed to slow the game down after minutes of hectic play.
Blake Gober came up with the overtime heroics to give Penn State its first Big Ten win of the season, taking the first of the series 5-4.
Player of the Game
Chase Berger | Junior | Forward
Simply put, Berger’s late-game goal propelled the Penn State attack into overtime. Berger capitalized on an opportunity that was by no means a sure goal given LaFontaine’s play in net.
The Nittany Lions will finish off the series against Michigan on Saturday night at 8 p.m. in Happy Valley.