Men’s Hockey Falls To No. 16 UMass-Lowell 4-0

Men’s hockey coach Guy Gadowsky knew that this game would be an early-season benchmark for his club. Penn State has overachieved in earning a 3-3-1 record, but would have its toughest test in UMass-Lowell, a team that was ranked No. 1 in the nation before the season.

“Right now, because of the early success we had, people are looking at us to see if we’re a legitimate contender,” Gadowsky said at practice Tuesday. “They are a great opponent. The coaching staff does an awesome job and they’ve had a ton of success. It’s a great opportunity for us to find out where we’re at.”

On Thursday night, despite outshooting UMass-Lowell 37-28, Penn State couldn’t pass its first big test of the season, falling to the River Hawks 4-0 in a game that was much closer than the score indicated.

Penn State battled hard, but fell behind early as UMass-Lowell’s Adam Chapie scored at 1:51 to grab the lead. Chapie was the only River Hawk in Penn State’s end, and managed to turn a 1-on-4 in his favor.

“It was a 1-on-4, and he turned it into a 1-on-2 in the corner,” Gadowsky said. “The puck rotated behind the net and he won that race. I give them credit, but a good team doesn’t give that up. You can’t turn a 1-on-4 into a wide open chance.”

David Glen provided the first and best chance of the period for Penn State just two minutes later, but couldn’t get the puck past UMass-Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyke, who finished with 37 saves. Hellebuyke gave up a huge rebound, but no Nittany Lions could get a stick on the puck, and it was cleared. After a scuffle involving defenseman Zach Saar and a few UMass players, the teams traded power plays for the rest of the period, and rode out first frame with Penn State trailing 1-0.

Both teams came out firing in the second period, with UMass getting two quick shots on goaltender Matt Skoff, but Skoff was able to get his pad on the puck both times. Penn State had a 3-on-2 led by Matthew McDonaugh soon after, but his shot was stopped by Hellebuyke.

UMass-Lowell added its second goal of the game at 5:56 in the second, although it was not without controversy. UML’s Scott Wilson shot the puck and it appeared to be covered by Skoff. Wilson then ran into Skoff, and caused the puck to squirt loose and into the net. As UMass-Lowell celebrated, Skoff aggressively plead his case to the officials, but they did not award a goaltender interference penalty and allowed the score to stand.

The River Hawks weren’t done yet, however. Derek Arnold scored his fourth of the year at 7:56 to make the game 3-0 and seemingly out of reach. Joe Gambardella blasted a slap shot from the point,and Skoff made a big save, but couldn’t gather the rebound as Arnold put it home.

Nate Jensen gave Penn State its best chance to score in the second period as he fired a wrist shot over the right shoulder of Hellebuyke, but the puck bounced off the post. As the crowd screamed, Hellebuyke was able to turn around and cover the puck. That was the closest the Nittany Lions would come to scoring on the night. Three minutes later, Jensen made the defensive play of the night for the home side as he broke up a 1-on-3 going the other way. The Nittany Lions might have been down 3-0 at the end of the second, but had the momentum thanks to Jensen’s play.

Penn State carried that energy right into the third period, getting five shots on goal in less than two minutes. Hellebuyke made a glove save on a blast by Glen, and the River Hawks defensemen tallied two blocked shots to keep the Nittany Lions scoreless.

The play of Hellebuyke was the story of the night for the River Hawks. At 1:36, Penn State’s Eric Scheid maneuvered between 3 UMass-Lowell defensemen, and drew a hooking penalty on Wilson. The Nittany Lions peppered Hellebuyke with 8 shots on the resulting power play, but each was denied by Hellebuyke. After the barrage on the power play, Penn State couldn’t get another good chance. A late UMass-Lowell goal by Arnold made it 4-0, and the River Hawks became the first visiting team to leave Pegula Ice Arena with a win.

“They’re a very good team, and they took advantage of [our mistakes]. I think, as a whole, they played a much better all-around game.” Gadowsky said. “This is a tremendous scheduling opportunity for us, playing a team like UMass-Lowell who was in the Frozen Four last year, and we know why after tonight. This was an opportunity to see what it takes to be a team that goes to the Frozen Four, and I think we learned a bit of a lesson.”

Penn State will take on UMass-Lowell again tonight in the second game of the weekend doubleheader. The game is set for a 7 p.m. start. Tickets are sold out, but fans can track the game online, and listen in on the Penn State Sports Radio Network.

Game notes:

  • Stars of the night: 3rd star – Umass-Lowell goaltender Connor Hellebuyke (37 saves, shutout). 2nd star – Scott Wilson (1 goal and 1 assist on 5 shots, +2 rating). 1st star – Derek Arnold (2 goals on 4 shots, +2 rating).
  • Quick stats: Penn State outshot UMass-Lowell 37-28. The Nittany Lions took 6 penalties to UMass-Lowell’s 5, and neither team converted on their power play. Three River Hawks had a plus/minus rating of +3, while Nate Jensen and Peter Sweetland were both -3 for Penn State.
  • Forward Kenny Brooks was called for a questionable roughing penalty at 8:49 of the third period that had the bench, and the crowd, fired up. “I saw a great hit, I saw his shoulder down,” Gadowsky said. “I didn’t see anything that could be called a penalty. I just asked the refs what Kenny could have done differently, because I thought it was a tremendous hit.”
  • Goaltender Matthew Skoff had his worst statistical game of the year, giving up four goals while only making 24 saves, but Gadowsky remained optimistic about his goalie’s play going forward. “I don’t think he’ll say it’s his best game, but by no means did we lose the game because of Matt Skoff. We didn’t score a lot of goals, right? I mean, he was gonna have to be pretty darn good to win the game with the amount of goals we gave up tonight.”
  • Penn State’s leading scorer Luke Juha left the game with 6 seconds left in the third period after blocking a shot from UMass-Lowell’s Shayne Thompson. His status was not made available after the game, and it is unknown if he will return for Friday’s game.
  • This was Penn State’s first loss in the new Pegula Ice Arena. The team falls to 2-1-1 at home.

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Alex Robinson

Alex Robinson was Onward State's Acting Managing Editor/Resident Old Man. He lived in Harrisburg almost his whole life, but he says he's from California -- where he was born -- because that's more fun. He loves cats and Chinese food, but only separately. He met both Ben Affleck and Kanye West within a half hour, so the three of them are basically best friends. If you want to hear his #scorching #hot #takes, you can follow him at @ARobinsonPSU or email him at [email protected]

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