New-Look Men’s Hockey Team Blows Out AIC 8-3 In Series Opener
A characteristically electric night at Pegula Ice Arena was capped off by a dominant win over the AIC Yellow Jackets. The Jackets, 0-3 entering the game, were clearly outmatched as a hefty majority of the puck battles were won by the Nittany Lions. The win came with captain David Glen sitting out and alternate captain Luke Juha and arguably the team’s best forward, Eric Scheid, making their 2015-16 regular season debuts. A relatively stress-free 8-3 win brings Penn State to 3-1-0 on the season, with a rematch approaching tomorrow afternoon.
How It Happened
Penn State took the lead almost immediately and never looked back. The game’s first few minutes saw non-stop pressure in the Jackets’ zone and multiple takeaways from goalie Alex Murray. Curtis Loik stripped Murray behind the net and found a wide-open Chase Berger, just over three minutes into the game. Five minutes later, after a few solid chances from AIC (and even better stops by Matt Skoff), Tommy Olczyk figured he’d throw the puck on net from high along the boards. It slipped through a few screens and went five-hole to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to 2-0. Finally, as the teams passed the two-minute mark, Berger scored his second goal after fellow freshman Derian Hamilton went end-to-end and bounced the puck off of Murray’s legs, setting up an easy tap-in. That ended the scoring in a fun first period, and Penn State led in shots 18-10 and goals 3-0.
The second period started how the first ended. Right away, Murray fumbled a puck shot from far away, and Kenny Brooks and Curtis Loik crashed the net to bury it. Loik was credited with the score, his team’s fourth. Later, halfway through the period, Finnish sophomore defenseman Erik Autio lifted a backhander bar-down on Murray’s last play of the game. There’s no reason to include non-scoring play-by-play in this recap, because almost every stoppage of play came because of a Penn State goal. Two minutes after Autio scored, Andrew Sturtz buried his first collegiate goal on a highlight-reel one-on-one break to make it 6-0. That ended scoring for the frame and Guy Gadowsky’s team extended its lead in shots to 41-17.
You know what happened as soon as the third period started. Kenny Brooks scored to put his team up by a touchdown and extra point, then the surprise of the night came shortly after when AIC broke up Skoff’s prospective shutout. Captain Chris Porter doubled his team’s total eight minutes into the frame with his own bar-down snipe. With ten minutes to go in the game, Sturtz scored his second and the team’s eighth — a program record in a single game. Skoff followed it up with a soft goal allowed to make the score 8-3. Loik took Penn State’s first penalty late in the period, but his team was the more offensive side for its duration, including an Eric Scheid breakaway that he couldn’t capitalize on. That was the last great chance of the game, as 8-3 was the final.
Players Of The Game
Chase Berger and Andrew Sturtz. The freshman duo combined for half of the team’s historic total, which was kickstarted by Berger scoring two of the first three goals.
- Though it’s early in the season, this looks like Penn State’s best freshman class ever. It makes sense, since Penn State’s increasingly high profile should bring in high-profile prospects, and that’s been evident with the play of Berger, Marsh, Sturtz, Kerr, Hamilton…and essentially everyone.
- Kenny Brooks is suddenly an offensive threat. He’s been mostly used in lower-line checking roles in his time at Penn State, but now he sees the ice with Curtis Loik and Chase Berger. It originally looked like Brooks scored Loik’s goal in the early second period, but even though he wasn’t credited with that marker he still is suddenly a player that other teams should watch out for in their own zone.
- The freshmen have made some highlight-reel plays, but their conversion rate isn’t where it should be. There are more failed attempts at skating end-to-end than there should be, ending with a defenseman pacing around the neutral zone with no speed. The Nittany Lions can get away with these high-risk plays against AIC, but better get them out of their system before they start playing ranked and/or Big Ten teams.
- Eric Scheid hasn’t missed a beat. Despite making his season debut tonight, he flew all around the ice and put on some of the nicest dekes I can remember seeing at Pegula Ice Arena. His time over the summer at the Anaheim Ducks’ camp definitely paid off.
- What to do with Matt Skoff…every game it seems like the veteran goalie makes outstanding point-blank, glove-flashing saves, then allows a goal from behind the net or the blue line or something. AIC was outplayed in every facet of the game, but Skoff still couldn’t manage the statistics he should.
Penn State is back in action at 3 p.m. tomorrow, half an hour before the football team’s matchup in Baltimore against Maryland.