Inside The History Of The Penn State-Michigan Hockey Rivalry
Michigan’s hockey team is in its 92nd season as a Division-I program. It’s played more than 1,200 games, won a record nine NCAA Championships, and is one of the most storied teams of all time. Penn State’s hockey program is in just its fourth season at the D-I level, playing just 124 total games — 60 of them being losses.
But despite the lopsided numbers historically, the two teams have already built a fierce rivalry. The games are close, the players are chippy, and the penalty boxes are full when these two programs meet.
The Nittany Lions lead the all-time series 6-3, and many of the young program’s milestones have come against the mighty Wolverines. Before they meet again Thursday and Saturday for their first series of the 2015-16 season, let’s take a look at the highlights, big games, and memorable quotes from the three-year history between these two schools.
February 7-8, 2014: Penn State’s first Big Ten win
The Wolverines made their first-ever trip to State College as the definitive favorites in the series — Penn State was struggling in its first season in the Big Ten, tallying a 4-18-1 record at that point — and they showed the upstart Nittany Lions how far they had to go to become a powerhouse like themselves in a 7-3 victory on Friday night. Michigan jumped to an early two-goal lead after the first period, and after allowing Penn State to tie the game, pulled away with a three-goal third.
But Saturday was different. Saturday proved that, with a bit of time, Penn State may be able to hang with the big boys.
With ESPN’s John Buccigross calling the game for a national TV audience, Penn State picked up its first conference win in the history of the program. The home team jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead thanks to goals from Zach Saar, David Glen, and Casey Bailey, and added a fourth from Ricky DeRosa with four minutes left in the game to clinch a 4-0 victory.
“I feel fantastic because of the work we’ve had to put in to get here,” coach Guy Gadowsky said after the game. “Everybody on the whole team did a heck of a job. To me, this is why I came here, to compete against the best teams in the nation. To see the crowd in the student body, and how much fun they were having, it was awesome.”
February 21-22: Penn State’s first Big Ten road win
Penn State came into Ann Arbor after being swept by the Wolverines’ biggest rival, Michigan State, at home the weekend before. That slow play continued against No. 10 Michigan on Friday, as the home team jumped to a quick 2-0 lead in the first period.
But, as they always do, the Nittany Lions kept battling. David Goodwin scored the first one, and after giving up one more to the Wolverines, Casey Bailey and Dylan Richard scored the next two. Spirits were down when Michigan’s Alex Guptill scored with just over three minutes left in the game, but what transpired next can only be described as magic. Bailey stunned the Yost Ice Arena crowd when he tied the game with 4.6 seconds left, just barely beating goaltender Zach Nagelvoort on his stick side and forcing overtime. Then, with 43 seconds remaining in extra time, Goodwin scored his second of the game on a 2-on-1 breakaway to give the Nittany Lions a 5-4 victory — their first ever conference road win.
March 20, 2014: Penn State knocks Michigan out of the Big Ten Tournament
Penn State struggled in its first season against Big Ten opponents, finishing with a 3-16-1 record as it limped into the Big Ten Tournament as the sixth seed. No. 12 Michigan was the No. 3 seed, looking to make its mark as the first-ever Big Ten Champion. Little did they know, a goaltender named Matt Skoff had other plans for their Big Ten — and NCAA — Tournament hopes.
Skoff played lights-out against the Wolverines, making 52 saves on 53 shots throughout the game. He made highlight-reel save after highlight-reel save, and his teammates finally gave him support with 22 seconds left in the second period. Taylor Holstrom beat Nagelvoort stick side to give the underdogs a 1-0 lead.
The Nittany Lions’ one defensive breakdown of the game came with nine minutes to play, and while the goal counts against Skoff in the stat sheet, he was hardly to blame. Mike Williamson turned the puck over behind the net, giving the Wolverines’ Phil Di Giusseppe a point-blank shot at Skoff. He buried it to tie the game — one that remained deadlocked past the 60-minute point.
The most important play of the game came in the first overtime, when Michigan’s Andrew Copp shot a puck past Skoff and off the post. The puck spun on an axis, slowly creeping towards the goal, when Eric Scheid made possibly the most clutch play of his career, kicking it out and away with centimeters to spare.
The teams remained tied through the second overtime, when Zach Saar buried a shot past Nagelvoort — on the stick side once again — to win the game 2-1.
“I think we learned that we have guys with a lot of heart,” Guy Gadowsky said. “I really like the fact that we were playing an excellent game and we allowed them to tie it up relatively late. I don’t think our demeanor changed that much. I think that’s something we learned. I think it took us a while to sort of understand the mental strength it takes to play programs like Michigan and the other great programs in the Big Ten.”
March 6-7, 2015: The Sweep
"It's always fun beating Michigan... We love beating them, they hate losing to us, and it's showing." -- Eric Scheid
After splitting a pair of games against the Nittany Lions in November to open the Big Ten season, No. 16 Michigan came into Pegula on the first weekend in March leading the conference in points and hoping to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume with a few wins against a talented Penn State team. Instead, the Wolverines left Happy Valley with two losses and their Tournament chances shot for the second year in a row thanks to Guy Gadowsky’s team.
Penn State got the better of Michigan on Friday night, winning 6-4 with 6,011 fans cheering the team on. The Nittany Lions scored four straight goals to start the game, and six different players total put points on the scoreboard. Michigan scored two goals in both the second and third periods to cut the deficit to two, and had chances thanks to Penn State’s 11 penalties, but it had eight penalties of its own and couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities.
Casey Bailey had the highlight, firing this absolute rocket past Michigan goaltender Steve Racine to put his team up 3-0.
When asked about his emotions towards Michigan after Friday’s game, Eric Scheid provided one of the best quotes in the program’s short history.
“It’s always fun beating Michigan,” Scheid said. “Yeah, [I think this is a rivalry]. Our schools are rivals, the whole Penn State community always rallies when we play Michigan in any sport, so that helps. And I think, we have an above-.500 record against Michigan, we knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament last year, we very easily could have knocked their chances of making the NCAA Tournament this year. We love beating them, they hate losing to us, and it’s showing. The chippiness is increasing. As anyone can see from watching the game, it’s definitely forming into a pretty big rivalry.”
Saturday’s game was Senior Day for Penn State, marking the final home game for Holstrom, Musico, Koudys, and four other Nittany Lion seniors, as well as Bailey, who was called up by the Toronto Maple Leafs later in the month. The seniors made sure their mark was left on the program, winning 4-3 and completing the first-ever sweep of Michigan.
“This is something that we won’t forget,” Gadowsky said after the game. “Any time that you’re able to sweep Michigan is huge. It feels great. I think it is something to look back on down the road and gain a lot of confidence from this. The fact that it happened on Senior Night, and at a time that we’re in the [NCAA Tournament] conversation, it becomes an important time for both teams. It feels really good. I feel really good about what the guys were able to accomplish in very meaningful games.”