Men’s Hockey Falls To No. 16 St. Lawrence 6-3, Splits Series
After a season-opening upset pulled on them, the No. 16 Saints were expectedly prepared for round two of their series against the Nittany Lions tonight. A thirst for redemption, a fierce beginning, and probably goalie Kyle Hayton’s hatred of the Roar Zone fueled a 6-3 St. Lawrence win to split the series with Penn State.
How It Happened
No. 16 St. Lawrence wasn’t about to go down without a fight. A big push at the very beginning of the first period set the Saints up for two goals in a row and one minutes after. Before the game even hit the five minute mark, an Eric Sweetman wrap around, a Joe Sullivan tap in, and a Ryan Garvey breakaway gave St. Lawrence three goals on eight shots. Chris Funkey replaced Peyton Jones in net, but goaltending wasn’t the only issue here. With just two shots six minutes into the game, Penn State had to start producing some chances.
Freshman Liam Folkes got the first solid chance with some smooth stick work for the Nittany Lions, but Hayton stopped it. Freshman Denis Smirnov almost broke through too, but halfway through the first period, it was still 3-0 St. Lawrence. Shot opportunities evened out at 11 by the 12 minute mark of the first — but even the best chance of the night thus far, an Erik Autio shot off a rebound, wouldn’t faze Hayton. Penn State closed out the first period with a flurry of shots, but nothing to show for them.
The second opened more optimistically with a Penn State power play 32 seconds in, but St. Lawrence killed off its third penalty of the game. The pk unit gave St. Lawrence momentum, and Carson Gicewicz shuffled a rebound past Funkey 3:30 into the period for a 4-0 lead. Penn State finally broke through when defenseman Vince Pedrie scored a powerplay goal off a rebound with 14:24 left in the second. A potential Goodwin breakaway almost snuck by Hayton with 5:30 left, but frustration ensued instead. St. Lawrence killed off another penalty and things slowed down until the Nittany Lions revived Pegula — Andrew Sturtz ripped one top shelf with seconds left to cut the Saints’ lead 4-2. A third period comeback didn’t seem unreasonable, but didn’t seem likely either.
Sturtz came out swinging in the third and the Roar Zone took notice. With shots in Penn State’s favor (33-19 with 16:23 left to play), this game was starting to resemble comeback efforts from two seasons back. It seemed like players kept setting up in front of the net and *just* missing. With 4:40 left to play, the outcome would grow bleaker. St. Lawrence sealed the deal on an empty netter with two minutes left. Penn State answered right back with freshman Nate Sucese’s first of the season to lessen the blow. Another empty netter put the Saints up further, and in the end, one of the best defenses in the country showed itself. Penn State dropped its second game of the season 6-3 to split the series with St. Lawrence.
- Coach Guy Gadowsky spoke of “growing pains” he expected this very young team to go through, and tonight showcased some of those. Penn State will need a few weeks to shuffle around the lines and figure out the goalie situation before Big Ten play.
- Speaking of the goalie situation, I don’t think it’s set in stone that Jones will be the decisive starter. We’ll have to see how the next few weeks go, but a goalie carousel situation reminiscent of last year might surface. I don’t think Gadowsky is just playing it safe when he says he doesn’t know who will start in net at pressers — I think he’s working with two young goaltenders and doesn’t want to do anything drastic or final (a smart move on his part). Funkey stopped all six shots left in the first after he got in net, made a few impressive saves, and the last two St. Lawrence goals were empty netters. Either way, they’ll be rooting for each other the whole season.
- Penn State still split a series with the No. 16 team in the nation. It could be worse. The Hockey Gods were on the Nittany Lions’ side last night, but tonight was marked by a ton of missed opportunities that were just off.
Penn State heads to Erie, Pa. for its first away game of the season against Mercyhurst next Friday, Oct. 14. The puck drops at 7 p.m.