Men’s Hockey Completes Sweep Of Michigan With A Resounding 5-1 Win
No. 7 Penn State (13-1-1, 2-0-0 Big Ten) came off a blowout of No. 20 Michigan (6-7-1, 0-2-0 Big Ten) on Thursday. The Nittany Lions nearly repeated the feat, lighting the scoreboard up with a 5-1 victory.
Red Berenson’s Michigan squad could not compete with the Nittany Lions who racked up 58 shots to Michigan’s 23. Jon Buccigross wasn’t in the house for this one, but he didn’t miss much on Michigan’s part. By all accounts, Penn State looks elite.
How It Happened
Guy Gadowsky’s No. 7 squad came out firing, sending a shot off the crossbar just seconds into the first period. The first Nittany Lion goal came with less than four (16:11) minutes into the first period. Zach Saar chased a lofted pass into Penn State’s offensive zone and nearly beat Lafontaine in goal. The Wolverine’s goalie – Jack LaFontaine – stopped Saar’s effort, but James Robinson was there in support to tuck the shot away, giving Penn State a 1-0 lead.
Michigan responded quickly, though, tallying a goal of their own with 15:10 left in the first period to make it 1-1. Max Shuart worked his way in front of the Nittany Lions’ goal and laid off a pass for Cutler Martin, who slotted one past Peyton Jones to quiet the raucous crowd in Pegula.
With 4:02 left in the first, Michigan’s Joseph Cecconi went to the box for two minutes for tripping David Goodwin, allowing Penn State to show off its high-powered offense on the power play. Michigan was unable to clear the puck from their own zone even one time before the suffocating Nittany Lion attack broke through the stingy Michigan penalty kill. With 2:57 left in the period, Kevin Kerr faked a shot and found Trevor Hamilton in space along the wing who launched a shot that found just enough space between the goalie and the post. 17:03
You could hardly blink before Denis Smirnov found himself in a one-on-one situation with Lafontaine, ultimately giving Penn State what felt like a sizable 3-1 advantage. After a Michigan possession in Penn State’s zone, Derian Hamilton looked up and sent a pass to Smirnov that split two Michigan defenders, springing the Moscow native through on the break. Smirnov showed some NHL-caliber skill with the puck, dangling his way across the face of goal and sneaking a shot past Lafontaine. With the goal, Smirnov tied Mike Vecchione of Union College for the top point total in the nation.
Dylan Richard was sent to the box for kneeing with less than four minutes in the second, and the Penn State penalty kill shined, squashing any hopes that Michigan had to cut the deficit to one.
The heat turned up a few degrees with 44.2 seconds left in the second period as Max Shuart hit Peyton Jones in goal after the whistle – eventually resulting a roughing penalty – but immediately sparking an all-out brawl between the two rivals. Nikita Pavlychev took exception to Shuart’s move, taking down a couple of Wolverines on his own before everybody got involved. The brawl led to a slew of penalties on both sides.
Just seconds later, frustration seemed to take a toll on Griffin Luce who was sent to the penalty box for roughing after the whistle (nearly sparking another brawl).
A nice break from all of the violence came during the intermission as hundreds of teddy bears were thrown onto the ice benefitting THON.
Andrew Sturtz extended the lead to 4-1 just 24 seconds into the third period. The Buffalo native posted up in front of LaFontaine in goal, deflecting the puck past the Wolverine goalie and into the corner of the net. The goal went under review, but ultimately stood for Sturtz’s 13th of the season. That’s 13 goals in 13 games.
The goal-scoring did not stop there for Penn State as Gadowsky’s explosive team showed it wasn’t about to take it easy on its most intense Big Ten rival. With 15:21 left in the third period, freshman forward Brandon Biro was the fastest to a free puck out in front of the Michigan goal. Biro made no mistake about it as he extended the lead to 5-1 in favor of Penn State.
The game finished up without too much more craziness as the Nitanny Lions completed the sweep of powerhouse Michigan.
Player of the Game
Denis Smirnov | Freshman | Forward
Denis Smirnov is among the nation leaders in points scored this season, and the freshman from Moscow showed tremendous talent and poise as he contributed a goal and an assist in the win. These were smart plays not just anyone could make. Smirnov now has 25 points on the year — coincidentally, he’s No. 25.
Penn State Hockey will begin a long break, not resuming play until Friday, January 6 at 7 p.m. when it takes on Ohio State (8-1-4, 2-1-1) in Columbus.