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Penn State Hockey Blasts Union 10-3 To Reach Elite Eight

Penn State (25-11-2) entered the evening winners of its last three games, including the Big Ten Championship last Saturday against Wisconsin. The Nittany Lions carried that momentum into their first-ever NCAA Tournament, to say the least, crushing Union 10-3 in the first round of the Midwest Regional at U.S. Bank Arena.

How It Happened

The first period of this matchup went exactly as predicted: fast paced, high scoring, and evenly matched. The Nittany Lions came out firing and produced a quality scoring opportunity on the very first shift, as captain David Goodwin burned a defender and cut in front of the crease. He attempted to slide one five hole; however, Union goalie Alex Sakellaropoulos made a nice save.

The following eight minutes featured end-to-end action, with both teams having their fair share of nervous moments. Penn State utilized quick shifts to keep the energy high at both ends of the ice. The Nittany Lions took a 1-0 lead with 8:55 remaining in the first as Brandon Biro tipped a pass from Chase Berger into the top corner.

Just over a minute later, Union forward Brendan Taylor snuck one past Peyton Jones to even the score at 1-1. Penn State reclaimed the lead with 6:34 remaining, as Berger deflected a shot in traffic past Sakellaropoulos.

Union tied the game 24 seconds later at 2-2, as Spencer Foo was left all alone in the slot and rang a shot off the post and in. Trevor  Hamilton (once again) laid down the law late in the first period as a Union attacker tried to enter the zone. At the end of the first period, the score was tied 2-2 with Union leading 9-8 in shots.

The Nittany Lions, much like the first period, came out flying and were able to take a 3-2 just 1:59 into the action courtesy of a bomb from defenseman Kris Myllari.

Penn State fell victim to its first penalty of the game and Union was able to capitalize with 12:06 left in the period. Union cycled the puck around the offensive zone until Foo sprung free in front of the net and was able to tally his second goal of the night. The Nittany Lions once again answered right back with 10:25 remaining in the second period, as Berger tapped in his second goal of the night to give Penn State a 4-3 lead.

The Nittany Lion offense kept firing on all cylinders — Dylan Richard put home a rebound opportunity to give Penn State a 5-3 lead with 5:47 left in the second. Penn State went on the penalty kill for the second time late in the period, but this time it managed to kill it off. The final two minutes of the second period were dominated by Penn State, due in large part to crisp passing sequences from the Smirnov-Goodwin-Sucese line. At the end of the second period, Penn State led 5-3 and held a 20-14 shot advantage.

The Nittany Lions started the third period in similar fashion to the previous two and came out as the aggressors. Nate Sucese gave Penn State a 6-3 lead just 1:10 into the period, firing home a rebound into the top corner.

Penn State extended its lead to 7-3 after Denis Smirnov sent a heat-seeking missile top cheddar with 14 minutes remain in the final period.

Nikita Pavlychev gave the Nittany Lions an 8-3 lead with 12:08 remaining, as he cashed in on a power-play opportunity.

Vince Pedrie scored a shorthanded goal to extend the lead to 9-3 in favor of Penn State. In unprecedented fashion, Sucese added a late goal to help the Nittany Lions reach double digits, 10-3.

Takeaways

  • “First NCAA Tournament game? Yea, we’ll hang a ten spot on Union” – Penn State, probably.
  • If you’re a fan of offense, this was quite a game to witness. Non-stop action at both ends with a plethora of goals. I’m pretty certain that defense was discouraged by both coaches tonight. The teams must have met up before the game and decided that they were going to treat this like an NBA All-Star game and give the fans a show. I, for one, am not complaining.
  • One of the major keys to success for Penn State in this game was starting off each period extremely well. In all three periods, the Nittany Lions were first to score and it certainly paid dividends.
  • This was a statement win for the Nittany Lions. Union was the 2014 National Champions and is an extremely talented team. Any notion that Penn State was getting by solely on luck can be tossed out of the window because you need way more than luck to beat a team like Union 10-3.
  • Denis Smirnov scored tonight. Cue the Smirnoff shots!
  • Denver is so nervous for tomorrow. It wants no part of Hockey Valley.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will play top-seeded Denver Sunday at 6 p.m. ET in the Midwest Regional final with a spot in the Frozen Four on the line.

About the Author

Matt Castle

Matt is a junior Journalism major with a business minor from the great state of Massachusetts. He will be moving into a new apartment soon to make room for his fifth Lombardy trophy. His extremely unbiased top five athletes of all time include Tom Brady, Isaiah Thomas, Andrew Benintendi, David Pastrnak, and Diego Fagundez. If you really hate yourself, you can follow him @whitecastle22 or email him at [email protected]

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