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Penn State Hockey Falls To Denver 6-3 In Elite Eight

Penn State’s stellar season came to an end at the hands of Denver in the Midwest Regional Final. The Nittany Lions gave it everything they had but it wasn’t enough to beat the top-seeded Pioneers, who pulled away 6-3.

How It Happened

Both teams were trying to get a feel for the game in the early going and were playing at a high tempo, which led to numerous turnovers in the neutral zone. Penn State nearly grabbed the lead, but a shot from Dylan Richard rang off of the post. Denver took a 1-0 lead with 16:43 remaining in the first period, as Jarid Lukosevicius roofed a loose puck past Peyton Jones. Following the opening goal, Denver gained control of the flow of the game and started to force Penn State to play its brand of hockey.

The puck seemingly never left Penn State’s defensive zone and Denver looked like a much hungrier team. Pioneer defenseman Adam Plant tallied a goal with 12:41 remaining to make it 2-0, after he snuck a wrister through a screen. Penn State created a few scoring opportunities midway through the period but were unable to hammer home any rebound opportunities. Nittany Lion forward James Robinson had a nifty pirouette across the crease, but couldn’t elevate the puck over the outstretched leg of Denver goalie Tanner Jaillet. Penn State finally got on the scoreboard with five minutes left in the period, as Nikita Pavlychev tapped in a short-handed goal following a scrum in front of the net.

At the end of the first period, Denver led 2-1 with Penn State leading 9-5 in shots.

The Nittany Lions started off the second period with 1:45 remaining on the penalty kill and they played extremely well defensively to keep things close. Shortly after, Denis Smirnov evened the score at 2-2 with 17:58 remaining. Smirnov intercepted a Pioneer breakout pass and ricocheted a shot off of a Denver defender and into the back of the net.

This equalizer gave Penn State an extra pep in its step, as the Nittany Lions started to pick up the intensity and change the flow of momentum. Penn state once again fell victim to a penalty and this time Denver capitalized. Following a two-on-one opportunity for Penn State, the Pioneers countered with an odd man advantage of their own and slotted one home with 13:30 remaining in the period to make it 3-2.

Denver extended its lead to 4-2 with 4:20 left in the second period due to a poor Penn State turnover. Troy Terry gained control of the puck at the top of the circle and threaded the needle to Lukosevicius, who found the open net. During a series of four-on-four play, Terry tapped one past Jones to give Denver a 5-2 lead. At the end of the second period, Denver maintained that score with Penn State leading 20-19 in shots.

Twenty-six seconds into the final period, Denver received a five-minute major penalty following a nasty hit from behind on Chase Berger. The Nittany Lions wasted the first half of the power play with no urgency and shots on net. The second half of the power play was no different, as the Nittany Lions only managed to register two shots on target. Penn State cut the deficit to 5-3, however, with 7:20 remaining after James Gobetz sent a slap shot past Jaillet.

Penn State pulled Jones from the net with just over three minutes left in the game, but it couldn’t capitalize and eventually conceded a late goal as Terry finished off his hat trick. At the end of regulation, the score read 6-3 in favor of Denver.

Takeaways

  • Although Denver is extremely skilled, Penn State could have won this game if it didn’t shoot itself in the foot over and over again. Simple things like not rushing three people on the attack when you are on a penalty kill could have turned the game in the Nittany Lions favor.
  • Penn State gave up way too many penalties in this game, which ultimately haulted any momentum it had and gave it all to Denver. When you’re playing the No. 1 team in all of college hockey, you can’t to give them extra opportunities because they will eventually make you pay.
  • No one expected the Penn State hockey program to get this far in its fifth year of existence and there is no shame in losing to a team like Denver; they are No. 1 after all. The Nittany Lions were basically playing with house money this entire tournament and they gained invaluable experience from it.
  • The future is bright for Hockey Valley. Penn State is returning all but four of its starters and its young guns such as Sucese and Smirnov will only continue to improve. This team will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
  • Smirnov with another goal tonight. For the last time this season…cue the Smirnoff shots!

What’s Next?

It was a great year. We’ll see you next season in Pegula.

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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