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Four Third-Period Goals Doom No. 5 Penn State Hockey In 6-4 Loss To No. 16 Michigan

No. 5 Penn State men’s hockey (8-1-1, 0-1-0 Big Ten) opened conference play with a 6-4 loss to No. 16 Michigan (6-4-0, 1-0-0 Big Ten) on Friday evening at Pegula Ice Arena.

Evan Barratt, Ludvig Larsson, Nate Sucese, and Liam Folkes scored for the Nittany Lions, but a four-goal third period doomed Penn State en route to its first regulation loss of the year.

Senior goalie Chris Funkey made 24 saves in the defeat.

How It Happened

The Wolverines got off to an optimal start to the game — senior defenseman Joseph Cecconi opened the scoring on the power play to give Michigan a 1-0 lead with 15:20 to play in the first period. Nikita Pavlychev took a holding penalty 26 seconds before the senior blueliner tallied his first goal of the season.

Penn State answered right back with a power play goal of its own — Evan Barratt notched his sixth goal of the season to tie the game less than two minutes after Michigan’s opener. Alex Limoges and James Gobetz picked up the assists on the sophomore’s game-tying goal.

The Nittany Lions took their first lead of the contest later in the period — Ludvig Larsson broke his four-game slump without a goal to put Penn State up 2-1 with 5:08 to play in the frame. Both of Larsson’s new linemates, Denis Smirnov and Sam Sternschein, picked up assists on his fourth goal of the season.

Guy Gadowsky’s team entered the intermission with a 15-10 advantage on the shot counter, and it continued to keep the good times rolling with an early goal in the second. Nate Sucese cut in on a breakaway and converted with a slick backhand move to extend Penn State’s lead to 3-1. Sucese’s second goal in as many games and fifth of the season was assisted by Brandon Biro.

A brutal bounce got the Wolverines right back into the game just under five minutes later. Nick Pastujov was in the right place at the right time when an errant puck deflected off his leg and past Chris Funkey in goal, and Michigan halved Penn State’s lead with 15:20 to play in the frame.

The Nittany Lions didn’t sit back after conceding the goal, and their consistent pressure on their opponents paid off just over a minute before the second intermission. Liam Folkes’ line with the sophomore duo of Barratt and Alex Limoges connected once again to re-extend the lead to 4-2 with 1:01 to play in the frame.

Although Penn State maintained a solid advantage in shots, Michigan was the team that got off to a perfect start in the third period. Josh Norris cut Penn State’s lead in half less than five minutes into the frame, and Jack Becker tied the game at four with 12:50 remaining in the period.

Wolverine defenseman Quinn Hughes — one of the Vancouver Canucks’ top prospects — nearly capped off the comeback with a goal of his own, but his shot rang off the iron after beating Funkey.ย 

Ludvig Larsson took a tripping penalty with just over five minutes left in the third period, and Michigan capitalized on the ensuing man advantage. Jake Slaker’s second tally of the game 12 seconds after the infraction restored the Wolverines’ lead with 5:24 to play. Another penalty on Pavlychev nearly cost Penn State its comeback bid, but the penalty killing unit responded with a big kill.

The Nittany Lions pulled their goalie with 1:50 to play, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from falling to 8-1-1 on the season.

Takeaways

  • Guy Gadowsky shuffled his lineup a bit for Friday night’s game — centers Chase Berger and Ludvig Larsson swapped lines for the game. Berger was flanked by Nate Sucese and Brandon Biro, and Larsson centered a line with Denis Smirnov. This juggling paid immediate dividends for Larsson — he scored his first goal in four games in the first period.
  • Blowing third-period leads hasn’t been an issue for the Nittany Lions, but the Wolverines came back from two down entering the final 20 minutes to win in Penn State’s conference opener. Losing leads like this happens from time to time, but Penn State can’t make a habit out of sitting back after a strong opening 40 minutes.
  • All things considered, Penn State probably would’ve taken eight wins from its first 10 games if offered that at the start of the year. It’s still really early, but this start could help the team get to and maintain strong position in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament races.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions and Wolverines will wrap up their series at 7 p.m. tomorrow back at Pegula Ice Arena.

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

In the most upsetting turn of events, Mikey graduated from Penn State with a digital & print journalism degree in the spring of 2020. He covered Penn State football and served as an editor for Onward State from 2018 until his graduation. Mikey is from Bedminster, New Jersey, so naturally, he spends lots of time yelling about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey also loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is really hard. If you, for some reason, feel compelled to see what Mikey has to say on the internet, follow him on Twitter @Mikey_Mandarino. You can also get in touch with Mikey via his big-boy email address: [email protected]

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