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Defense Remains Concern For Penn State Hockey Even After Big Win

No. 15 Penn State men’s hockey picked up a desperately-needed 5-2 victory against Michigan at Madison Square Garden over the weekend. Goaltender Peyton Jones was impressive, stopping 35 out of 37 shots sent his way, and Evan Barratt led the charge on offense with three points.

The team had suffered four consecutive losses before playing in the Big Apple. Despite finally getting themselves back into the win column, the Nittany Lions have plenty of defensive problems to sort out.

Penn State led 3-0 after 20 minutes of play on Saturday, but the score was misleading. Guy Gadowsky’s team was downright dominated for large stretches during the first period. Peyton Jones stood on his head, stopping all 22 shots that came his way.

The Wolverines also struck the crossbar or post four times in the opening period — three of those chances came from Nick Pastujov, the Wolverines’ top center. On another night for Michigan, those four shots could’ve easily gone into the net after clattering the iron instead of bouncing harmlessly away from trouble.

The 22-8 shot disparity after the first period left Gadowsky unimpressed, even though his team led by three goals.

“I don’t think we started great, but two things happened,” Gadowsky said. “Peyton was excellent in the first period, and the chances we got, the guys finished.”

Penn State was aided by Michigan’s carelessness with the puck. Despite carrying the play for long stretches, the Wolverines committed several ugly turnovers that led to breakaways and high-percentage scoring chances for the Nittany Lions.

Two of those first-period turnovers came from Quinn Hughes, one of the most talented players in college hockey and a top 10 NHL Draft pick. It’s rare to see a player as good as Hughes have a bad game, so Penn State should count its lucky stars that he played so poorly on Saturday.

You have to give the Nittany Lions credit for being opportunistic. Had Michigan not suffered a handful of mental lapses and been a bit luckier, Penn State could’ve been the team staring at a three-goal deficit in the first intermission.

Penn State eventually took control and played well enough to win decisively in the last 40 minutes by suffocating Michigan’s attack and taking care of the puck.

In hockey, however, you can only get away with a brutal period so many times, and Penn State provided a perfect example of that on Thursday. The team played fairly well in the first period of its meeting with the Wolverines, but a complete second period collapse in front of freshman goalie Oskar Autio led to four Michigan goals and an eventual 5-1 defeat.

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About the Author

Matthew Fox

Matt is a Senior from Lansdale Pennsylvania majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He loves sports, and is still patiently waiting for the Philadelphia Flyers to win a Stanley Cup. If you would ever like to reach out to Matt you can email him at [email protected].

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