Pittsburgh Penguins, Buffalo Sabres Give Hockey Fans Monday Night Treat At Pegula Ice Arena
There was a buzz rarely felt around Pegula Ice Arena during the Pittsburgh Penguins and Buffalo Sabres’ preseason contest in Hockey Valley on Monday night.
The game may not matter that much in the NHL’s standings for either squad, and it definitely didn’t feature the nervous energy felt before a crucial Big Ten game for Guy Gadowsky’s Penn State hockey program. However, the atmosphere created by all 5,497 fans at the rink was electric thanks to the sea of black and gold Penguins sweaters that made Pegula Ice Arena feel like a miniature version of PPG Paints Arena yet again.
Competing “Let’s Go Buffalo” and “Let’s Go Pens” chants from The Roar Zone fueled the fun energy throughout the night — even if the players’ performance was rusty in their first preseason tune-up of the 2019-20 season. On paper, the two teams weren’t evenly matched at all, and the Sabres showed that throughout the first two periods en route to a 4-1 lead.
Pittsburgh, however, made a late comeback bid to tie the game at 4-4 midway through the third before Jack Eichel scored his second overtime winner at Pegula Ice Arena to win the game for Buffalo.
Pittsburgh fielded a relatively weak line-up compared to the Sabres’ star-studded group of skaters. Star center Jack Eichel and Jeff Skinner — his wingman who signed a monstrous eight-year, $72 million contract this offseason — played in the game, and former No. 1 overall pick Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens, the No. 7 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, were also in the lineup.
Unsurprisingly, most fans at the game were wearing Pens gear, but there was also a nice smattering of Sabres fans at Monday’s game. Although the atmosphere was fun throughout the night, there were a few disappointments that came with the game. Superstar forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin didn’t play in the Penguins’ preseason opener, but perhaps the most disappointing omission was that of former Penn State captain Chase Berger.
Berger was signed by the Penguins’ minor-league affiliate in Wilkes Barre/Scranton this offseason, and he was invited to the big club’s training camp that got started last week. None of Penn State hockey’s alumni who made it to the pros have ever played for their professional team at Pegula Ice Arena, so Berger being the first Nittany Lion to do that would’ve been unbelievably cool.
Although Berger didn’t play, an established NHL veteran with strong ties to Penn State’s hockey program was in the lineup. Jack Johnson will begin his 14th NHL season in October, and his preseason got started on the same sheet of ice that his younger brother, Kenny, will begin his college hockey career on this fall.
The younger Johnson is a 6’4″, 235-pound left-shot defenseman who’s currently a freshman on Penn State’s hockey team. He spent last season in the BCHL with both the Victoria Grizzlies and Penticton Vees and finished the year with 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 51 total games.
In other news, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky made an appearance on the jumbotron to a raucous cheer from the Roar Zone. However, he was wearing a sling because of an apparent arm injury. Hockey guys are born tough, so it’s safe to assume that he’ll be just fine.
All in all, Monday night at Pegula Ice Arena was a fun one for fans of all hockey teams. Penn State might be known around the country as a football school, but the NHL preseason game served as proof that the game of hockey is very much thriving in Happy Valley.
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