No. 13 Penn State Hockey Blows Out Sacred Heart 8-2 On Opening Night
No. 13 Penn State hockey (1-0-0) opened its 2019-20 regular season with a 8-2 victory against Sacred Heart (0-1-1) at Pegula Ice Arena.
Cole Hults recorded a hat trick — the first by a defenseman in program history — to power Penn State’s offense. Alex Limoges scored 3:32 into the first period to score the Nittany Lions’ first goal of the 2019-20 season. Nate Sucese, Aarne Talvitie, Sam Sternschein, and Connor MacEachern also found the back of the net in the third period.
Peyton Jones was phenomenal in between the pipes for Penn State. His 29-save performance backstopped Penn State to its first win of the season and the 59th of his collegiate career.
How It Happened
Penn State went to the power play after Ryan Steele took a high-sticking penalty, and Alex Limoges cashed in with his first goal of the year less than four minutes into the contest. He tipped in an Evan Barratt rocket of a slapper to give the Nittany Lions a lead. Clayton Phillips picked up the secondary assist in his Penn State debut.
Sacred Heart responded to the goal well with a few excellent chances, but it was Penn State’s Cole Hults who scored the next goal. The junior defenseman took a pass from Brandon Biro and wired a wrist shot beyond goaltender Josh Benson’s blocker with 10:29 to play in the first period.
The first period ended with Penn State leading by a pair of goals and holding a 11-9 advantage in shots. Sacred Heart began the second frame with a flurry of grade-A chances that were all denied by Peyton Jones.
The Pioneers were excellent throughout the second period, and their patience finally paid off when captain Marc Johnstone scored a gorgeous goal on the power play. Penn State still maintained a 2-1 lead after Johnstone scored on Sacred Heart’s 22nd shot of the evening.
Cole Hults added his second goal of the game on another Nittany Lion power play. He took a seemingly harmless shot from the point that had eyes for the back of the net, and Penn State took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission thanks to Hults’ second of the contest.
Hults completed his hat trick — the first by a defenseman in Penn State hockey history — 1:54 into the third period. Nate Sucese picked up his third assist of the game on the play, and Brandon Biro added his second helper on the play.
Sucese and Biro linked up again to add Penn State’s fifth goal of the game with 15:45 to play in the third period. Sucese scored his first of the year after a nifty feed from the captain to put the result of the game to bed.
Sacred Heart’s Matt Tugnutt added a goal 53 seconds after Hults completed his hatty, but it proved to be just a consolation. Aarne Talvitie wired a wrister through the legs of Luke Lush, who relieved Josh Benson in goal after Hults’ hat trick goal, to extend the Penn State lead to 6-2 midway through the third. Sam Sternschein and Connor MacEachern scored late to cap off an excellent effort from the Nittany Lions.
- Congratulations are in order for Cole Hults, who became the first defenseman to record a hat trick in Penn State hockey history. The Los Angeles Kings’ 2017 fifth-round draft choice also played very well in his own end and distributed the puck to his teammates excellently throughout the evening.
- Man, Peyton Jones looked good in goal for the Nittany Lions. The fourth-year starter kicked off his senior year with a stellar performance, and he consistently bailed out the Penn State defense, which was still prone to the odd error on Friday night. The Nittany Lions got out-shot 15-8 during a dismal second period, but Jones stonewalled all but one of Sacred Heart’s efforts on his goal.
- Penn State’s power play had some early struggles, but it recovered brilliantly to finish the game 4-for-8. A lot of Hults’ goal-scoring success can be boiled down to excellent special teams play, but the team seemed to be able to move the puck at will while on the man advantage.
- Aarne Talvitie was back on the ice for the first time since he tore his ACL in January, and he found the back of the net midway through the third period. It seemed like Talvitie needed a bit to find his legs and re-acquaint himself with the college game, but he’s absolutely going to be a problem for opposing defenses this year.
The Nittany Lions and Pioneers will wrap up their two-game series at 4:30 p.m. Saturday back at Pegula Ice Arena.
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