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Penn State Men’s Hockey Rolls Over Niagara In 4-0 Win

Penn State men’s hockey (4-1) topped Niagara (0-3) 4-0 Thursday night to begin a two-game series at Pegula Ice Arena.

After a slow start early in the first, Penn State’s offense settled into a groove and never looked back, shutting out Niagara in a very one-sided game.

How It Happened

After nearly two weeks off, Penn State returned to the ice against Niagara. Senior goaltender Oskar Autio returned to the net following a one-game absence, while junior Chad Veltri got the start between the pipes for Niagara.

The game’s first quality scoring chance came just under five minutes into the opening period as senior forward Ben Copeland picked up a loose puck at center ice and used his speed to get around the defense to get a quality backhand shot off. The shot was pushed aside by the Purple Eagles’ goaltender as both teams struggled to get ahold of any momentum early on.

With just under 14 minutes remaining in the first period, Niagara senior forward Jack Deboer was sent to the box for two minutes for slashing to give Penn State the first man advantage of the game. Despite a couple of rebound opportunities in front of the net, the Nittany Lions were unable to find the back of the net on the power play as the game returned to 5-on-5 hockey. Shortly after the conclusion of Penn State’s power play, it was Niagara who was gifted with the man advantage as sophomore forward Christian Sarlo was whistled for holding. Niagara was only able to register just two shots on the entire power play as the Nittany Lions did a good job of cutting off passing lanes and not allowing the Purple Eagles to get set up in the offensive zone. The game returned to even-strength hockey with just under 10 minutes remaining in the first period.

Coming off of a strong penalty kill, Penn State found their legs offensively and it resulted in the game’s first goal. At the 11:32 mark of the first period, junior forward Kevin Wall found the back of the net for his second goal of the season. The goal was assisted by forwards Ben Copeland and Connor McMenamin.

Following the opening goal, both teams struggled once again to find any sort of consistency in the offensive zone as both defenses did a good job of shutting down quality scoring chances for the opposition. At the end of the first period, the Nittany Lions were not only leading on the scoreboard, they also outshot the Purple Eagles 17-5.

Unlike the first period, it was Niagara that got the first quality scoring chance of the second period on a 2-on-1. Goaltender Oskar Autio made perhaps his best save of the season when he slid across to make a sprawling pad save on a one-time shot from Purple Eagles forward Brandon Stanley.

Possibly due to the great save from Autio, Penn State grabbed the momentum and, as a result, Ben Schoen scored his first goal as a Nittany Lion to put his team up 2-0. Sophomores Christian Berger and Christian Sarlo assisted on the goal.

With just over 11 minutes remaining in the second period, Penn State received the first power play of the period when Niagara forward Albin Nilsson was given a minor penalty for boarding. Unlike their first power-play opportunity, Penn State moved the puck well in the offensive zone, leading to multiple quality scoring chances. Despite the improved power play, the Nittany Lions were unable to find the back of the net, keeping their lead at two.

Niagara’s first power-play opportunity of the second period came shortly after Penn State’s as freshman forward Ryan Kirwan was sent off for two minutes for boarding. Similar to their first penalty kill, Penn State did a great job of keeping Niagara out of the offensive zone and killed off the penalty with ease.

Late in the period with just over two minutes remaining, sophomore defenseman Christian Berger scored his second goal of the season on a shot fired from the left slot. Junior forward Connor MacEachern got the only assist on the play as Penn State’s strong offensive effort in the second period gave the team a comfortable lead heading into the final period of play.

The second period came to an end with Penn State leading 3-0. Shots were a lopsidedly 32-11 in favor of Penn State.

With all the momentum coming out of the second intermission, it didn’t take long for Penn State to get on the board in the third period. Just over a minute into the final frame, junior forward Kevin Wall tallied his second goal of the game off a beautiful pass from freshman Ryan Kirwan. Ben Copeland registered the other assist for his second point of the night.

For the second time tonight, forward Ryan Kirwan headed to the box for two minutes, this time for boarding. Penn State’s penalty kill once again made things look easy as it was once again able to kill off the Niagara power play with ease.

Penn State’s discipline issues continued up until the end. With just over six minutes left in regulation, freshman forward Carson Dyck was whistled for hooking. The only scoring chance on the Purple Eagles power play was actually a short-handed opportunity for Penn State the other way. Dyck returned to the ice to bring the game back to even strength.

Takeaways

  • To nobody’s surprised based on their play so far this season, the Nittany Lions’ defense was once again a big factor. Defenders limited Niagara to no goals on just 22 shots, while goaltender Oskar Autio continued his strong start to the season.
  • Penn State’s penalty kill did a great job of keeping Niagara out of the offensive zone and causing the team to chase pucks in the neutral zone. After a very poor penalty kill last season, it’s good to see the improved special teams play.
  • Coming into tonight’s game, Niagara had allowed 10 goals through its first two games. The Purple Eagles’ deficiencies on defense and in goal were clear tonight as Penn State dominated in every major offensive statistic. In the end, the Nittany Lions outshot Niagara 38-22

What’s Next

Penn State will play for the sweep as it faces Niagara again at 7 p.m. on Friday, October 22.

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About the Author

Devon Craley

Devon is a junior studying sports journalism. He has the genuine misfortune of being a Philadelphia sports fan...IYKYK. Send your hot takes and preferably your freezing cold takes on Twitter to @devon3134. Devon is also your friendly, neighborhood State College movie nerd.

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