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No. 6 Penn State Men’s Hockey Completes Comeback In 4-3 Thriller Over Michigan State

No. 6 Penn State men’s hockey (11-2) won a thriller at Pegula Ice Arena against Michigan State (8-5-1) 4-3 to open up its two-game series against the Spartans.

After Jimmy Dowd Jr. buried the puck early to give the Nittany Lions the lead, Penn State fell back 3-2 amid two called-off goals and a major penalty, but Christian Berger and Tyler Gratton both scored late goals to make an incredible comeback in front of the home crowd.

How It Happened

Liam Souliere set up in the crease for the Nittany Lions to start the bout, while Dylan St. Cyr minded the net for the Spartans. Penn State also opted to field its “identity line” for the opening faceoff, going with juniors Xander Lamppa, Christian Sarlo, and Tyler Paquette in front with Paul DeNaples and Simon Mack completing the lineup.

Averaging 31 shots a game coming into the contest, Michigan State wasted no time in testing Souliere as after the puck drop, is recorded four shots in three minutes, but the stalwart goaltender was unfazed.

Penn State survived an early test in a loose puck in its low slot and the Spartans were caught hooking as they attempted to gain possession of the bouncing puck, putting the Nittany Lions on the power play. The blue and white unit looked dangerous, forcing St. Cyr and the Michigan State penalty killers to make two separate inhuman efforts to keep the puck out of the cage. The Spartans were able to clear the zone to kill the penalty and the game remained level.

Their next possession, however, the Nittany Lions threatened another big opportunity, as Jimmy Dowd Jr. streaked down the left side of the attacking third, this time cashing in from a low angle to open the scoring and give Penn State a 1-0 lead.

Penn State looked sure to score another goal in quick succession as Tyler Gratton found the puck on his stick in front of the goal, but St. Cyr committed absolute robbery as he flashed the leather of his glove and denied the top-shelf snipe.

The lead didn’t last long for the Nittany Lions though, as Matt Basgall struck for Michigan State, beating Souliere on the one-timer, setting the game even at 1-1.

Penn State continued its slide, getting penalized for too many men on the ice and the penalty kill unit went to work. The Spartans capitalized on the man advantage as Jagger Joshua scooped a pinned puck in the corner and navigated his way in front of Souliere, beating his blocker for the go-ahead goal.

The Nittany Lions had a chance to answer with an equalizing goal with seconds to go, but the cross-crease pass was interrupted by traffic down-low and the period ended with Penn State down 2-1.

Returning to a fresh sheet of ice for period two, Penn State won the center ice puck drop and the second frame was underway. The Nittany Lions started strong, creating a two-on-one break, but the Spartans broke up the chance, being called on a hooking minor and Penn State began its second power play chance of the game.

The Nittany Lions were able to light the lamp with Sarlo batting a puck into the net from in front of the cage, but the goal was quickly called off for high sticking. With momentum sucked out of the unit, the power play expired quietly and the teams went back to even strength.

Throughout the period, the Nittany Lions won back the shot lead, outshooting the Spartans 7-1 in the second with eight minutes to go, but shots weren’t converting to goals. Penn State had a serious chance on its hands, though, with Tanner Kelley of Michigan State high-sticking Sarlo and awarding the blue and white with its third powerplay of the game. Penn State’s man-up woes continued as they quietly put two pucks on net but didn’t threaten much with its extra attacker and once more came up fruitless.

With their sheer volume of shots on net, the Nittany Lions seemed sure to finish one of their opportunities, and with three minutes left in the period, Christian Berger drove home a one-timer from the point and knotted the game up 2-2.

The even footing only lasted 24 seconds, though, as the Spartans answered in a hurry as Cole Krygier slotted the puck past Souliere from the low circle and Michigan State regained a 3-2 game.

Before the period ended, a spirited Penn State offensive led by Dowd Jr. and Berger put a barrage of six straight shots on St. Cyr, but he stuffed the Nittany Lions on all looks and the game went to its second intermission 3-2.

Entering the third period down a goal, the Nittany Lions showed some urgency in their attack, ripping the first four shots of the period toward St. Cyr. The game almost equalized off of a close shot by Gratton, but Michigan State’s diving goalie kept the blue and white from finishing the chance.

The Nittany Lions were dealt a crushing five-minute major as Dowd was penalized for contact to the head, losing a major scoring defender for the remainder of the game. Very early into the penalty kill, however, the Spartans were called for interference in the neutral zone, effectively cutting the major penalty down to three minutes.

Penn State almost capitalized with the extra room on the ice in the four-on-four setting as Jarod Crespo split the Spartan defense and put the puck on net, getting cut down in the crease and pushing St. Cyr into the net for a goal, but the score was waved off. Penn State challenged the nebulous call, but there wasn’t enough evidence to overturn the call on the ice and the game remained 3-2 Michigan State.

The Nittany Lions were able to kill the major penalty without incident and returned to even strength with ten minutes to play.

Penn State maintained a long offensive possession with six minutes to play, controlling play in the attacking zone. On their 35th shot of the night, Berger was able to put the Nittany Lions back in the game on a screened shot that St. Cyr didn’t see until the puck hit the twine, making the game 3-3.

Their momentum didn’t last long though, as Ben Schoen was caught slashing and Penn State was tasked with killing its third penalty of the night. Doing so without conceding a shot, the Nittany Lions were back to full strength with the crowd behind them for the game’s final two minutes.

The blue and white looked dangerous as it streaked in on offense and in desperation, David Gucciardi dove out and was called for tripping, giving the Nittany Lions a powerplay in the last minute and a half of play. Penn State came up big when it mattered most, as Paquette found Gratton in space. He buried the puck and gave the Nittany Lions the late lead with just a minute left in regulation.

The Nittany Lions survived the final minute and held on to their 4-3 score to complete the comeback.

Takeaways

  • Michigan State’s St. Cyr left the crease to play the puck on multiple occasions tonight, often leading to tense situations where the puck was fumbled around behind the cage. While Penn State was unable to capitalize on these brief empty net opportunities, it’ll be aiming to punish its opponent’s over-aggressive tendencies.
  • The Nittany Lion penalty kill was an immovable object, killing all three penalties incurred in the game. This includes a long major by Dowd in the third period, keeping Penn State in the game late.
  • The Nittany Lions went 1-for-5 on the power play tonight, keeping them dead last in the nation with 0.118% chances converted. The Nittany Lions scored when it mattered most though, winning the game on the power play late in the game.
  • Penn State battled through two waved-off goals on their comeback against the Spartans. The team’s ability to stay focused when calls weren’t going its way can’t go overlooked, and it’ll bring this momentum and camaraderie to finish the series tomorrow.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will return to Pegula Ice Arena on Saturday, November 19 to finish their series against the Spartans. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

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About the Author

Jack Scott

Jack is a sophomore aerospace engineer from Pittsburgh, PA. Sometimes, he enjoys the misunderstanding of his friends and family that Penn State Club Ski Racing may be a D1 sport and usually won't correct them. Jack is way too into Thundercat for his own good. Follow him on Twitter @joscottIV and Instagram @jackscott._iv

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