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No. 7 Penn State Men’s Hockey Survives Alaska Fairbanks 3-2

No. 7 Penn State men’s hockey (12-3-0) took on Alaska Fairbanks (5-6-2), winning its first bout of the mid-week series 3-2.

The Nittany Lions jumped out to a 3-0 lead off of the sticks of Tyler Paquette, Ryan Kirwan, and Christian Sarlo and looked unstoppable early. The Nanooks made it a game in the second half of the contest, storming back with two gritty goals. They weren’t able to complete the comeback as Penn State held firm in the final moments of the game.

How It Happened

Penn State fielded the “Connor” line for the opening puck drop, featuring Connor McMenamin, Connor MacEachern, and Ashton Calder rounding out the forwards. Liam Souliere tended the net for the Nittany Lions, while lefty Matt Radomsky started for the Nanooks.

The game started slowly as the Nittany Lions and Nanooks combined for six icing stoppages in the two minutes of the game.

As the teams settled into the game, the Nittany Lions were able to generate some sustained offensive pressure. Ture Linden almost broke the tie early off of a low slot rebound but Radomsky was ready for the shot and the game stayed even.

Penn State looked threatening as Alaska Fairbanks gave the puck away in the neutral zone and Tyler Gratton was able to cut down the left side of the ice. He found Tyler Paquette on the backhanded feed, who punched the puck in from across the crease and got the 1-0 goal for the Nittany Lions.

Continuing the pressure in the offensive zone, the Nittany Lions swarmed the Nanooks on the forecheck and kept a constant attacking presence following their goal. Alaska Fairbanks showed selfless commitment to keeping the puck out of the net, as Garrett Pyke and Jonny Sorenson blocked shots before Radomsky was able to freeze the play. Penn State won the offensive faceoff, and after wheeling the puck around the perimeter, Xander Lamppa fed sophomore Ryan Kirwan for a low slot chance that put the Nittany Lions up 2-0.

Souliere got some action early too as Brady Risk was open on the doorstep, but the junior goaltender stood tall to stop the puck and maintain the clean sheet.

The Nittany Lions forced the Nanooks to sweat out the end of the period, firing off a barrage of screened slapshots and looking for rebounds in the final minutes. Radomsky was able to stand his ground and keep the score 2-0 as the game went into intermission.

Penn State returned to the ice for the second period at full throttle, winning the faceoff at center ice and peppering the Nanook defense with shots. Kevin Wall found himself on a breakaway after a botched clearance by Alaska Fairbanks, but Radomsky wasn’t fooled by his head fakes and stopped the Nittany Lion in his tracks.

As the period wore on, the tempo slowed as both teams prioritized possessing the puck.

Calder was called for holding in the neutral zone and the Nanooks were awarded their first power play of the game. Nothing went Alaska Fairbanks’ way in its advantage period, as the Nittany Lions created two breakaways while shorthanded. Radomsky was able to stone Linden on the first chance, but Christian Sarlo would not be denied as he came to a skidding stop in the crease and slipped the puck around the diving goalie for his fourth goal of the season, setting the score at 3-0.

Alaska Fairbanks started to return fire after allowing three goals unanswered and started to close the wide shot gap between the sides. After blocking three pucks in a row, Souliere was bested up close as Harrison Israels worked the wraparound move and found space under the tender’s pads for the Nanooks’ first goal of the bout.

Both sides traded blows as the period expired and Penn State escaped the second frame without allowing any more damage, leaving the score set at 3-1.

With a fresh sheet of ice, Lamppa won the center ice faceoff and the third period was underway. The Nittany Lions worked the offensive zone hard in the opening minutes, firing off five shots in quick succession, all stopped by Radomsky.

Penn State threatened a dangerous four-on-two rush as Gratton entered the zone with the forecheck at his back, but T.J. Lloyd broke up the play as he committed a possible goal-saving interference minor. The dormant Nittany Lion powerplay, 0-3 on the night thus far, finally sustained pressure with the man advantage and created one-timer after one-timer. The Alaska Fairbanks goaltender rejected all advances, and Penn State was once again fruitless as the penalty expired.

Feeling the momentum generated by the penalty kill, the Nanooks cruised into the offensive zone. Chasing after a bouncing puck that sprung wide in front of Souliere, Payton Matsui was able to control the puck and bury it, cutting the Nittany Lions’ lead to 3-2.

Aside from that unlucky hiccup, Penn State largely dominated the period, controlling the puck, locking down Alaska Fairbanks’ clears, and generating most of the chances on goal.

In the final five minutes, the Nanooks turned up the tempo, and Souliere was called on to bail out the defense on a couple of occasions, cooly stumping some difficult shots thrown his way. The Nittany Lions were unable to clear their zone for a prolonged amount of time as Alaska Fairbanks held a firm forecheck and kept the ice tilted in their favor.

With two minutes to go, Radomsky vacated the net for an extra attacker. Sarlo almost put the game to bed but hit the post on the empty net and the Nanooks returned to the attack. Once more, the puck skidded out to center ice and the Nittany Lions looked for the insurance goal, but a diving effort by an Alaska Fairbanks defenseman thwarted the chance and kept them in the game.

The Nanooks were dealt a delay of game minor as they spent too long on their bench during a timeout and were unable to clear their end for the rest of the game, letting Penn State off the hook for the 3-2 victory.

Takeaways

  • Penn State loves to score first. It was able to do so this game, making it its 12th game of the campaign that it drew first blood.
  • The Nittany Lions utilized their speed advantage in the first half of the game, employing long stretch passes to get behind the Alaska Fairbanks forecheck. Bypassing the comparatively sluggish defenders created plenty of chances, and the blue and white were able to capitalize before their opponents adjusted.
  • Penn State’s power play woes continued, going 0-for-5 this game. Even though one chance was cut short by the end of regulation, the unit needs to change things up and get on the scoreboard as they hold one of the bottom three division one powerplay percentages.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions will return to Pegula Ice Arena Wednesday, November 22, to finish their series against Alaska Fairbanks. The game is set to start at 5 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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