Liam Souliere Plays Lights Out In Penn State Men’s Hockey Win Over Michigan Tech
When a hockey team wins 8-0, it’s not common to point to the goaltender as the game’s biggest star. This is a special exception, though.
Liam Souliere posted a 24-save shutout in Penn State men’s hockey’s 8-0 victory over Michigan Tech in the first round of the 2023 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament and was arguably the team’s most important player all night long.
The Nittany Lions started the game off hot with a quick goal by Tyler Paquette at 2:12 of the first period. After that goal, play started to even out in the first period, which is where Souliere comes in.
After a Penn State push in the first five minutes, the goalkeeper made a few good saves to preserve Penn State’s 1-0 lead throughout the first 15 minutes of the game. Then, he started to really get tested with a decent amount of high-quality scoring chances from Michigan Tech.
The most dangerous came on a Huskies breakaway. When it looked like Souliere was beat on the glove side, he whipped his arm up and flashed the glove to make an unbelievable save and rob Michigan Tech’s Kyle Kukkonen.
That save not only preserved Penn State’s 1-0 lead, but it kept the momentum with the Nittany Lions heading into the intermission. Souliere knew that it was important to keep it rolling for Penn State.
“It’s my job,” he said in his postgame media availability. “For a team like us, we’re a momentum team. It’s important for me to keep that momentum moving forward. Making those stops, I know that it gets [the guys] going, and it makes them want to go score, and it happened tonight. So, it was great to see that.”
Penn State scored another quick goal to start the second period, but that didn’t stop the Huskies from trying Souliere. While the Nittany Lions were up 2-0, he made another clutch save against a Michigan Tech skater off a chance that came from a Xander Lamppa turnover in front of the crease. It was another point-blank save that kept Penn State on top, wore the Huskies down, and eventually was key in leading to Penn State’s six more goals in the game.
Everybody knew how crucial Souleire’s performance was for Penn State, including head coach Guy Gadowsky, who praised Souliere’s play after the game.
“I thought it was extremely important,” Gadowsky said. “[Michigan Tech] could have turned the game on its head, and [Souliere] was huge in those moments. He deserves a lot of credit for this one.”
Even though it may have been a bit stressful for Penn State fans to watch, Souliere was calm, cool, and collected throughout the entire game and enjoyed every second of it.
“I’m just trying to have fun out there,” he said. “It’s the tournament. We’re in Allentown. The place was packed. It felt like a home game. I felt very comfortable.”
It always hasn’t been smooth sailing for Souliere, though. The Brampton, Ontario native came into the program in 2020 as a highly-talented recruit but had a rough go at it during his freshman year. After being given a few starts over Oscar Autio, Souliere posted a GAA of 4.60 and a .844 save percentage in just five games in the crease.
Eventually, he turned it around last season and eventually took the reins from Autio prior to the Big Ten Tournament. He was then deemed the full-time starter for this season.
We’ve seen in other college sports that many athletes don’t have the patience to sit behind a player and wait for the chance to play. With the ability to enter the transfer portal at any time, it’s sometimes rare that you see athletes stick it out in their current situations. That’s what makes Souliere’s journey a bit more special.
“He was not given anything,” Gadowsky said after the game. “He didn’t come out of the gates great…But he was always extremely positive. And when he wasn’t playing because Oscar [Autio] was doing pretty well, he was just such a good teammate, so fun to be around, and so competitive, but in a fun and challenging way…He has absolutely earned everything he’s gotten.”
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