Hockey Game Grades: Niagara
Penn State hockey took care of business this weekend with two victories against the Niagara Purple Eagles. The Nittany Lions dominated both games and won 5-1 in consecutive nights. Penn State moved to 7-1-1 on the season while Niagara fell to 0-7-2.
One of the biggest challenges a coach may ever face is motivating their squad to play a team far below their skill level. This was clearly the case for Guy Gadowsky coming into this series against Niagara. The visitors came to Pegula Ice Arena without a win so far on their record and Penn State was riding high finding themselves skyrocketing up the rankings. Gadowsky was able keep the team motivated and made good adjustments to keep the team motivated against Niagara.
Chris Funkey made his first career start in net Thursday night and was able to hold Niagara to one goal on the night. He made 24 saves on the night never having to make more than nine in one period. Friday night Peyton Jones returned to the starting lineup and only had to make 20 saves. He also gave up one goal in the second period but overall played a solid game on a night he often had little action.
Any time a team is able to score 10 goals in one series the forwards are clearly doing something right no matter what the competition level. Denis Smirnov led the way in night one scoring two goals as well as assisting on Dylan Richard’s 3rd period goal. Andrew Sturtz also led the way with 10 shots leading the way to 56 for the Nittany Lions. Friday night was a similar story as Penn State outshot the Purple Eagles 51-21. Smirnov once again led the way with three assists while Vince Pedrie finished with one assist and one goal. The forwards did what needed to be done to get the series win in convincing fashion.
Niagara is clearly not the offensive powerhouse that Penn State’s defense faced against Notre Dame or will face against Big Ten foes later this season but the defense still played a solid series. The defense limited Niagara from ever getting any real pressure on goal. Specifically, Friday night they had a dominant performance in the 2nd period allowing only three shots to get through to Peyton Jones. The defense also did a spectacular job of blocking shots both nights well blocking 10 on Thursday and 18 on Friday. Trevor Hamilton had a great series picking up an assist along with two blocks on Thursday and then led the team with five blocks Friday. Overall while the defense did nothing truly spectacular they did what needed to be done to beat Niagara.
Special Teams: B
Penn State continued its trend of struggling to score goals while on the power play. Thursday night both teams went 0-4 which is testament to Penn State’s penalty kill. However, the offense needs to do better against Big Ten play especially if they hope to have any chance of making the NCAA tournament. Friday night was slightly better when Penn State was able to score two goals on six power play opportunities. This gave Penn State a 2-10 showing during the two-night series and is definitely below average against a low skill level Niagara opponent. The Nittany Lions have to be more consistent when they have a man advantage because these opportunities do not always come often against Big Ten powers such as Minnesota or Ohio State. Penn State will definitely work to improve on their power play in the coming weeks preparing for Big Ten play.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email email@example.com.