Penn State Defeats Air Force Behind Skoffs Stellar Play

Story posted November 11, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Pat White

Penn State worked out the kinks from last night’s 5-1 loss to Air Force, to defeat the Falcons 5-1 at Greenberg Ice Pavilion on Saturday night. Coach Guy Gadowsky was pleased with the way his team rebounded from the loss Friday night.

"This is an excellent program," Gadowsky said. "I'm pumped right now. This is a big step (for our program)."

After allowing the first goal in their last three games, Penn State would get on the board first late in the opening period. Max Gardiner charged into the offensive zone and made a blind backhanded pass to Casey Bailey in the right circle. Bailey beat Air Force goaltender Jason Torf between the legs for his fourth goal of the season.

“He’s a fun guy to play with,” Gardiner said of Bailey. “He works really hard and he’s got a knack for scoring. He came in hard, took away the wall. The puck popped out to me and I just drove the middle and he put a nice shot on net.”

Penn State goaltender Matthew Skoff was phenomenal in the first period, turning away 11 Air Force shots. Gadowsky said he could tell from the beginning that Skoff was locked in to the game and tracking the puck well.

"I thought he looked good right from the start," Gadowsky said. "When he's mentally focused, he's just so tough. He is very vocal at the same time. He's a calming influence and he's very helpful with his communication. He played a great game."

Penn State would strike again in the second period, with Gardiner and Bailey once again creating opportunities. Gardiner fired the puck deep in the Air Force zone where Bailey played it from below the goal line up the left side boards. Gardiner faked a shot, letting the puck drift back to defenseman Luke Juha. Juha fired a slap shot through traffic that found its way to the back of the  net for the freshman’s first goal of his Penn State career.

Penn State tightened up their play in the neutral zone, an area of the game they struggled with in their first game against Air Force.

Skoff was brilliant between the pipes for the Nittany Lions, making some spectacular saves from point-blank range. A key to his game was his communication with his defensemen, something he said he takes great pride in while between the pipes.

“I think especially at this level, any goalie has to communicate well with their defensemen,” Skoff said. “It’s just a key element to team success. Everybody played really well.”

Air Force would get on the board in less than three minutes into the third when Casey Kleisinger received a pass from Cole Gunner and beat Skoff blocker side with a beautiful backhand shot.

Penn State would answer eight minutes later when David Glen deflected a Connor Varley shot that beat Torf short side for his sixth tally on the season.

Michael McDonagh put the icing on the cake when Air Force decided to pull the goalie in favor of a 6-on-4 man-advantage. Freshman defender Connor Varley also added an empty-net goal on a clear from his own zone.

Penn State is off this weekend, but will be back in action on Nov. 23 when the team travels to New York for a weekend series with No. 8 ranked Union College.

Pat White is senior majoring in journalism. To contact him, e-mail pmw5072@psu.edu.