Penn State Falters in Series Opener; Drops First Game of Season

Story posted October 9, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Evan Popalis

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Following a two-game sweep of Long Island University, Penn State welcomed the Golden Griffins of Canisius into Pegula Ice Arena Friday night. The Nittany Lions did not get the result they wanted, falling 4-1.

The opening minutes witnessed a slow-moving, sloppy start for the blue and white, allowing Canisius to find its aggressive checking game. A clean slate on the penalty sheet was no more after a Nittany Lions penalty in the latter half of the first 20 minutes.

It was a stellar approach on the man disadvantage that gave Penn State the life it needed. The Nittany Lions energized themselves to finish the first period on a high note, even with the game scoreless.

Goal scoring became a reality in the middle frame. The Griffins struck first on a beautiful tic-tac-toe play on an odd-man rush resulting in a J.D. Pogue goal to gain the 1-0 lead. Cooper Haar and Alexandro Ambrosio chipped in assists just 2:50 into the period.

The advantage for Canisius would dissipate moments later. Penn State lit the lamp for the first time on a Kevin Wall shot. Wall recorded his first of the season at the 4:25 mark of the period. Freshman defenseman Simon Mack delivered an immaculate feed to set up the goal.

Remember the name Danny Dzhaniyev. The New York native continued to show his presence on the third forward line, creating space and opportunities for the Nittany Lions attack. Dzhaniyev dangled through a defender’s legs but was stopped on the backhand with a chance to give Penn State the lead in the second.

The final period was the Nittany Lions’ worst of the season. With the score knotted at 1-1, Penn State would forfeit three goals in crunch time.

Keaton Mastrodonato hit twine right before the midway mark of the third, giving the lead back to the visitors. Assists came from Mitchell Martan and Cory Thomas on the go-ahead and eventual game-winning goal.

The back-breaking score was netted with a hair over six minutes remaining off the stick of Lee Lapid.

Autio was sent to the bench for the extra attacker with three and a half minutes remaining as Penn State had possession in the attacking zone. Seconds later, the Golden Griffins would get a short-handed empty netter to put the game to bed.

Pogue notched his second of the contest on an unassisted shot from his own defensive zone. The empty net goal moved the score to 4-1 as Canisius pulled off the series-opening win.

“They played to their identity much better, and I think it was a great lesson for us,” said head coach Guy Gadowsky following the loss.

Autio made 27 saves on 30 shot opportunities. His counterpart, Jacob Barczewski, stopped 39 pucks on 40 shots from the Nittany Lions attack.

“Yeah it was a lot of shots, but I really don’t think we created enough chances at all,” said captain Paul DeNaples.

Penn State was ousted in the faceoff circle, winning 41 percent of the draws in the game.

The penalty kill did its job to keep Penn State viable in the game. Autio proved to be the best man on the kill, steering away shots to slow down the Canisius attack. The Nittany Lions were 4-for-4 on the kill.

DeNaples, the senior leader, was focused and adamant following the game.

“We’ve gotta come ready tomorrow, change our game. We’re not getting swept in Pegula,” DeNaples said.

The two teams hit the ice for a matinee on Saturday with a 1 p.m. puck drop at Pegula Ice Arena.


Evan Popalis is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

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Evan Popalis

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Evan Popalis is a third-year from Lititz, Pennsylvania, majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a writer, analyst, and play-by-play commentator for the CommRadio sports department. His writings include weekly NHL betting previews along with power rankings for the NHL and NFL. He appears weekly on the NHL Podcast as a host and analyst reviewing the previous week’s action. If you would like to contact him, email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).