Penn State Hockey Breaks Even in Series Against St.Lawrence
After a season opening victory over #16 St. Lawrence on Thursday, Penn State failed to recover from the Saints’ early lead in the second game of the series.
Thursday night, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky greeted the Roar Zone, the self-proclaimed ‘greatest college hockey student section in the nation,’ with nearly enough pizza for the entire section to get a carb load. Gadowsky also made the decision to start freshman Peyton Jones as goalie.
From the initial puck drop, both teams were eager to impose their dominance. Physical play and hard hits characterized the opening minutes.
Jones looked like a seasoned veteran in front of the goal and tracked the ball well.
“I had a little bit of butterflies during my first time in Pegula in the preseason game, but today I felt a lot better,” Jones said.
The Saints were the first on the board after senior Drew Smolcynski was able to work the center of the Lion’s defense and slip one to the left corner of the goal.
Soon thereafter, Penn State senior forward Dylan Richard sent the puck past the Saints’ goalie Kyle Hayton to tie the game.
Despite Penn State being on the penalty kill, the Lions were able to take the lead after an assist by freshman Liam Folkes to senior David Thompson to take a 2-1 lead.
The Lions looked to slow down on offense and set up a strategic attack. Senior captain David Goodwin controlled the tempo and commanded the ice. Patience payed off for the Lions as sophomore Andrew Sturtz extended their lead to two goals.
As the third period began, the underclassman-heavy Lions were looking to stay poised and preserve the lead. However, a lack of concentration opened up a lane for St. Lawrence’s Michael Laidley. The sophomore hit the top shelf of the goal to cut the Lion’s lead to one.
After Penn State survived a power play in the waning minutes of the match, they added another goal on an empty net to secure the win 4-2.
Goalie Peyton Jones had the best performance of the night for the Nittany Lions, blocking the puck 28 times and maintaining composure when the crease was crowded.
“I’m really happy with the composure of Peyton Jones,” Gadowsky said.
Freshman forward Denis Smirnov from Moscow, Russia was excellent at keeping the Lions on offense and demonstrated mesmerizing stick skills.
The Saints won a majority of the faceoffs, a problem that Gadowsky said his team would be focusing on going into the second game.
Game two of the series fell on the Friday of homecoming week, making a low attendance predictable. However, the Roar Zone was in full throttle and attendance was similar to opening night.
Despite the surprising fan turnout, the Nittany Lions had a disastrous start. Two minutes into the game, the Saints’ Eric Sweetman came from behind the goal and scored on a wrap-around shot.
Twenty seconds later, junior Joe Sullivan scored on the right side of the goal as a muddle of players blocked Jones’s sight.
Freshman Ryan Garvey added to the Saints’ lead after a breakaway transition shot. Within minutes, the Nittany lions were facing a 3-0 deficit.
Gadowsky pulled Jones from the game after the freshman only blocked five of the eight shots placed on goal. Sophomore Chris Funkey entered the game for the Lions.
“We needed a spark, we needed a change,” Gadowsky said.
After a few frustrating attempts at getting on the scoreboard and failing to convert during power plays, Penn State entered the second period scoreless.
The Saints extended their lead to four at the opening of the second period, but Penn state responded quickly with slapshot from sophomore Vince Pedrie.
The lanes began to open up for the Lion’s offense as shots began to pelt Hayton. With thirty seconds left in the period, Sturtz scored and cut the Saints’ lead to two.
Penn State’s crawl back into the game was stunted by a critical power play kill by the Saints. When the game reached it’s final minutes, Gadowsky decided to pull the goalie in order to add another stick to the team's offense.
The squads exchanged goals until the Saints sealed the game with an easy shot on the open net. St. Lawrence won 6-3.
Of Penn State’s 50 total attempted shots, only 9 were off target, proving that Hayton’s 43 saves was an impressive statistic.
The St. Lawrence series proved that Penn State was extremely talented, but also young. Losses won’t be due to a lack of skill, but maintaining focus throughout the season could be a challenge for the Lions.
Penn State will travel to Erie, PA to face Mercyhurst next Friday looking to get a win before facing #8 Notre Dame the following week.
Paddy Cotter is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.