Series Grades: Merrimack / UMass Lowell
Seventh-ranked Penn State split their two-game series in the Turkey Leg Classic by defeating Merrimack 7-0 and losing a heart breaker in overtime to No. 15 UMass Lowell 3-2. The Nittany Lions lost the opportunity to be crowned the first-ever champion in the Turkey Leg Classic but take away some lessons from fthe weekend. Let's handout the series grades for Penn State’s performance:
In game one versus Merrimack, Penn State played to their standard by scoring seven goals. No player was more noticeable on the ice than forward Liam Folkes, who registered a hat-trick and became the ninth different Nittany Lion in program history to achieve that feat.
Penn State attacked Merrimack with a barrage of offensive pressure by leading in shots on goal 39-16 and going 1-for-3 on the power play. The defensive unit joined the offensive party as Alex Stevens and Kris Myllari both recorded goals. Forwards Evan Barratt and Denis Smirnov continued the onslaught by scoring as well.
In game two, a back-and-forth game found Penn State chasing UMass-Lowell. Trailing 1-0, Evan Barratt tucked in a goal to get Penn State back into the game. Goaltender Peyton Jones was then pulled on the power play as Nate Sucese netted the tying goal to send it to overtime 2-2.
A slow start that has led to only converting on the power play once on six opportunities would come back to hurt Penn State as Chase Blackmun blasted the game-winning shot for UMass Lowell. Collectively, a nine-goal effort and woes on the power play were deserving of a B.
The defensive unit started exceptionally well in game one, assisting in Oskar Autio’s first shutout of his collegiate career and limiting Merrimack to 16 shots and no goals on three power play opportunities. Yet, no one else could be happier dominating Merrimack than junior defenseman Evan Bell, who played against his former school for the first time since his transfer.
In game two, the defensive unit didn't play bad as they limited UMass Lowell to one power play goal on three opportunities. That one power play goal would be costly, however, as it ended the game on a Clayton Phillips holding penalty. Overall the defensive unit played well but still a work in progress. Thus, receiving a B.
There is not much to say when your backup goaltender completes his first shutout and win of the season but that’s what Oskar Autio did in game one. Autio’s performance can’t be overlooked by a dominant offensive performance. The sophomore goaltender stopped all 16 shots he faced, improving his record to 1-1-0 this season and contributing the second shutout of the year by Penn State goalies. Coach Guy Gadowsky should be extremely proud of his backup goalie’s rebound performance from his last start versus Alaska Fairbanks on Oct. 18.
On the other hand, Peyton Jones struggled once again giving up early goals. All the blame can't be put on his shoulders, however. For the first time this season, Jones has lost back-to-back games versus Ohio State and now UMass Lowell. Combining Autio's performance and Jones struggle, their grade resulted in a B+.
Coach Guy Gadowsky and his coaching staff had the Nittany Lions prepared for the Turkey Leg Classic. Penn State played well but their best hockey is still ahead of them. At this point in the season, the offense seems to be in routine scoring goals in an abundance.
The defensive struggles and penalties will have to be addressed heading further into the season. Along with a rebound for goalie Peyton Jones, if Penn State wants to make a deep run into the Frozen Four and Big Ten postseason play.
Jordan Hession is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.