Nittany Lions Fall 3-0 to US U18 Squad

Story posted January 12, 2013 in Sports, CommRadio by Pat White

The Penn State men’s ice hockey team lost to the United States U18 National Team 3-0 on Saturday night at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

Coach Guy Gadowsky opted to dress only five defensemen for the second straight night. Nate Jensen and Luke Juha were both held out of the lineup, but Mark Yanis played in his second game back from a two month ankle injury.

“I think when you have five defensemen you get in the game a little more,” Yanis said. “You’re never sitting down and everyone is playing the same amount. Overall everyone was happy.”

Penalties troubled the Nittany Lions early in the first period. Connor Varley and Rich O’Brien both took minor penalties less than two minutes into the game. Five Nittany Lions marched to the penalty box in the first 11 minutes of the game.

Penn State displayed its ability to kill penalties, a strength of the team throughout the season. The penalty killing unit killed off all five Team USA power plays in the first period and goaltender PJ Musico turned aside all nine power play shots. He tracked the puck well through a flurry of traffic in front of his net on all five Team USA power plays. The feat was more impressive due to the shorthanded defensive unit.

“[They were] Phenomenal, for the reason of we played five defensemen all weekend,” Gadowsky said of his defense. “You have a guy like Mark Yanis and this was his first weekend [back]. They held a very skilled team to zero power play goals and had to kill a lot and that’s very exhausting for defensemen so I was very happy.”

Team USA outshot the Nittany Lions in the first period 19-4. Penn State’s stout defense blocked six shots, which contributed to getting to the first intermission unscathed. Despite not generating much offense, the feeling in the Penn State locker room was positive after the first period.

“In the locker room it was very positive,” Gadowsky said. “We killed five power plays in a row. You’re not going to get many shots killing power plays. We wanted to re-focus and have a good second and we did…We outshot them for the one period all weekend.”

Team USA came out flying again to open the second period, but the Nittany Lions pushed right back. Freshman forward David Glen was noticeably physical on the ice and made the hustle plays that he is most known for.

Penalty troubles again hurt the Nittany Lions in the second. Yanis was penalized for Indirect Contact to the Head when he broke up an odd-man rush that sent a Team USA player crashing into the net. Forward Taylor Holstrom was then escorted off the ice by officials and received a 10 minute and Game Misconduct for verbally confronting an official. The loss of Holstrom for the game was crucial due to the recent success he has had on a line with forwards Casey Bailey and Max Gardiner in recent games.

“I thought [Jake Friedman] fit in pretty well,” Gadowsky said. “One of the great things about Max Gardiner is that he plays both the wall and center. He’s a big guy and really good on the wall. When he moved from the wall to center, he didn’t miss a beat. So we’re lucky there. Because Gardiner plays both [positions] it was less of a factor. I thought Friedman did really well.”

Penn State played disciplined hockey in the second half of the second period. It was Team USA that took four minor penalties, and the Nittany Lions were able to establish good pressure on the power play. They failed to score on their four power play opportunities, but generated good offense and put eight shots on goaltender Thatcher Demko.

Nearing the end of the period Team USA finally solved Musico. Penn State was unable to clear the defensive zone and USA forward Matt Labanc found the puck on the boards. He walked down the right circle and found Sean Malone who deposited the disk into an empty net.

Despite being down on the scoreboard, the Nittany Lions played another solid period of hockey. They outshot Team USA 15-11 and played a good portion of the period in the offensive zone. The defense stood tall again and got under the skin of the Team USA players. Defensemen Rich O’Brien and Connor Varley stirred the pot with their physical play.

“I thought the third period [O’Brien] made three awesome defensive plays and he played very physical without taking penalties,” Gadowsky said. “He led by example of how to play tough without taking penalties and I think he played classy tough.”

Team USA took the offensive flow back in the third period. Penn State relied on Musico to shut the door on many occasions, including a breakaway save on Trevor Hamilton. The defense looked to be getting worn down in the third period after playing two games with only five defensemen.

“I couldn’t do it without my defensemen,” Musico said. “Communication is such a huge part, especially with only five defensemen playing tonight. I know I was yelling and giving direction and they were yelling at me when there was a scramble in front of the net. So it is definitely a team effort.”

Team USA put the nail in the coffin with 3:29 left in the third period. Team USA went on a two-on-one against Musico. Shane Eiserman put a saucer pass over a sliding Connor Varley to the tape of Michael McCarron, who beat Musico high to the glove side.

Penn State continued to battle in the last two minutes of the game. Penn State pulled Musico in favor of an extra attacker, but Evan Allen added an empty net goal to seal the 3-0 victory for Team USA.

The Nittany Lions hit the ice on Tuesday at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion against Division III Neumann College at 7:30.

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