Penn State Shuts Out Niagara in Series Opener

Story posted October 21, 2021 in CommRadio, Sports by Christopher Hess

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Precise shots, picking spots, a strong penalty kill and suffocating defense.

Those four attributes were on full display as Penn State cruised to a 4-0 win over Niagara in game one of a two-game set.

“I think we came out with a really good mentality and carried through for the first few periods,” coach Guy Gadowsky said.

Early in the opening frame, Penn State came out flying and peppered Purple Eagle netminder Chad Veltri with rising shots.

Veltri stood tall on those early chances and kept the game scoreless, flexing his glove hand early and often.

Perhaps his biggest save of the period came on a short-handed opportunity as Tyler Paquette knifed his way through two defenders and just missed a solid scoring opportunity.

There wasn’t a whole lot of action until after the under 10-minute timeout. Both teams were still feeling each other out and it was more of a dump and chase style of game.

Then it got creative.

Connor McMenamin came out of the timeout with the puck on his stick and found a streaking Ben Copeland up the middle of the ice.

In the blink of an eye, Copeland found Kevin Wall and Wall hammered home a simple redirect which gave Penn State a 1-0 lead at 11:32 of the first period.

“Copeland is an incredible skater and he’s fast and he’ll find you if you’re open so I just tried to get to the net,” Wall said.

The Nittany Lions continued to harass Veltri as each opportunity seemed to be a “Grade-A” chance and Gadowsky’s troops entered the locker room with a one-goal advantage.

Niagara then countered coming out of the first intermission with some quality chances of its own, but Oskar Autio said ‘no way.’

Autio held down the fort on two strong opportunities at the welcome mat and kept the score 1-0 at the five-minute mark of the second period.

Just a mere 1:08 later, a wild scramble in the crease led to Ben Schoen getting greasy and potting home his first goal as a Nittany Lion, giving Penn State a 2-0 lead at 6:08.

After an Albin Nilsson boarding penalty at 8:14, Penn State nearly made it a 3-0 game, but Veltri made crucial saves on Wall and Sarlo, keeping the lead at two.

Christian Berger had been making his impact all night on the defensive end, which then led to the hard work paying off.

Right out of a Connor MacEachern faceoff win, Berger snapped a shot from the left side that found twine and Penn State’s lead became 3-0 at 17:35 of the middle stanza.

“I kind of got some good puck luck right now,” Berger said. “I think game by game, I’m just trying to push up.”

The 3-0 score was the same score heading into the second intermission that saw the Nittany Lions outshooting the Purple Eagles 32-11.

Penn State continued to keep its foot on the gas in the third as Kevin Wall cracked the scoresheet once again with his second goal of the night at 1:17, which made it a 4-0 game.

As the third period carried on, the Purple Eagles had their best scoring chances of the night, especially on a power play after Ryan Kirwan was called for boarding at 9:28.

Autio continued his stellar play, robbing Walker Sommer on a point-blank shot, keeping the shutout intact.

That 4-0 lead would hold for the remainder of the period, and the Nittany Lions were able to get another win over an Atlantic Hockey opponent.

Autio needed to make just 23 saves on the night and four players — Connor MacEachern, Kevin Wall, Christian Berger and Ben Copeland — each had two points in the game.

“[Autio] absolutely earned that shutout,” Gadowsky said.

The two sides will meet again Thursday night for the rubber match with puck drop scheduled for 7 p.m.

Christopher Hess is a fifth-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email