Series Grades: Penn State vs. Arizona State
No. 6 Penn State came into this series against the Arizona State Sun Devils with a 5-0 record. The Sun Devils put up a great fight in both games, and although they lost the first game 6-5, they handed the Nittany Lions their first loss with a 4-3 win in overtime.
Both games were high paced and fun to watch. Penn State moved to 6-1 on the season while the Sun Devils moved to 7-3. Here are the game grades for the Nittany Lions' performance this weekend.
Offensively in this series, Penn State put up nine goals against Arizona State in two games. In the first game on Friday night, the Nittany Lions got six goals past Sun Devils' goalie Joey Daccord on 40 shots.
Junior forward Alex Limoges led the scoring for the Nittany Lions with two goals in the game. In the second game, the Sun Devils tightened up and allowed only three goals against the high-powered Nittany Lions offense.
Denis Smirnov, Nate Sucese and Evan Barrett had goals in the overtime 4-3 loss Saturday night. Barratt has been the Nittany Lions' best offensive player with seven assists and three goals. He had two goals and an assist this weekend.
Also, Limoges had a big series with two goals and two assists to extend his point streak to six games. This offense is dangerous with 10 different players who have over five points and 14 different players with at least one goal.
Overall, the Penn State offense scored enough to win both games, but other factors to the games prevented that from happening.
One of the main reasons why the Nittany Lions didn’t get the sweep in this series this weekend was the defense. The Sun Devils combined for eight goals in the two games and exposed the Nittany Lions' defense.
Sophomore defenseman Alex Stevens had a minus-four rating for the weekend. Penn State gave up eight even-strength goals in two games this weekend, which is more than they had given up in the first five games of the season.
One bright moment for the Nittany Lions defense was that they did a good job on the penalty kill. The Nittany Lions were 5-6 on killing penalties this weekend.
However, the Sun Devils' best player, Johnny Walker, continued his dominance this season with a two-goal night in the overtime win Saturday.
Tyler Busch and Dylan Hollman also had a big series this weekend for the Sun Devils. Penn State’s offense carried the defense in both games of this series and needs to improve next weekend against Robert Morris.
Goaltending was another main issue for the Nittany Lions in this series. As mentioned earlier, Penn State gave up eight goals in the two games this series.
Chris Funkey got the nod in game one and had 26 saves, allowing five goals on 31 shots. Luckily Penn State’s offense carried them to the 6-5 victory despite the defense and goaltending not being up to par.
In game two head coach Guy Gadowsky went another route and started junior Peyton Jones. In the overtime loss Saturday night Jones stopped 21 Sun Devil shots but let in four goals. The goaltending has had its ups and downs this year, and in this series, it definitely was not where it needs to be.
Overall, Guy Gadowky and his staff had his guys ready to play, but there were just too many miscues in this series that made the difference between a sweep and a split.
Gadowsky likes his guys being physical and aggressive right from opening puck drop and although they showed signs of that in the third period, Arizona State’s game plan worked, especially on offense.
Penn State trailed in both games after two periods against a team it is better than, and the coach shares in that. However, he also shares in the fight this team had to come back with great third periods.
They outscored the Sun Devils 5-1 in the third period this weekend. Next week Gadowsky and the staff needs to put more emphasis on the defensive side of the ice before their showdown with Robert Morris.
Matthew McClure is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.