Series Grades: Penn State vs. Michigan
Big Ten hockey was back in Happy Valley this weekend. No. 5 Penn State hosted No. 16 Michigan for the Nittany Lions' first conference matchup of the season. Penn State continued to be dominant offensively, but untimely penalties and bad third periods caused the Nittany Lions to come away with a split of the weekend series.
The Wolverines rallied from a 4-2 deficit in the third period to take game one 6-4. The Nittany Lions had leads of 4-2, 5-3 and 6-4 in the third period of game two, but they still needed overtime to hold off a resilient Michigan team 7-6 in what was a wildly entertaining weekend of hockey at Pegula Ice Arena.
The number one offense in college hockey continued to roll with 11 goals this weekend. The sophomore forward duo of Evan Barrett and Alex Limoges continued to play at an elite level and led the Penn State offense again this weekend.
In game one, Barrett got the scoring started on the power play on an assist from Ligomes early in the first period. In the second period, Nate Sucese and Liam Folkes scored a pair of goals and gave Penn State a 4-2 lead going into the third.
However, the Wolverines played a perfect third period on defense and held the Nittany Lions scoreless. It was only the second period in the last six games where Penn State did not score a goal.
In Saturday’s game, the Nittany Lions offense played even better. Barratt was unbelievable with a hat trick by the end of the second period. Sucese made it 5-3 with an unbelievable goal on a dangle in-between a Michigan defenseman and an amazing backhand shot.
Michigan tied it 6-6 with two goals in the last four minutes and the game went to overtime. Sophomore Sam Sternschein got his fourth goal of the season only six seconds into overtime to give the Nittany Lions a 7-6 victory.
Penn State has looked unstoppable on the attack all year long, which is a good sign moving forward for this team as the competition gets increasingly harder in the upcoming weeks.
The weakness of this team has to be on its own side of the ice. In Friday’s 6-4 loss the Nittany Lions had a 4-2 lead going into the third period but gave up four unanswered goals allowing the Wolverines to get the win. In the third period alone Penn State had three penalties, and that’s how this Michigan team got momentum.
In Saturday’s game, it wasn’t much better as Penn State blew three separate two-goal leads in the third period. Michigan scored four goals in the third period for the second straight night and gave themselves a chance for a miraculous sweep before Penn State’s early overtime winning goal.
Penn State needs to improve on defense with the game on the line and make sure that blowing third-period leads doesn’t become an ongoing problem as the season moves along.
The goaltending hasn’t been as consistent as the team would like. Chris Funkey got the start in Friday’s game and had a tough third period. As mentioned earlier Michigan scored four goals in the final frame to beat the Nittany Lions. Although all those goals weren’t on him, he still has to play better.
Funkey had only 24 saves on 29 shots and suffered his first loss of the season. In Saturday’s game, Penn State went with Peyton Jones and he struggled as well. Although he had 28 saves, Jones allowed six goals, four of them coming in the final frame.
He got the win but Penn State needs the goalies to come up with some big saves that will stop some of the comebacks in the third period before they get started.
Head coach Guy Gadowsky has to be happy with how his team has been firing out of the gate to start games this season. This weekend, Penn State has had a two-goal lead going into the third period twice and looked to be in great position.
What he can’t be happy about is how his team has been playing in the final 20 minutes. Penn State gave up four goals twice and the coach will need to make sure that does not become a habit as the season moves along.
Penn State has a tough matchup vs. the preseason No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes on the road coming up. The Buckeyes have given up 4 goals in the last 6 games (4-1-1). The best offense against a stingy defense will be a very interesting matchup to watch.
Matthew McClure is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.