Men’s Hockey: Nittany Lions Survive Late Comeback By Tigers
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Despite giving up three unanswered goals in the final period, Penn State (11-2-3) held on for a 6-3 victory over Princeton (4-9) in the team’s final game before the break.
The Nittany Lions rode the hot hand of redshirt senior Tommy Olczyk as he scored the first hat trick of his career. He led the Lions in shots on the night with five and supplied the team energy early on in the contest.
“It’s unbelievably fun to watch Tommy Olczyk score a hat trick,” said coach Guy Gadowski. “He’s meant so much to the program from day one.”
Olczyk struck twice in the opening six minutes, earning the second on a power play opportunity which brought the Lions to a 2-0 lead. It was just the fifth power play goal the Tigers had allowed all season.
After 11 minutes of play, Penn State held a commanding lead in shots on target at a tally of 11-3. As the first period winded down, play leveled out with the squads each adding four more to their totals.
The Lions came out in the second period guns blazing, earning six shots in the first four minutes. Olczyk had an opportunity to extend the lead with a wide-open, second-chance rebound on the right side of the net only to whiff and allow the Tigers to live another play.
Despite the deficit, Princeton remained aggressive and dominated possession for several minutes in Penn State’s defensive zone. The Nittany Lion defense stood up to the charge by limiting the Tigers to only a handful of shots, allowing goalie Matthew Skoff to make stifling saves like when he stuffed an attempt by Ryan Kuffner just five feet from the net.
Tempers flared as Ryan Siiro and Chase Berger got feisty following a Colton Phinney glove save. The two had to be separated, but Berger got the last laugh as he later stole the puck and knocked in his Big Ten-leading 10th goal of the season. His score put the Lions up 3-0 with 9:14 remaining in the second period.
The Princeton defense found itself on its heels for the remainder of the period as Penn State put up a barrage of shots, outshooting Princeton 27-10 on the day with eight minutes remaining in the second.
Roles seemed to switch as Kenny Brooks was forced to leave the ice after receiving a penalty for game misconduct. His actions left the burden of a five-minute penalty kill situation.
Immediately, the Tigers pounced on the opportunity, but it was Skoff who denied all that came his way through diving efforts to keep the shutout intact. Skoff would finish the game with 22 saves.
Penn State thrived with the disadvantage, scoring once again as David Glenn broke away from the opposition and rattled one off the post to put the Lions up 4-0 entering the final period. It was Glenn’s fourth short-handed goal on the year and the team’s fifth overall.
While the Tigers were down, they were not out as they rifled their way back into the game with an aggressive mindset.
The first shot from Mike Williamson flew off the post, but it was not long until they got on the board as Eric Robinson delivered a strike past Skoff for his fifth goal of the season. It only took the Tigers just over three minutes to tally two more points and it brought them within just one with 12 minutes left on the clock.
Back and forth the teams traded shots and position on the ice, but it was not until the final minute when Colton Phinney was pulled for a man advantage that another goal was scored. Olczyk completed the trifecta with an empty-net goal, which was followed up 35 seconds later by another successful longshot by Curtis Loik.
Olczyk spoke about his accomplishment following the game. “It was a pretty special moment,” he said. He admitted it has been a while since he had such an outing, “The last-time I had a multi-goal game was my first year in Sioux City, which was 2007-2008.”
The last-minute notches gave the team a commanding lead as the horn sounded and gave the Lions their 11th victory on the 2015-2016 campaign.
Penn State now heads into a break of 17 days off before facing its next opponent on the ice when the team squares off against Robert Morris in the Three Rivers Classic in Pittsburgh. The next foe the players face will be off the court, however, as finals week waits on the other side of the weekend.
“Now it’s time to worry about finals a little more,” said senior captain David Glen. “Worry,” Olczyk confirmed.
Ryan Berti is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @RBirdman7 .