Nittany Lions’ Strong Second Half Results in Victory over Pittsburgh 3-1
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Nittany Lions (7-2-2, 3-1-1 Big Ten) stunned the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-4-2, 2-2-1 ACC), 3-1, at Jeffrey Field Tuesday night. Two goals early in the second half were all Penn State needed to pull away in this non-conference matchup.
Through the first 30 minutes of the contest, it was all Pittsburgh. The Panthers dominated time of possession and had the majority of scoring chances, but Penn State freshman goaltender Kris Shakes came through with some big-time saves to keep the game even.
The game completely changed for Penn State when junior midfielder Callum Pritchatt was tripped in the box, drawing a penalty on Pittsburgh to give the Nittany Lions their first legitimate scoring chance. Senior midfielder Aaron Molloy took the penalty kick and buried the shot past Pittsburgh goaltender Arie Ammann to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead at the 36:39 mark of the first half. Penn State took that 1-0 lead into the locker room and looked to add to it in the second half.
In the second half, the Nittany Lions came out firing, keeping the Panthers on their heels. Penn State scored two goals within 2:30 to extend its lead. The first came at the 46:02 mark when freshman forward Liam Butts scored his sixth goal of the season off a beautiful behind-the-back pass from Molloy to make it 2-0.
At the 48:32 mark, freshman defenseman Jalen Watson scored his first goal of the season after a fantastic assist from fellow freshman defenseman Adam Laundree to give the Nittany Lions a commanding 3-0 lead.
Penn State head coach Jeff Cook thought that his team’s constant pressure on Pittsburgh and the ability to force turnovers was the difference in the second half.
"It was our pressure from the front and our ability to get Pitt to turn the ball over," Cook said. "To do that, you have to be able to accept some level of risk, so you really have to go for it, and when we did that as a team effectively and won the ball back, it spurred us on."
The Panthers found themselves trailing 3-0 early in the second period and never recovered. They outshot the Nittany Lions 18-8 and had 11 shots on goal, but they couldn't chip into the lead. Pittsburgh's only goal came off a corner kick at the 83:42 mark of the second half when junior defenseman Bryce Washington headed the ball passed Shakes to make it 3-1, but it wasn't enough.
Shakes made his fourth start in goal for Penn State and was nothing short of spectacular. The freshman from Sunrise, Florida, made 10 saves on 11 shots and was the main reason why the game was scoreless early on in the contest. The win improved his record to 4-0 on the season.
"My main thing about my game is communication," Shakes said. "I feel like if I have strong communication with my backline, then everything is organized and is going to go well."
The Panthers will return to ACC conference play when they travel to Charlottesville, Virginia, for a showdown with Cavaliers on Friday at 7 p.m., while Penn State will go to Madison, Wisconsin, to battle with the Badgers at 8 p.m. on Saturday for a Big Ten conference showdown.
Matthew McClure is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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