Series Grades: Alaska Fairbanks
After a sweep against the Sacred Heart Pioneers last weekend, the Penn State men’s hockey team welcomed the Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks in town for a two-game series at Pegula Ice Arena. Penn State won the first of the series 7-0, where seven different Nittany Lions scored goals. In-game two, however, Alaska-Fairbanks shut out the Nittany Lions 4-0 to sustain a series split.
It’s the first time the Nittany Lions have been shutout in a game since the 2017-18 season, when they were shutout by Michigan back on Jan. 19, 2018. Let’s hand out some grades for Penn State’s performance:
In-game one, Penn State’s offense was dominant. The Nittany Lions scored four goals in the first period and never looked back. Liam Folkes, Paul DeNaples, and Tyler Gratton scored their first goals of the season in this one.
Penn State scored three more goals in the third period, including two on the power play. Nate Sucese had three assists in the period to give him 10 points on the season, and Brandon Biro added his third goal of the season, which is second on the team. The Nittany Lions outshot the Nanooks 43-29 and had more of the chances all game long.
However, Penn State couldn’t find the back of the net in the second game. Penn State outshot Alaska-Fairbanks 13-6 and 15-4 in the first two periods, but Nanooks goaltender Anton Martinsson was outstanding. Although Penn State had more shots, Alaska-Fairbanks’s defense played well and kept the Nittany Lions from scoring a goal, which is impressive. This is a Penn State team that was not shutout at all last year, so it’s cause for concern moving forward.
The Nittany Lions defense was strong throughout this series. In the shutout win in game one, the defense was all over the ice, limiting the Nanooks scoring chances all game long. The Nittany Lions protected the puck in their zone and played a full 60 minutes of hockey.
Sloppy play and penalties hurt the Nittany Lions in game two. Penn State had seven penalties on the day, including four in the third period alone. Although Alaska-Fairbanks went 0-7 on the power play, those are still tough to come back from. Alaska-Fairbanks was on the man advantage for eight of the 20 minutes of the third period, and when you are trying to make a comeback, that isn’t the recipe for success.
Peyton Jones made a start for the third consecutive game and completely shut down Alaska-Fairbanks. He stopped all of the 29 Nanooks shots and made some big saves to keep the distance. It’s certainly easier to play with a lead, but he still came through and was excellent in goal.
Oskar Autio started in game two and played well for the most part. Autio made 19 saves and kept Penn State within striking distance, but the offense was silenced. The goaltending was solid for the second series in a row, and that will need to continue this season.
It looked like it was going to be a massive series for the Nittany Lions after their shutout win, but Alaska-Fairbanks stunned them to earn a series split. Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky had a significant part in the win by having his guys ready to play, but at the same time, he has to take some of the blame for the shutout loss.
The team is too keen on offense and has too much talent to be shutout this early in the season against an Alaska-Fairbanks team that was 12-21-3 a season ago. Look for Gadowsky and the entire Penn State team to try and bounce back Friday against Robert Morris.
Matthew McClure is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.