MHKY: Penn State Opens B1G Play, Sweeping Rival Michigan and Continuing Dominant Play

Story posted December 3, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Matthew Harvey

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - “It’s Michigan-Penn State.” Ricky DeRosa couldn’t have said it any better after game one.

Big Ten play opened for the No. 7 ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (11-1-1) against a very familiar foe: the No. 20 ranked Michigan Wolverines. In a very hard fought series overall with no love lost between the two teams, Penn State swept the series winning 6-1 and 5-1. They outshot the Wolverines 104-52.

The Wolverines came into the weekend with a record of 6-5-1 and splitting their last two series against Lake Superior State and No. 4 ranked Boston University. Michigan couldn’t have been a more fitting opponent for Penn State to start Big Ten play against. The Wolverines swept the season series last year against the Nittany Lions, going 5-0.

Blake Gober and James Gobetz were among seven scratches on Friday night for Penn State in game one. Peyton Jones got the start in net, carrying a record of 9-0-1 in.

The first period saw Penn State do what they do best and come out firing on offense. Penn State leads the nation in shot per game at 47.5 and goals per game with 4.77. After the game, Coach Gadowsky talked about how Penn State has developed an identity of being a fast pace, aggressive team.

Michigan was doing a good job at the start of denying the Nittany Lions the amount of shots they are used to taking at the start and the Wolverines were very aggressive on the forecheck. 7:56 into the period, Penn State’s leading goal scorer Andrew Sturtz got on the board with his 11th goal of the season to give Penn State the 1-0 lead. 

Michigan’s goalie Zach Nagelvoort had a brilliant last 10 minutes of the first period. He was making brilliant save after save when Penn State had countless shots and rebounds. The first period ended with Penn State up 1-0. 

The second period got underway much the same way as the first period was played.  Both Penn State and Michigan failed to capitalize on their early power play opportunities. Penn State was having early problems making crisp passes and keeping full possessions of the puck. Their power play kill was stifling and giving the Wolverines fits. 

Peyton Jones was staying busy enough with shots on goal to keep him warm and bored in goal.

“It was faster, more intense against Michigan but much of the same as before,” Jones said after the game.

Liam Folkes scored his third goal of the season shortly into the period to make it 2-0. It was a struggle for both teams for most of the period after that. Coach Gadowsky commented on the struggle after the game.

“Tonight didn’t have as much flow as either side would have liked,” Gadowsky said. 

The flow shot back quickly into the Nittany Lions. The last five minutes of the period was all Penn State.  Trevor Hamilton sniped a goal to the top corner of the net and shortly after Ricky DeRosa scored with 1:38 remaining off a great pass from Zach Saar. The Nittany Lions headed into the third period with all the momentum and a 4-0 lead.

The third period was when Peyton Jones really hunkered down to deny many shots from Michigan.  The Nittany Lion defense was disruptive and active on the poke and forecheck. Michigan was playing expectedly aggressive in the last 15 minutes trying to get back in the game. They were able to get on the board with a goal from Tony Calderone, but Penn State added onto the lead with goals from Erik Autio and Sturtz, his second of the game. 

In the end, Michigan was outplayed in all facets and Penn State won comfortably 6-1. In the close parts of the game, Penn State was able to separate themselves by their high time of possession and ability to effectively kill Michigan’s power plays.

An important note was that Denis Smirnov continued his stellar play so far this season, notching a whopping three assists and raising his point total to 25. 

Coach Gadowsky was impressed that the first four goals of the game came from all four lines.   Michigan’s veteran head coach Red Berenson had props for Penn State after the game.

“They are one of the better teams in the country and we didn’t measure up tonight,” Berenson said. “I didn’t think our team had a good game in front of our goalie.”

Peyton Jones started in net again for game two after his fabulous performance in game one. Michigan made a change in net, starting freshman Jack LaFontaine. Gober and Gobetz were among seven scratches again.

Game two started with more fireworks and much more competitiveness. Early on it was very evenly matched, with both teams getting a good amount of shots on goal and being aggressive. Left winger James Robinson finally broke the scoring open with a goal four minutes in. Michigan would be quick to answer, with Wolverine Cutler Martin evening the score just over a minute later. 

Penn State and the Pegula crowd was stunned to see Michigan answer so quickly and knew that they were here to play. For the next 10 minutes or so, Michigan was playing extremely aggressive and very physical.

Just when it seemed Michigan had all the momentum, Penn State took it right back off a power play goal from Trevor Hamilton and then just over a minute later a goal from Nittany Lion point leader Denis Smirnov. Just like that, the Nittany Lions swung the game back to them heading into the second period.

The second period was much of the same as the first but neither team was able to score. The Penn State defense was playing lights out and not letting the Michigan offense of power play make anything happen. 

What marred the period was the extreme and developing chippy-ness. Both players slowly began to push and shove a little more and more until at the end of the period. One thing led to another in the last two minutes of the period and a full-out line brawl broke out. Chase Berger and the Nittany Lions were fighting just about any Wolverine they saw. And the Pegula crowd loved it.

After all the dust was settled, Penn State went on a power play. Michigan ended up committing another penalty which sent a total of four Wolverines to a crowded sin bin. Penn State took their 5v3 opportunity into the third period and Andrew Sturtz scored his third goal of the series just 24 seconds in to make the score 4-1. The second period saw a total of six roughing penalties called between both teams.

The third period saw Penn State do what they usually do: barrage the opposite goalie with 18 shots.  Jack LaFontaine did all he could this game to hold the Nittany Lions in check, but he allowed a Sturtz goal and a Brandon Biro goal later on in the period.

Instead of coming out fully aggressive like the night before, the Wolverines were making uncharacteristic mistakes that didn’t help them get back in the game. Silly turnovers, bad puck control and committing unnecessary penalties. Penn State took care of business and put the game and series fully out of reach, winning 5-1.

This game and series was all about Peyton Jones though, who continued his impressive freshman campaign by saving 50 of 52 shots this series and stifling the Wolverines.

Denis Smirnov had another solid performance, notching two more points to raise his point total to 27. He has arguably been the difference maker of this team and coach Gadowsky praised his goal from the first period after the game.

“The Denis Smirnov goal was the difference, a big, big goal to send us up two and not one,” Gadowsky said.

Defenseman Kevin Kerr said this rivalry gets these two teams chippy and emotional.
“When two teams have a history like last year and years past, it’s gets emotions high and the crowd loves it,” Kerr said.

Andrew Sturtz said it was one of the more physical games he’s ever been in.

“I got hit a lot,” Sturtz said. “I don’t know if I’ve been hit that much before.”
Michigan head coach Red Berenson and Michigan captain Alex Kile had more praise for the Nittany Lions after the game.

“They are certain as good as anyone we have faced this season,” Berenson said.

“They have a hard working team, are a blue collared team,” Kile said. “They can create a lot of offensive pressure and make us tired.”

When asked what the team goal is with a month off, coach Gadowsky stressed his team’s focus on their finals and then practice.

“Our goal is to study, study, study and then get better in the weight room and in practice,” Gadowsky said.

Penn State moved to 13-1-1 with the series sweep and Michigan fell to 6-7-1. Penn State will be off through the holidays and resume play against Ohio State January 6th in Columbus.

 


Matthew Harvey is a junior majoring in history and broadcast journalism.  To contact him, email him at mattharvey502@gmail.com.