MHKY: Nittany Lions Make Case for No. 1 with Sweep Over Michigan State
Those events created a great opportunity for the No. 4 Penn State Nittany Lions to possibly secure the top spot in next week’s USCHO poll with convincing victories this weekend over conference foe Michigan State.
The Nittany Lions defeated the Spartans 5-2 on Friday and 5-3 on Saturday night, but neither of those wins came as easy as the scores would indicate.
Michigan State played a scrappy brand of hockey, frequently frustrating the Nittany Lions during both games. Scoring droughts were prevalent for a normally smooth and methodical Penn State attack.
On Friday, the Lions answered with two goals in the first period after an early Michigan State goal. Liam Folkes followed that up with a goal from an impossible angle on the goal line off of Brett Murray’s first career assist. The rest of the period was quite stagnant, as Michigan State imposed some stifling defense on the Lions.
The first two periods on Saturday night were shockingly similar to Friday’s. Early in the second, Chase Berger tied the score at 1-1, but then Penn State was completely shut down for the remainder of the period and went into the third trailing 2-1.
If there’s one thing for sure based on this series, it’s that the Nittany Lions really know how to close a game out in the third period, with Andrew Sturtz and David Goodwin each scoring in the final period on Friday to seal the deal.
The following night, the Lions caught fire late and scored four times in the third, including three times in less than three minutes and twice in nine seconds. Ricky DeRosa, Dylan Richard, Berger, and Denis Smirnov all got on the board during the final period outburst.
Penn State came into the game 0-2 when trailing after the second period. Guy Gadowsky’s squad has not trailed often this season, which made the manner in which they handled the adversity much more impressive.
The Lions have been fortunate to regularly jump out to early big leads, allowing them to somewhat coast in the third period, but this weekend brought them a new challenge.
Penn State has not only proven that they’re a great team, but they also demonstrated this weekend that they could perform under pressure, even with an abundance of young players.
The top three teams may have lost, but Penn State needed to make a statement on their own. To be called the top team in the country not only requires tremendous talent, depth, and skill, but it is also imperative to execute during points of adversity.
The top teams in the nation find ways to win games even on nights when they don’t play to their best game. The Lions most certainly didn’t play their best in either game this weekend, yet they still collected two gritty wins.
Now that we’ve seen Penn State’s ability to come from behind, as well as dominate games on both ends, it’s time to put this team in the conversation as the best team in all of college hockey.
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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