If you haven’t heard by now, No. 11 Penn State Men’s Hockey (25-12-2,10-9-1) recently wrapped up a program-changing season.
After defeating No. 7 Union 10-3 the night before, the Lions took on their most formidable opponent yet this season: No. 1 Denver.
Both teams knew this game would be both intense and epic, and fans were not disappointed this past Sunday with the level of play and adrenaline pumping on the ice.
Denver opened the game with a goal just three minutes into play, and increased their lead by another goal at the seven-minute mark.
It was the 6’7 freshman Nikita Pavlychev (Yaroslavl, Russia) who put Penn State on the board with five minutes to go in the period. Pavlychev used a Ricky DeRosa (Aston, Pa.) rebound to knock one behind the netminder before he could do anything about it.
Classmate Denis Smirnov (Moscow, Russia) notched the equalized for the Lions just two minutes into the second with his quietly fierce nature as he skated into the zone and used a rebound off of a Pioneer to sneak the puck into the net for the 2-2 tie.
Denver laid it on thick for the rest of the period, taking advantage of tired Penn State legs and scoring three goals before the second intermission to gain a 5-2 edge on the Lions.
An intense third period resulted in a Penn State goal at the twelve-minute mark as freshman James Gobetz (St. James, N.Y.) slapshot the puck into the twine and helped to keep the dream alive for the Blue and White.
Denver sealed the deal with an empty-net goal in the final minutes of the game when Penn State pulled goalie Peyton Jones (Langhorne, Pa.) in order to load the offense.
Jones recorded 22 saves for the Lions and overall played a stellar game.
Although the team, especially the seniors, were understably emotional at being knocked from the tournament, the seniors all commented on the fact that this season no doubt changed both Penn State’s program and college hockey for the better.
Considering that a few years ago Penn State did not even have a hockey team nor a hockey rink, it is remarkable that the Blue and White were able to work so hard to put themselves in the position they were in this season.
A testament to the talent of the team, sophomore defender Vince Pedrie (Rochester, Minn.) announced he will forego his final two years of eligibility and has signed with the New York Rangers.
Pedrie joins the ranks of many Penn State hockey alumni who have gone on to play in the AHL and NHL.
It has been a wild ride this season, but we could not be prouder of this hockey team. Until next season, We Are…!