After a total of four overtimes just to get into the first round of the NCAA tournament, No. 11 M. Hockey (25-11-2, 10-9-1) was itching to prove that they could win significantly in regulation.
And win they did this past Saturday.
The team routed No. 7 Union, who was the 2014 national champion, 10-3. Since the college became a DI program, Union has never had 10 goals scored on them in a game – until Saturday night.
Penn State began the onslaught with a slow start.
Freshman Brandon Biro (Sherwood Park, Alberta) used a missed shot by Chase Berger (St. Louis, Mo.) to slam the puck behind Union goaltender and put Penn State on the board just over halfway through the first.
A minute later, Union returned the favor, drawing in two Penn State defensemen and then beating goalie Peyton Jones (Langhorne, Pa.) one-on-one.
Yet again, just over a minute later, Berger used a rebound to push the puck past the Union keeper, only to have Union retaliate again one minute later to send the teams into the second tied 2-2.
Penn State freshman Kris Myllari (Kanata, Ontario) wasted no time in returning the edge to Penn State at the start of the second period. Myllari used an excellent feed from classmate Liam Folkes (Scarborough, Ontario) to hammer in a shot and find the twine, putting the Lions up 3-2.
A few minutes later, the Dutchmen scored what would be their final goal of the evening during a power-play in Union’s favor. The 3-3 score had both teams on edge, but it was the Lions who would prevail.
Penn State freshman Blake Gober (Colleyville, Tx.), who stepped in for an injured Alec Marsh (Bridgewater, N.J.), did not disappoint as he fed a perfect pass to Berger who then sank the goal to take the lead.
Before the end of the second, Dylan Richard (Sherwood Park, Alberta) used a rebounded shot to his advantage and tapped in the puck to send the Blue and White into intermission with a two goal lead.
The third period was one of the best ever in the history of the Penn State hockey program.
Freshmen classmates Nate Sucese (Fairport, N.Y.), Denis Smirnov (Moscow, Russia), and Nikita Pavlychev (Yaroslavl, Russia) scored the first three goals of the third period thanks to patience and teamwork. Penn State was up 8-3 by the midway point of the third period.
Union pulled their starting goalie in an attempt to salvage the game, but the damage was already done.
Reliable Andrew Sturtz (Buffalo, N.Y.) netted the ninth goal of the evening, a shorthand shot. Sucese then sealed the deal as he potted the tenth and final goal with minutes to go, granting Penn State a 10-3 win and an advancement in the NCAA Tournament.
Jones made 22 saves for the Lions.
Penn State will now face No. 1 Denver on Sunday at 6 p.m. Be sure to tune in and cheer on the Blue and White!