The Penn State Nittany Lions snapped their four-game losing streak Friday with a 5-4 victory over the Robert Morris Colonials. This game is just what the doctored ordered for the Nittany Lions. It was not their best game of season by far, but any win is sufficient for Guy Gadowsky and his players.
Penn State still took way too many penalties as they committed eight penalties for a total of 24 minutes. However, Robert Morris showed no discipline and Penn State burned them for three power play goals, including a goal by Casey Bailey who finally got his first marker of the season.
Penn State had five different goals scorers in the game for the first time since Nov. 10, 2012. Eleven players registered a point with Taylor Holstrom and Nate Jensen leading the way with two assists each. This was Penn State’s first ever victory over RMU.
Finally, the Lions showed some heart on Friday. After being down 1-0 after the first period and getting out shot 19-8 in the frame, Penn State could have easily rolled over like they did against Vermont two weeks ago. Instead, they scored three unanswered goals and took a 3-2 lead into the third period. I was pleased to see Gadowsky heeded my advice (Just kidding) and played upperclassmen Mike McDonagh and Jake Friedman over David Glen and Zach Saar. Both players seemed to provide a spark and look for Gadowsky to continue this trend in the following games.
Matt Skoff was unbelievable in net once again. He turned aside a career-high 48 shots to improve to 8-3-1 in his last 12 starts. I know Gadowsky says they have two great goalies but right now Skoff is ahead of Eamon McAdam and it’s not even close. He’s more poised in the net. He has better control of his rebounds and he handles the puck better than McAdam. If I’m Gadowsky, I go with the hot hand and stick with Skoff every night. He’s proven that he can steal games at the NCAA level and he has the experience. McAdam certainly has the talent to succeed, but it’s about winning hockey games and right now Skoff gives PSU the best chance to win night in and night out.
There were a couple of things that still are troubling. I don’t care if you’re playing a club hockey team, you can’t give up 52 shots. Skoff bailed Penn State out, especially in the first period, but you can’t rely on that to happen every game. Penn State must cut down the shots against. They certainly didn’t control RMU’s best player, Cody Wydo, who scored all four goals for the Colonials. Finally, when will PSU not take a 10-minute misconduct penalty? At 18:27 of the second period, Mark Yanis was called for a two-minute cross checking penalty and a 10 minute-misconduct. This has been a disturbing trend and it must stop now before they enter Big Ten play in a couple of weeks.
The Nittany Lions look to continue their winning ways this Friday as they host the Sacred Heart. The Pioneers have a 2-5 record overall and roll into Happy Valley having lost 5 of their last 6 games. They lost two close games to Holy Cross and Connecticut this past weekend 4-3 and 4-2 respectively.
Sacred Heart struggled mightily last year and didn’t record their first win until February. Already, they are ahead of last year’s pace. The biggest problem facing the Pioneers is scoring. Their offense ranked 50th last season nationally, and their 83 goals total goals were among the fewest in all of NCAA. This season is not much better as they rank 57th out of 59th in total offense averaging just 1.71 goals per game. The trio of Eric DeLong, Ben Ketchum, and Chad Barthelmess accounted for 30% of the Pioneers point production last season. Unfortunately, all three players’ graduated.
Freshmen Justin Danforth leads the team in points with seven and junior Drew George leads the team in goals with three. Of the 13 newcomers to Sacred Heart’s lineup nine are forwards and three are defenseman.
Two rearguards Penn State must keep and eye are junior Will Rayner and sophomore Josh Phillips. Rayner, who transferred from UMass-Lowell two years ago, was rock solid for the Pioneers last season. He logs anywhere from 20-15 minutes a game. He can play in all situations and brings an edge to his game.
The 6’3, 200 lbs Phillips showed flashes of his potential last season. He has cannon of a shot and is an excellent penalty killer. With some more seasoning, the Toronto native could blossom into a real gem for Sacred Heart.
I normally don’t like to give predictions but I have a good feeling about this game. The Nittany Lions will return home to Pegula and put on a show for their fans. Max Gardiner and Kenny Brooks will both wake up and net their first goals of the season. McAdam gets the start in net and picks up his first collegiate win. Finally, David Glen returns to the lineup after a week in the doghouse and proves why he’s Penn State’s best overall player. Penn State cruises to a 5-1 victory.