Penn State's Historic Season Comes to an End in the Elite Eight

By Doug Leeson on March 26, 2017 at 9:12 pm
Penn State hockey
via Heather Weikel
Box Score
  1st Period 2nd Period 3rd Period Final
Penn State 1 1 1 3
Denver 2 3 1 6

Sometimes you’re the windshield and sometimes you’re the bug, as Penn State learned tonight. After a 4-0 start to the postseason that included a Big Ten Championship and hanging 10 on Union in the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions met No. 1 Denver with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line. Though Penn State was one of the last eight teams playing, there’s still a gap between the very very best teams and the Nittany Lions. Soon enough, that gap will be gone. This season was a success by every measure, and this loss will make the eventual championships that much sweeter.

Penn State needed to score first against the nation’s best defense, because Denver had yet to lose this season when scoring the first goal. Of course, Denver knew that too and made sure to jump out ahead early. Back-to-back goals in the first half of the first period gave them a 2-0 lead, and almost immediately they could taste the Frozen Four. A few minutes later, the Pioneers’ Troy Terry danced around Penn State’s defensive zone and drew a penalty. When it looked like they could bury the Nittany Lions, Nikita Pavlychev and Ricky DeRosa decided they wouldn’t let that happen. Pavlychev scored a shorthanded goal to cut the lead in half before the end of the period.

Scoring Summary
Team Scoring Time (Pd.)
DEN Jarid Lukosevicius (12)
Terry, Gambrell
3:17 (1)
DEN Adam Plant (3)
Borgstrom, Finlay
7:19 (1)
PSU SH- Nikita Pavlychev (6)
15:00 (1)
PSU Denis Smirnov (19)
2:02 (2)
DEN Troy Terry (20)
6:30 (2)
DEN Jarid Lukosevicius (13)
Terry, Plant
15:40 (2)
DEN Troy Terry (21)
18:42 (2)
PSU James Gobetz (1)
Berger, Gober
12:40 (3)
DEN EN- Troy Terry (22)
17:46 (3)

In the first period’s closing seconds, a penalty on Nate Sucese put Penn State down a man again -- right where they wanted to be. Once the powerplay ended in the second period, the ensuing rush saw Denis Smirnov carry the puck up the right wing and bounce it into the net off of a defender. The game was tied just two minutes into the frame, but it didn’t stay that way for long. Yet another penalty gave Denver the advantage and after Penn State missed on a breakaway and a 2-on-1, allowing the Pioneers to respond with an odd-man rush of their own. That gave them a 3-2 lead, showing they wouldn’t be as shook by Penn State’s offense as Union was. Towards the end of the period, Jared Lukosevicius scored his second goal of the game, followed by Terry’s second of the game. The horn mercifully sounded as Denver went up 5-2.

With a three-goal deficit, Penn State needed a little bit of luck/Denver doing something dumb to get back in it. And wouldn’t you know it, 30 seconds into the final period, a Pioneer defenseman boarded Chase Berger for a five-minute major. After barely crossing the blue-line, the Nittany Lions’ fate was all but sealed. James Gobetz scored his first career goal to cut into the lead, but it wasn’t enough as Denver won 6-3 after adding an empty netter to finish off the scoring.

As year five comes to a close, Penn State ends it with a 25-11-2 record, including a 10-9-1 record in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions claimed their first Big Ten title, won their first NCAA Tournament game, and didn’t get blown out by the best team they’ve ever faced. More importantly, they led the country in points by freshmen. The sophomore corps. with Andrew Sturtz, Chase Berger, Vince Pedrie, and more will also be back and even better.

This group of seniors was the first one to spend their entire careers in Pegula Ice Arena and their contributions will not be soon forgotten.

This season is the beginning of what will hopefully be a long stretch of national prominence. Thanks for following along this season, and stay tuned in the coming days for some end-of-season thoughts.