With an early-season slump already damaging Penn State’s postseason hopes, two wins were paramount on its trip to Arizona State. Friday night’s 7-0 win set the tone for the series, and the Nittany Lions capped off their first sweep of the season on Saturday 4-2. Despite Chris Funkey’s shutout victory the night before, Guy Gadowsky put Peyton Jones back in net while a couple first-time goal-scorers led the team to victory at the other end of the ice.
But somehow for some bizarre reason, Penn State seemingly cannot escape the first two minutes of a game without allowing a goal. Brett Gruber beat Jones 1:40 into this game to give the Sun Devils an early lead and to take away the Nittany Lions’ hopes for a shutout before they could even begin. Unlike in some previous games this season, Penn State was able to quickly answer and retake control. Brandon Biro and Chase Berger scored 30 seconds apart before the halfway mark of the first period to claim a lead Penn State would never give up.
Despite the one-goal difference, the first period was absolutely dominated by the away team, which outshot Arizona State 22-6. The second period had a similar tone but with less production. Joe Daccord stood tall in his net, despite most of the period taking place in his zone. With less than a minute to go, Derian Hamilton scored his first goal as a Nittany Lion just after a powerplay ended, to give his team a 3-1 lead into the final intermission.
Penn State didn’t make putting this game away look easy, though. It dictated the first two periods but slowed down in the third, only outshooting Arizona State 15-14. Jones allowed the Sun Devils to cut the Lions' lead in half nine minutes into the frame, setting up a frantic finish. He was able to shut the door the rest of the way though, and Brett Murray scored his first goal in an empty net to put an exclamation point on the series.
- Four players scored their first goals this weekend -- freshmen Evan Barratt and Sam Sternschein on Friday, and junior Derian Hamilton and sophomore Brett Murray on Saturday. The first goal is often the hardest to get; once it’s out of the way, the next one seems to come a lot quicker (even if the first goal was an empty-netter like Murray’s).
- It’s still probably too early to say if Peyton Jones’ shaky start to the season is anomalous or a real problem. He went *James Franklin voice* 1-0 this weekend, and 21 stops on 23 saves is a fine game, even if the two goals he allowed were at pretty inopportune times. Hopefully, this mostly stress-free win can get him ready for the upcoming Big Ten slate.
- Penn State scored 11 goals this weekend, with only two of them from what I consider the usual suspects. Smirnov is still out indefinitely, Sturtz was shut out all weekend, Hults was held without a point, and Berger and Sucese had a goal each. This team has a lot of depth at forward, and that was proved this weekend after big games from Barratt, Biro, Pavlychev, Sternschein, and Murray.
- The win brings Penn State back to .500 just in time for two straight Big Ten weekends. The Nittany Lions are back in action at Pegula Ice Arena next weekend to face Michigan State, then they’re on the road the weekend after to face Ohio State.