It needed four straight wins over a fine Minnesota team to even make the tournament; when that happened, it felt like Penn State was beginning what could’ve been a run to remember. Instead, it became one that it’ll soon want to forget, as the reigning champions coasted to a 5-1 win.
Denver started the game by flaunting its well-documented strengths. Its offense wasn’t able to muster much outside of the Terry/Borgstrom/Lukosevicius line, but when they were out there, they dominated (and went on to score four of the team's five goals). At the other end of the ice, its defense prevented Penn State from generating shots, even though it was able to possess the puck for a few shifts. The Pioneers were the first team to get on the scoreboard, as Kohen Olischefski took advantage of a bounce to beat Peyton Jones. Later in the frame, Evan Barratt fed Liam Folkes a partial breakaway, and he drew a tripping call to give Penn State the game’s first man-advantage. Unfortunately for Penn State, Troy Terry scored to double Denver’s lead before his team went to the powerplay. The Nittany Lions killed it, and the Pioneers took a 2-0 lead (17-9 in shots) into intermission.
Penn State started the second on a powerplay after Rudy Junda was booked for elbowing. It wasn’t until four minutes in that it registered its first shot on goal though, a harmless Barratt wrister that was redirected out of play. Right after, Denver perfectly executed a 3-on-2 and took advantage of two out-of-position Nittany Lions to make it 3-0. Penn State had some of its best chances of the game down the stretch, but Denver’s disciplined defense in front of Tanner Jaillet was too much. Jarid Lukosevicius added one more at the end of the period to pretty much officially put it out of reach.
Eight minutes into the third period, Liam Folkes got Penn State on the board as, of all things, he picked Terry’s pocket and beat Jaillet through the five-hole. Towards the end of the period, Lukosevicius scored his second to retake the four-goal lead; there were some extracurriculars between a few plays, but it felt like everyone in the rink knew that the rest of the game was just a formality. In its sixth season, Penn State finishes with an 18-15-5 record and an exit in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.