|1st Period||2nd Period||3rd Period||Final|
It comes as no surprise that No. 10 Penn State (3-0) has never lost to Niagara (1-2, 1-1), and even though things started out slow for the Nittany Lions, that bell rang true once again. The team's talented offense erupted midway through the game and went on to blow out the Purples Eagles 8-2.
Niagara forward Reed Robinson wasted no time and jumped out ahead of the Lions with a one-shot-one goal tally just 1:09 into the contest. It didn't help that Chris Funkey, who received his second Friday night start, left a big, fat, juicy rebound for Robinson to knock home. Penn State peppered goaltender Joe O'Brien, but he was very solid at the start.
The Nittany Lion forwards had a lot of success moving the pass inside the Eagles' zone during the power play, but even with two opportunities on the man-advantage, Penn State couldn't capitalize on the scoreboard. The defense showed a bit of its inexperience on special teams as well, getting their poor puck management exposed at the blue line by Niagara's penalty kill and springing the Eagles on dangerous short-handed breakaways time after time. That was until Ludvig Larsson whipped a gorgeous wrister over O'Brien's glove to tie things up. Chase Berger then ended the frame on a high note after corralling a rebound from Nikita Pavlychev and sliding it past O'Brien's right skate.
Ludvig Larsson (1)
Chase Berger (2)
Liam Folkes (2)
Evan Barratt (2)
Alex Stevens (1)
Adam Pilewicz (1)
Liam Folkes (3)
Ludvig Larsson PPG (2)
Liam Folkes jumped out of the gates immediately in the second period and separated the Nittany Lions even further by soliciting in front of O'Brien's crease during a chaotic scramble, patiently waiting for the puck to squirt out, and punching it in to go up 3-1. He then centered a pass two minutes later for Alex Limoges that Limoges couldn't reach, but a trailing Evan Barratt could. Penn State grew its lead to 4-1, and that's when things started getting ugly.
Alex Stevens joined the party, netting Penn State's fifth unanswered tally just after Barratt hit twine. Things got a little chippy thereafter, as Nate Sucese barreled into O'Brien, who was out of his crease. I got to see my first college hockey fight, though, so that was fun. Niagara utilized the momentum and finally netted a response to Penn State's barrage, cutting the Lions' lead to 5-2. Funkey, with a few Eagles screening in front of him, never even saw it.
However, a few more Penn State goals by Adam Pilewicz, Folkes, and Larsson in the third period closed out the contest with a hockey tuddie and a two-point conversion. The Nittany Lions will be back in action Saturday night for game two of their weekend series with the Purple Eagles. Puck drop is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET., so make sure you toss that on your second screen while you're watching Penn State football take on Indiana, also at 3:30 p.m.
- I'm definitely beating a dead horse at this point, but Penn State's forwards are so incredibly good at creating nothing out of something and generating scoring chances, especially down low and in the slot. Despite a tough forecheck and backcheck by the Eagles, Talvitie, Limoges, and Barratt swarmed the attacking zone constantly, with their efforts eventually paying off in a big way.
- Speaking of Talvitie – damn, is he fast. Our good Finnish boy showcased his wheels on several breakaways that Niagara defenders had no choice but to stop with illegal slashes or hooks from behind because they couldn't keep up with him. This kid can really turn on the jets.
- The Nittany Lions had three power plays in the opening frame that looked a little sloppy along the blue line. With the offense this team has, converting with the man-advantage should (at least in my eyes) be clicking a little better, but that can't happen if the guys running the point give the puck to the other team. However, Larsson saved the PPG goose egg and finally converted in the last couple minutes of the game. Hindering odd-man rushes should also be a point of emphasis during practice next week. That being said, it's still very early in the season. I'm sure it'll come together as the special teams get more opportunities.
- This game included the return of junior sniper Denis Smirnov, who was sidelined with a concussion to start the season. It's so good to have him back. Like Talvitie, Smirnov's speed is something to see. He did get dangerously crunched into the boards by a Purple Eagle late in the tilt but skated off under his own power.
- After an opponent gets the puck in deep within the Nittany Lions' zone, especially when it gets cycled behind the cage, the way in which this team backchecks to ensure pressure is alleviated off their goalie is pretty special. If Penn State's blueliners can translate that success inside the attacking zone, this team will be unbeatable.
- Barratt throws checks on guys with the fury of an ironman. They way he flattens opponents to the ice is crazy. That poor Purple Eagle got knocked into next week.
- The Lions put together a 62 shot total on the night, forcing the Eagles' net-minder to save 54 of them. That's more like it.
- Folkes, Sucese, and Larsson all had multi-point performances. Larsson was also, once again, brilliant at the faceoff dot.