No. 8 Penn State showcased its obvious edge in talent, skill, and speed throughout its 7-2 pounding of Robert Morris in Game 1 of the two teams' home-and-home series.
Even though Peyton Jones has been red hot in recent performances, Chris Funkey got the nod in net for Game 1, as he has for just about every Friday game this season.
One minute in, Bobby Mo got nailed for slashing, but their 20th-ranked penalty kill smothered the Lions' power play, establishing that goals on the man-advantage would be hard to come by, even though Penn State landed three pucks on net during the sequence. The Lions would follow an unsuccessful PP with a fantastic kill of their own, making the Colonials look very over-matched. RMU failed get the puck in below the faceoff dots the entire two-minute period, let alone collect any shots on goal.
Finally, more than 12 minutes into the contest, Evan Barratt knocked home a deflection from Kris Myllari's low, soft shot from the left point, growing his point streak to seven straight games.
Evan Barratt (4)
Alex Tonge (3)
Aarne Talvitie (2)
Nikita Pavlychev PPG (4)
Grant Hebert (1)
Sam Sternschein (2)
Alex Limoges (6)
Alec Marsh (1)
Nikita Pavlychev (5)
Robert Morris surrendered a lot of dangerous shots on Marotte, but after Barratt failed to bury a chance, the Colonials sprung into an odd-man rush and Alex Tonge wristed one past Funkey to knot the game at 1-1. Aarnie Talvitie didn't let that stalemate last too long, with a wicked wrister of his own five minutes later to re-establish Penn State's one-goal lead.
A couple tallies for both sides by Penn State's Nikita Pavlychev (on the power play) and Robert Morris's Grant Hebert followed, but the Lions still held that notorious one-goal advantage 3-2. That was until Denis Smirnov, who was dishing pucks left and right, set up Sam Sternschein straight after to give the Lions a 4-2 advantage and end the second frame on a high note.
The Limoges-Barratt-Folkes line came up big once again three minutes into the final frame, getting Marotte to scramble in his crease and give up an easy layup of a rebound chance for Limoges for his sixth goal of the season. Alec Marsh (yes, Alec Marsh) also joined the party to collect his first points of the 2018-19 campaign, and Pavlychev finished it off to put up an incredible, career-high four-point performance.
The Lions are back in action tomorrow night, as they travel west to Pittsburgh for Game 2 inside Robert Morris territory.
- The Nittany Lions are ranked first nationally in Goals For, averaging six per game. That was on full display yet again. Credit to Guy Gadowsky for staying consistent, keeping his players conditioned, and emphasizing a healthy serving of pucks stuffed down the throat each and every opposing teams' netminder.
- I know the Colonial power play isn't strong by any means, but Penn State's penalty kill still looks very impressive. That unit, one that has only allowed three PPG against so far this season, stifled every RMU chance on the man-advantage, pressed them hard on the backcheck to keep the Colonials high against the blue line, and refused to let their players in deep.
- Penn State is a really, really fast team, and its forwards had a field day tonight. They blew past the Colonials' young defensive corps and created tons of chances in the high-danger areas. The Lions' hustle guys sprinted into the zone quickly off the rush and immediately invaded Francis Marotte's crease to establish traffic in front of him. Racking up offensive zone time and being able to set up multiple sequences, grab rebounds, and set screens each time down the ice is a huge aspect of Penn State's game. When the Lions can have their way with an opposing defense, they rarely fail to score.
- The growth in Nikita’s game is really noticeable. He’s not just a big body that can stand in front of the goalie anymore.
- There's a growing theme that the Lions fall of their horse in the first half of the second period. This same thing happened last week during the stint with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Apart from the middle frame's first 30 seconds, and the eventual surge later on, Penn State looked a little flat.
- Funkey didn't look bad between the pipes in this one, but I still think Jones has the edge in the true starting goaltender position battle.