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Eichel, Sabres Beat Penguins In Overtime 4-3 At Pegula Ice Arena

by on September 19, 2017 10:30 PM

For the 6,222 fans packed into Pegula Ice Arena on Tuesday night a Penguins' victory would have pleased nearly all of them.

But if the crowd had to go home without that, a Jack Eichel game-winner was not a bad second choice for those just interested in seeing some high level hockey.

And they did, the 20-year-old phenom smoothly skated down the ice with the puck on his stick just second into overtime as a 2-on-1 developed.

He could have passed.

But when you're one of the best players in the world there's no reason to pass, at least not all the time, and Eichel flicked a shot high into the back of the net to win a highly entertaining, back-and-forth preseason affair.

That was really all that Tuesday night was about. While two teams worked on the process of finalizing their rosters, a hockey hungry town was treated to at least parts of the Stanley Cup champions' main roster and one of the best players in the game skating across from them. The result mattered less than the fact the game was happening. Maybe there was no Crosby or Malkin, but anyone who took in Tuesday's game knew that the speed of Carl Hagelin is special or the history of former Chicago netminder Antti Niemi included more than a few big games. Not to mention the likes of Jason Pominville, Evander Kane and Bryan Rust alongside young up and coming talent.

The crowd wasn't short on names to know either. Terry Pegula sat atop the crowd in his suite watching both the rink he helped create and the team he now owned. Flyers' great Mark Recchi walked the bench for Pittsburgh along with head coach Mike Sullivan and fellow assistant and former Canadians' head coach Jacques Martin and former NHL legend Sergei Gonchar.

“It was a great experience,” Penguins' coach Mike Sullivan said. “This is a really neat environment here. Penn State’s got a beautiful facility. I think the building, the fans are on top of you so I think it’s a unique environment from that standpoint. It has the college feel, that I thought was great for our players. There was a lot of energy in the building so I think it was great for us to have to ride the bus for 2.5 hours to you know, kind of keep things in perspective and realize how fortunate we are in the way we travel and to have a young lineup for me is exciting.”

All told it made up for a fairly mundane preseason game at Pegula in 2016 featuring an Eichel-free Buffalo team and a fairly nameless Minnesota Wild roster. And as Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour continues to make her list of inventive ways to use athletic facilities, there is little doubt the NHL will continue to be near or at the top of that list.

Functionally the game was entertaining, Buffalo scored first but the Penguins answered back. The Sabres would lead most of the way, until Olli Maatta roofed a shot in close to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead midway through the third period. An eventual game tying goal with under three minutes to play would send it into overtime. You couldn't have asked for a more entertaining game that didn't actually matter.

And in the extra period it took just 25 seconds for Eichel to give fans the second-best result they could have asked for.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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