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First NHL Hockey Game At Pegula Ice Arena Ends With Drama As Wild Beat Sabres 2-1

by on September 26, 2016 11:00 PM

Penn State is just over a week away from dropping the puck on the 2016-17 season but Hockey Valley was out in full force on Monday as the Buffalo Sabres took on the Minnesota Wild in an NHL preseason game.

“Everyone said it was going to be a nice facility, but it exceeded all my expectations,” said Sabres goalkeeper Anders Nilsson. “It’s a great setup for the guys who play here and all the fans have a great building and a great facility.”

And perhaps fittingly as the Nittany Lions fell in their first game as a Division I team, in overtime, it was the Sabres falling just seconds away from overtime as a goal with 4.6 seconds left doomed the home favorites.

Even so with Kim and Terry Pegula in attendance it was a historic evening as Penn State celebrated just over six years of hockey at the Division I level with the first NHL exhibition game in State College. With plenty of hockey fans in the arena even a loss by the fan favorite Sabres hardly dulled the crowd's enthusiasm throughout the evening.

On the ice it was a slightly shorthanded affair as stars from both teams weren't on the preseason rosters including the likes of Minnesota forward Zach Parise and Ryan Suter while Buffalo was without the services of young phenom Jack Eichel who like his Minnesota counterparts is just off of the World Cup of Hockey.

Even so the hits and crisp passing kept on coming and Buffalo capitalized on a rebound in front of the net as Zemgus Girgensons slammed home the puck past Wild netminder Alex Stalock who made 16 saves in the first period. The Penn State crowd roared as the puck found the back of the net, the hometown fans supporting the Pegula-owned franchise.

"This facility is unbelievable," Girgensons said after the game. "The locker room and everything is nice. The fans were loud and it was definitely fun to play here. It's always better to play at home and to be honest this felt like a home game."

Minnesota got on the scoresheet with 12:34 gone by in the second period as Kurtis Gabriel slotted home a pass from Nate Prosser and Nick Saracen. Sabres goalie Anders Nilsson was solid all night making 26 saves though two periods including 15 in the middle 20 minutes of play.

For the third period the tight action continued and the game was seemingly headed to overtime until a 4-on-3 powerplay cashed in for the Wild as Jason Zucker went top shelf to give Minnesota a 2-1 advantage with 4.6 seconds left in regulation.

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