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Penn State Hockey: 4-4 Tie Against Princeton Sums Up First Half Of Year For Nittany Lions

by on December 15, 2018 10:50 PM

Missing both the nation's leading scorer in Evan Barratt and one of the Nittany Lions' most consistent forwards in Aarne Talvitie to their respective World Junior national team camps, a Saturday night meeting against Princeton was always going to be a bit more challenging than usual.

But as Penn State skated out to a 4-1 lead early in the second period, it was an offensive display that showcased why the Nittany Lions might have the most lethal offense in the nation and coach Guy Gadowsky's deepest team to date.

First it was Brandon Biro tying the game some five minutes into the opening frame after an early Princeton goal.

Then it was Biro's right-hand man, Nate Sucese, scoring shorthanded a few minutes later to put Penn State ahead 2-1. A Chase Berger tally not long after pushed the Nittany Lions' margin to 3-1 heading into the intermission.

So it seemed that, in spite of a short bench and the prospect of winter break hours away, this particular game was well in hand. By the time Alec Marsh made it 4-1 just 17 seconds into the middle period things started to feel like a formality.

Unfortunately for Penn State, the Nittany Lions have made something of a habit of giving up big leads this season — and an eventual 4-2 lead after 40 minutes hardly qualified as one.

In turn, it was hardly a shock that a short bench, tired legs and an opportunistic Princeton offense eventually resulted in a 4-4 tie. Neither team would find the winner in the final minutes of regulation or during the five-minute overtime session.

Unlike in Big Ten play, no shootout awaited.

The tie moves the Nittany Lions to 11-5-2 and adds another game to the list of ones that — no matter the reason — they will wish they could have back. In total, Penn State has lost on three occasions already where it has been outscored by three or more goals in the third period. A 2-0 Princeton surge doesn't quite qualify, but the overarching principle and issue remains. The fix, however, is a little less clear.

Historically, Penn State finds itself more or less on par with previous campaigns heading into the break and slightly ahead of last season.

2018-19

  • 18 games, 11 wins

2017-18

  • 21 games, 11 wins

2016-17

  • 16 games, 14 wins

2015-16

  • 19 games, 13 wins

2014-15

  • 17 games, 9 wins

What will undoubtedly frustrate both players and coaches over the coming month is a very simple truth: Penn State's roster is equipped to be one of the best teams in the nation and has shown that it can be. There is an argument that this team ought to be undefeated as well. Instead it has a handful of losses that shouldn't have been. The challenge now is turning that potential into reality, and doing it before the list of games this team wants back is longer than the list of games it has won.

The good news for all: the meat of Penn State's Big Ten schedule is still ahead of it and transfer defenseman Evan Bell will hit the ice next semester.

Penn State next takes the ice at Minnesota on Jan. 4-5. The opening game of that series will air live on ESPNU with puck drop slated for 9 p.m. ET. Game two of the series will air locally on Fox Sports North while streaming on BTN2Go.



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