Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Fall 3-2 in Overtime, Show Promise on Opening Night
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said prior to Friday night’s season opener that the measure of success for Penn State’s inaugural season of Division I hockey wouldn't be defined by wins or losses but rather the progress of the team at a competitive level.
While the Nittany Lions lost, 3-2, to American International with only 21 seconds remaining in overtime off of a Jon Puskar deflection, the standing ovation given by the sellout crowd at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion was a reflection of the Nittany Lions' non-stop effort and determination through three periods.
"I am thrilled right now," Gadowksy said. "I thought we played great. We had no idea what we had. We had no idea if we would be ill-matched. We generated a lot of offense. Twenty shots each period is fantastic. I love the student section and to see the crowd, it was fantastic. This is why recruits and other people come here.
"This is why I came here. It is hard to say why I feel so good after an overtime loss, but I am really happy."
For Penn State, the game marked the start of Division I hockey in Happy Valley, a long awaited moment for many around college hockey.
“They sent a message tonight,” Yellow Jacket forward Puskar said. “Penn State went out there and played at a competitive level. They didn’t give up, fought for pucks. It’s great to see. We’re honored to be a part of this and everyone wants to see them be competitive.”
The Yellow Jackets took advantage of the emotion-filled opening five minutes, scoring 2:43 into the game on a power play, the goal coming from Nathan Silwinski on a rebound from an Adam Pieskach shot.
American International would hold onto the one goal lead until Nittany Lion forward Casey Bailey scored the first goal of Penn State’s Division I era 4:37 in to the second period.
“It was a great feeling,” Bailey said.
The Yellow Jackets responded six minutes later at the 10:13 mark off of a rebound by Chris Markiewicz, giving American International a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Throughout the game, Penn State racked up a significant number of shots (63) but failed to capitalize on several opportunities. Even so, the shelling of Yellow Jacket goalie Ben Meisner was good enough for one more goal, as forward Taylor Holstrom slotted a shot over Meisner’s shoulder 13:55 into the third period to square the game at 2-2.
“I didn’t expect to face that many shots,” Meisner said. “I give Penn State a lot of credit for how well they handled the puck in the offensive zone. They cycled the puck well and were strong against the boards.”
The Nittany Lions will face American International again Saturday night at 7:05 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. Penn State won’t return home to Greenberg Ice Pavilion until Nov. 3 to take on Buffalo State.