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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Obliterate Union 10-3 For First NCAA Tournament Win

by on March 25, 2017 8:50 PM

CINCINNATI, Ohio. 

Sitting behind a microphone Union coach Rick Bennett looked off towards the back of the media area as he talked.

"If I didn't say [Penn State was] very good after 10-3 you'd be looking at me crosseyed wouldn't you?" he said with a brief smile. "Fast, tenacious, put pucks to the net like we knew they were going to try to. That's a team that has a lot of freshman and is going to be a powerhouse for years to come here. They've done a nice job."

And Bennett would know, he's two years removed from an NCAA Tournament title and his current roster isn't short on future NHL talent.

10-3. 

It certainly didn't start that way. Brandon Biro's goal opened the scoring 11:05 into the game, a brief moment in history as the Nittany Lions found the back of the net for the first time ever in the NCAA Tournament. It took just a minute for Union tor respond though, Brendan Taylor picking up his second of the year, squeaking it past Penn State goalie Peyton Jones.

But then Chase Berger scored 74 seconds after that, Penn State suddenly back ahead 2-1. It was a lead that didn't last long, a frantic first period pace continuing as Spencer Foo navigated the defense on a power play just 24 seconds following Berger's tally. 

After 20 minutes a 2-2 score the end result of what everyone expected and the 20 minute break was what everyone needed to catch their breath. A near-frantic pace full of energy, shots and offense. The crowd of 3,917 may not have been the largest to watch a sporting event on Saturday, but they might have been getting the best bang for their buck.

The song and dance continued in the second period as Kris Myllari rocketed a shot past Alex Sakellaropoul to make it 3-2 in favor of the Nittany Lions. Like clockwork Foo responded in kind just six minutes later to tie the game for the third time.

So nobody really saw what was coming next, Berger slotting home his second and then Dylan Richard pouncing on a rebound to put Penn State ahead 5-3 late in the second period.

If any program is aware of the dangers of sitting comfortably though it's Penn State. The Nittany Lions have spent much of their brief history erasing deficits against teams that enjoyed the luxury of being ahead a goal or three. So there would be no relaxing in the third period, Penn State sitting 20 minutes from its first-ever NCAA Tournament win and a date with the No. 1 overall seed in Denver. 

But what happened next was unexpected, even by Penn State's high-volume offensive standards.

It was Nate Sucese first just 1:10 into the final frame, blowing a comfortable lead into a big one 6-3 looming large as the clocked ticked onward.

Then Denis Smirnov, a snipe over the shoulder to make it a touchdown at 7-3.

Then Nikita Pavlychev for a back-to-back Russian attack.

Then Andrew Sturtz shorthanded on the breakaway.

Then Sucese one final time.

10 goals, 33 shots, 1 NCAA Tournament win, the first for Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky, his last appearance resulting in a heartbreaking overtime loss after the game was tied in the final second.

"It’s nicer than losing, I’ll tell you that," Gadowsky said with a smile far wider than his counterpart's. "It’s nice to be a part of this team. I’m thrilled to be a part of this team and feel very fortunate."

Up next, Penn Sate will take the ice on Sunday night with a Frozen Four on the line. The Nittany Lions going up against a Denver team that boasts the No. 1 overall seed and fairly handily took care of Michigan Tech earlier in the day to the tune of 5-2 earlier in the day. Sunday night's puck-drop is scheduled for 6 PM on ESPNU.

Penn State will take the challenge though, and if Saturday's performance and the Big Ten Tournament victory is any indication, the Nittany Lions will be up to the task.

But for a few hours the program will enjoy the moment in history.

"It’s very special," Penn State captain David Goodwin said. "It’s something I’ve dreamt about, to be honest. I don’t know, it will feel a lot better with a win against Denver tomorrow."



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