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Penn State Hockey: Nittany Lions Open Season With 4-2 Victory Over No. 16 St Lawrence

by on October 06, 2016 10:50 PM

One victory won't change the landscape of college hockey, but if the Nittany Lions were looking to prove that their 20+ win season in 2015-16 wasn't a mistake, a 4-2 victory over No. 16 St Lawrence went a long way in proving their point.

But like most Penn State hockey games the victory didn't come without some level of drama as the Saints opened the scoring to put a bit of a damper on an otherwise enthusiastic Pegula Ice Arena crowd. Drew Smolcynski slammed the puck past Penn State freshman netminder Peyton Jones in his debut in goal to give the visitors a 1-0 margin. Jones became the first Penn State goalie in program history to win in his debut.

And to his credit Jones was otherwise solid on the evening making 28 saves and coming up with more than a few crucial stops along the way, perhaps more importantly, playing composed despite more than a few St Lawrence assaults through 60 minutes of play.

Dylan Richard added his name to the scoresheet batting home a bouncing puck that took several odd hops in the area of St Lawrence goalie Kyle Hayton's crease before Richard sent it to the back of the net. Hayton was solid all evening as well, making 35 saves in the loss. But that goal was as scrappy as it comes, but a big moment for the injury plagued senior on Penn State's third line.

"That goal was a long time coming." Richard said with a smile following the game.

David Thompson made it 2-1 a few minutes later taking a beautiful cross-ice pass from Liam Folkes, wristing the puck into the back of the net to give Penn State the one-goal lead heading into the first intermission.

“His vision was excellent,” Gadowsky said of Folkes’ pass. “That’s a tough play for a righty (right-handed shot) to see and he saw it and make a great play. … That was a hockey player’s play right there.”

It was a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush by Andrew Sturtz and Alec Marsh in the second period that gave Penn State the 3-1 lead as Sturtz backhanded a juicy rebound into the net to take the lead with just seconds remaining on the penalty.

Predictably, St Lawrence didn't fade off into the night, controlling much of the play in the third period before Michael Laidley swerved through defenders to go top-shelf over Jones early in the final frame. From there it was an onslaught in front of goal but an effective defensive evening for the Nittany Lions who were fortunate on a few occasions but equally as productive in their own end.

“I thought they were pretty composed,” Gadowsky said of the defensive unit. “Maybe that was a factor in how Peyton was playing.”

But like all good upsets it was an empty net goal that let Penn State fans breath a sigh of relief as freshman Blake Gober rushed down the far wing past a diving St Lawrence defender to tap the puck into the open net. The goal with just over 12 seconds in regulation coming only a few moments prior to St Lawrence's own close chances to tie the game.

Both teams are back in action on Friday night at 7:00 PM.

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