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Penn State Hockey Opens Second Half of Season with Win over Niagara

by on January 03, 2020 9:53 PM

No. 8 Penn State hockey (14-6-0, 8-4-0 Big Ten) opened the second half of its 2019-20 season with a 3-2 victory against Niagara (4-10-3, 4-5-3-2 AHA) on Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.

Nikita Pavlychev, Sam Sternschein and Connor McMenamin got the goals for the Nittany Lions, who hadn’t played since Dec. 14. Guy Gadowsky’s team controlled the flow of play for most of the game — particularly in the first and second periods — and it emerged victorious in its first game of the new decade.

Senior goalie Peyton Jones registered 24 saves in the win, his 71st as a Nittany Lion.

How It Happened

Penn State got off to a strong start on Friday night when Nikita Pavlychev powered to the goal on a partial breakaway and buried a shot past Niagara goaltender Chad Veltri. Paul DeNaples teed up the big center with a gorgeous stretch pass from his own blue line, and Pavlychev made no mistake with a decisive wrist shot over Veltri’s blocker. Sam Sternschein was credited with the secondary assist on the senior’s third of the year.

 

The Icedogs evened things up less than five minutes later thanks to Luke Edgerton’s second tally of the season. Niagara made a strong play in the neutral zone to win possession of the puck, and Edgerton capped off the play by besting Peyton Jones over his shoulder to even the game at 1-1 with 10:46 to play in the opening frame.

The first period came to a close with the two sides deadlocked at 1-1, but the Nittany Lions held a 14-6 advantage in shots through the opening 20 minutes.

Sam Sternschein continued his excellent 2019-20 season by taking advantage of a tripping penalty on Niagara’s Noah Delmas early in the second period to give his team a 2-1 lead. Sternschein buried his 10th goal of the year after helpers from Brandon Biro and Cole Hults 3:08 into the middle frame.

Penn State maintained its slim one-goal lead heading into the second intermission, but not because of a lack of trying. The team out-shot Niagara 13-9 throughout the second period — with perhaps its best chance of the frame aside from the goal coming off the stick of Max Sauvé. The sophomore was denied by Veltri.

Niagara began the third period with 1:55 of carry-over power play time after Sauvé took an interference penalty with 4.6 ticks left in the second, but Penn State’s penalty kill responded to the challenge and denied the Icedogs.

Freshman Connor McMenamin gave the Nittany Lions some much-appreciated breathing room with his second of the season late in the third period. McMenamin powered to the net and scored a nifty goal to beat Veltri with 4:42 remaining in the third period, but Niagara got the goal right back 24 seconds later.

 

The Icedogs got a favorable bounce after Ryan Naumovski fluttered the puck towards Peyton Jones’ cage. Noah Delmas was credited with his first of the year on the play, but it didn’t matter. Penn State’s defense provided one final push to give the Nittany Lions the win.

Takeaways

  • It took Sam Sternschein a while to settle in as a key cog for Penn State, but he’s turned out to be a reliable goal-scoring option for Guy Gadowsky’s team this year. The junior has scored 10 goals this season — a total that actually leads the Nittany Lions through 20 games played.
  • Penn State has developed a reputation as a high-flying offensive team since joining the Division I ranks, but the Nittany Lions put together another excellent defensive performance to begin the new decade. Aside from one tough bounce on Noah Delmas’ late goal, Penn State's defense was phenomenal in shutting down the Niagara attack as it made a late comeback bid.
  • Guy Gadowsky’s team won Friday’s game without the services of a pair of key left wings. Junior Alex Limoges and sophomore Aarne Talvitie sat out on Friday night for undisclosed reasons, and they were replaced by Max Sauvé and Connor McMenamin, respectively, on the injured players’ typical line assignments.

What’s Next?

Penn State and Niagara will wrap up its weekend set at 6 p.m. on Saturday, January 4. You can watch the game online with a subscription to BTN+.



Mikey Mandarino is a staff writer for Onward State.
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