Penn State Hockey: 4-2 Loss To Michigan State Puts Postseason On Ropes
On paper Penn State hockey's path to the postseason still exists. Winning the next three games, and likely a first round victory in the Big Ten Tournament would do the trick. A second Big Ten Tournament title would also erase all doubt with an automatic bid.
But as the Nittany Lions skated off the ice on Friday night following a crushing 4-2 loss to Michigan State those routes seem unlikely.
Penn State is without a doubt a talented team. One that can score in bunches and put the pressure on opposing defenses. It is a style of play that has catapulted the Nittany Lions so much farther than anyone expected in the past five and soon to be six seasons.
However, Penn State has begun to learn the hard way that in the end, the little things will make the difference. It comes down to which team can make the fewest mistakes, make the most of its chances and do it each and every night.
Frankly, Penn State has not been that kind of team on a consistent enough basis.
On Friday night Michigan State would take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission. Extending it in the second period to 3-1. Penn State would continue its onslaught in the offensive zone, but the chances didn't fall and the clock continued to wind down.
Penn State cut the deficit in half on a late-game 6-on-4 as freshman Cole Hults ripped a shot that redirected off sophomore Nikita Pavlychev and past Spartan goalie John Lethemon for the 3-2 score just over three minutes to play.
Not long after Michigan State would seal the deal with an empty-net goal.
As a result the Nittany Lions face a tough road ahead. Penn State will almost certainly have to win on Saturday night before heading home for a mandatory sweep against Minnesota. Do that and anything is possible in the conference tournament.
But so late in the year it is simply hard to see that happening. Penn State has played enough hockey to know what to expect out of this team and while the Nittany Lions have a rich history of doing the unexpected, sometimes the expected, is expected, for a reason.