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So, Penn State has not played a Top 10 team this season -- though Wisconsin may be one by the team those teams meet later in the season -- but nevertheless, against four teams from the "power conferences," Penn State is now 3-3 on the season after the split with Michigan State. The Nittany Lions were right there with MSU all weekend, even when falling behind 2-0 in this game. Taylor Holstrom, a Mercyhurst transfer, scored what proved to be the game winner, his sixth goal in as many games, capping the comeback for Penn State, which put up a whopping 50 shots.
"(Goalie Matthew Skoff) had a very shaky start and came back really strong," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. "It's a great win for us. This (game) is a lot of fun and it's a great place to win. I can't say at the start of the year I ever expected this, so I'm very happy. ... I give the guys a lot of credit -- they've surprised us a few times this year. This is certainly one of them. ... This is why you go to the Big Ten."
Skoff is friends with Michigan State freshman goalie Jake Hildebrand, who is from Butler, Pa.
Penn State once again showed an ability to rise to the occasion. Just a few days after losing to D-III Neumann, the nascent program got its second win against a "major" D-I team, with both of them coming in NHL arenas. The other was against Ohio State at the Pittsburgh holiday tournament, and this was in Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center, in front of a sellout crowd. This game was scheduled long ago, but because of the lockout, it wound up being the nightcap to an NHL/NCAA doubleheader, the first NCAA game in the building -- where the Frozen Four will be in 2014.
Penn State has had some nice wins this year, but wasn't able to get any against Holy Cross this weekend. The Lions lost in OT on Friday, then came up with a rare clunker on Saturday. Penn State was called for five straight penalties in the first period, the last of which carried over into the second, when Holy Cross finally scored a PPG to go up 2-0. The Crusaders stayed more or less in control of there. The final total was 10 power plays allowed by Penn State, while it only had four.
Friday, Air Force dominated the scoreboard, but coach Frank Serratore was not happy with the way his team played. This was a reversal, with Penn State scoring two empty netters to account for the four-goal margin, but Serratore was happier. “We were more dialed in tonight and we had more quality shots,” Serratore said. “We deserved a better fate tonight. Last night, our goalie, Jason Torf, stole the game for us. Tonight, their goalie stole the game. It is unfortunate because we played better as a team and didn’t win. Sometimes that happens in hockey. We gave up three even-strength goals tonight and you just can’t do that. When the score was 3-1, we needed to get the next one and we couldn’t get it. We have to find a way to score some goals.”
On the Penn State side, it continues to impress with the way it can handle solid NCAA programs. It's fun to watch them learn as they go, and not back down after a tough defeat and just accept that they are a first-year program. "I'm pumped right now," Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said. "This is a good step for us. This is a very good program. They've been to the NCAAs 5 of the last 6 years, and we played with them. That's a very good feeling." ... The team played the weekend without standout freshman defenseman Mark Yanis, who broke his ankle last week. "We got to the net. Not in the first period, but we did later ... We had several second opportunities. I don't think we had that at all (Friday) night. ... I didn't think our 'D' played very well (Friday), but I thought tonight they were excellent. ... Our 'D' really responded from last night. I don't think they were proud of themselves -- I think tonight they should be."
Penn State is off to a strong start in its Division I infancy. After stumbling out of the gate against American International, it bounced back with an OT win -- then, after losing to Buffalo State, has reeled off wins against RIT, Army and now Sacred Heart. Coach Guy Gadowsky wasn't sure whether his young team, filled with solid recruits but very raw, would be ready right away. It's not beating any Top 10 teams to be sure, but the teams it's beating are solid Atlantic Hockey teams, not pushovers. In this game, six different players scored, and again the Nittany Lions had a strong third period. "It's something we strive for," Gadowsky said. "We're a high-tempo team. We can't rely on one or two lines to do that. So when see contributions from all the lines, it's fun to roll lines and play high tempo and that's what you saw tonight."
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