Penn State Rattled After Loss to AIC
by Mark Fischer/CHN Reporter
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. Penn State went from the new kids on the block to a national contender with a target on its back quicker than everyone thought.
No longer are the Nittany Lions (3-3-0) playing with nothing to lose. Win a Big Ten tournament championship and come one win from a trip to the Frozen Four, and that’ll change the perspective of the program for the long-term.
So too will a loss to a program searching for its first winning season since 1994.
American International (1-5-1) sent upset waves throughout college hockey with a come-from-behind 3-2 overtime win over the Nittany Lions Friday night.
A little over three minutes into the extra session, freshman forward Darius Davidson took advantage of a Penn State defensive mishap and slipped the puck past backup goaltender Chris Funkey. The away team’s locker room exploded in cheers shortly thereafter, signalling a monumental win for the Yellow Jackets.
It’s the second day in a row a Big Ten powerhouse has fallen, following Notre Dame’s 6-4 loss to Sacred Heart on Thursday. Wisconsin, favored in its game against Northern Michigan, also lost in OT, 5-4, Friday night.
Meanwhile in the basement of Pegula Ice Arena, Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky didn’t need much time to diagnose his team’s woes against the Yellow Jackets.
“We’re not playing the Penn State hockey that made us successful last year,” Gadowsky said. “We’re playing a different game that I’m not sure anybody’s good enough to play.”
The Nittany Lions didn’t have many issues entering AIC’s zone for 60 minutes. They just ran into a bunch of them when they got across the blueline.
Rather than throwing the puck on net and crashing the nets for rebounds in typical Gadowsky style, Gadowsky’s players made errant, blind passes that resulted in turnovers galore. The Nittany Lions strayed away from the style of play that led them to 160 goals last season — the most in all of college hockey — and paved the way to a trip to the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.
“I hope this a great lesson,” Gadowsky said, before praising the Yellow Jackets for their effort.
Even with the offense out of sync for most of the night, Penn State nearly completed the series sweep, following a 7-5 win on Thursday.
Tied 1-1 early in the third period, sophomore forward Nate Sucese hurled a shot from the faceoff circle that founds its way to the back of the net.
For a moment, Penn State looked like it would return to its strengths of shooting from everywhere and being rewarded with good bounces.
But the Yellow Jackets, who played a scrappy game that kept Penn State on its toes all night, tied the game up three minutes later after Dominik Florian made the upset win attainable.
“That’s a big win for them,” Gadowsky said.
For a while, that was a common line thrown at Penn State whenever the up-start Nittany Lions took down a more established program. Quite the role-reversal.