The Penn State men's hockey team (8-11-0) put on an impressive performance this past weekend, splitting a pair of exhibition games against the United States U-18 National Team at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. Team USA is composed of the best hockey players in the nation born in 1995 -- or a year after Penn State's eight freshmen.
Team USA coach Don Granato likes what he saw from Penn State this past weekend.
Recently Team USA defeated the Michigan Wolverines, a perennial college hockey powerhouse, and tied the current No.1 ranked team, Minnesota. Every member of Team USA will be playing college hockey at an established powerhouse program, and some, like Michigan commit J.T. Compher and Minnesota commit Hudson Fasching, are expected by many to be selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft.
Coming away with a win against a young and talented team where others fell short means a lot for a Penn State hockey program only in its first season of Division I play.
“It means we’re going the right direction,” said Penn State Coach Guy Gadowsky. “A lot of positives that come out of this weekend. I’m very happy with it.”
On Friday night the Nittany Lions came back from down two goals to defeat Team USA 5-2. The eventual game-winner came off the stick of freshman defenseman Joseph Lordo, who ripped a slap shot from just in front of the blue line on a power play with 14:18 left in the game.
Penn State added two insurance goals later in the third period. With 6:48 left, junior forward Michael McDonagh found sophomore captain Tommy Olyczyk for Penn State’s fourth goal of the night, and freshman forward Kenny Brooks scored an empty-netter with seven seconds on the clock to ice the game.
Michigan commit Tyler Motte opened the scoring, assisted by Fasching with 11:13 left in the first period. Then in the opening minute of the second, Compher netted a wrist shot from the top of the right circle.
After the early Team USA barrage, Penn State turned it around when senior forward George Saad scored off of a rebound that popped over the head of Team USA goaltender Thatcher Demko (Boston College) in the third minute of the period to cut the deficit to one. Then, with 9:25 left in the frame, Brooks scored his first of two when he knocked in a rebound to tie the game after a shot from freshman Curtis Loik.
Saturday night was a different story for the Nittany Lions as they fell to team USA 3-0. However, the score was not at all indicative of how closely the game was played.
After a scoreless first segment, junior forward Taylor Holstrom was given a game misconduct for verbal encounter halfway through the second. Then with 1:45 left in the frame Sean Malone (Harvard) netted a one-timer to give Team USA a 1-0 lead.
Penn State kept the game close the whole way, but was unable to break through. Demko turned around his performance from the previous night and pushed aside 25 Nittany Lion shots en route to a shutout.
Team USA didn’t break the game open until the clock ticked under four minutes to play in the third when Shane Eiserman (New Hampshire) fed Mike McCarron (Western Michigan) in the slot from the left corner for an easy goal. Then with :58 seconds left Evan Allen (Michigan) iced the game with a wrist shot from center ice for an empty net goal.
Both of this weekend’s games were played in front of sellout crowds of 1300 at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. Given the split result, it's clear to many, including Team USA coach Don Granato, that Penn State hockey has a bright future.
“Wow -- great to see the number of people here for Penn State hockey,” said Granato. “I’m excited for Penn State … I think this is a great market for hockey.”