STATE COLLEGE — Last season, the Michigan hockey team accrued a 5-0 record against Penn State, outscoring the Nittany Lions by 26 goals. In the first meeting between the teams this season, that was not the case.
After allowing one goal in the first period off a scramble in front of the net, the Wolverines (0-1-0 Big Ten, 6-6-1 overall) entered the second period trailing. And with 15:18 remaining in the second half, the Michigan defense showed another sign of weakness.
Sophomore defenseman Nicholas Boka chased down a puck in the defensive zone and tried to send a no-look pass to a teammate, but was intercepted by Penn State forward Liam Folkes. Folkes then took the puck across the crease unimpeded and fired a backhanded goal past senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort.
From there, the Nittany Lions (1-0-0, 12-1-1) and their nation-leading offense took over. Penn State outshot Michigan, 48-29, en route to a 6-1 victory.
“It starts in the offensive zone,” said senior defenseman Nolan De Jong. “We can’t let them build off that speed. We know they’re going to be a fast, hard team, so we’ve got to be able to forecheck, be able to pinch down and kind of slow those guys up. That starts with fore and backchecking, it starts with (defense) having better gaps.”
Though Nagelvoort did give up four goals before being replaced in net by freshman Jack LaFontaine, the senior was put in tough positions throughout the game.
With 1:38 remaining in the second period, the Nittany Lions cleared a puck all the way down the ice for what was almost an icing penalty. But junior defenseman Sam Piazza was unable to get to the puck first, as Penn State forward Zach Saar maneuvered around the Wolverine blueliner and fired a pass to forward Ricky DeRosa, who buried a one-timer past Nagelvoort.
“I didn’t think our team had a good game in front of our goalie,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “I thought Zach Nagelvoort kept us in the game. But they got behind us, they got through us, our forwards weren’t picking up men. I mean, give Penn State credit. They won all the races, and they won all the battles and they got all the goals.”
The lone Michigan goal came from junior forward Tony Calderone, who has scored three goals in the last three games. But by the time that tally came, the game was already out of reach, with the score 5-1.
Beyond that, the Wolverines found it hard to get many good chances against Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones.
They will take on the Nittany Lions again Friday night, looking for the answer to Penn State’s speed and physicality that they couldn’t find on Thursday.
“We have to be a better team tomorrow night,” Berenson said. “Now they’re a good team — they’re one of the best teams in the country right now — and we didn’t measure up tonight. We’ve got to be better tomorrow. Simple as that.”