STATE COLLEGE — In Wednesday night’s 3-1 win over Penn State, the Michigan hockey team gave up 39 shots on goal — its most through its first seven games — with many coming from dangerous spots. Michigan coach Mel Pearson prophesized that the Wolverines would have to limit the Nittany Lions’ chances in order to leave State College with two wins.
On Thursday, they failed to correct this problem, as their inability to keep Penn State out of the offensive zone caught up with them. While Michigan was able to match the Nittany Lions for the first portion of the game, Penn State’s offensive prowess was eventually too much to keep up with. The Nittany Lions (1-5 overall) put 43 shots on net, leading to a 9-5 loss for the No. 7 Wolverines (5-3 overall, 3-3 Big Ten).
“I just think we gotta be more prepared,” junior defenseman Nick Blankenburg said. “Obviously it puts you on your heels a little bit when they score the first shift, but it’s how we react, and we gotta do a better job at dealing with adversity.”
After not getting on the board until the third period in Wednesday’s game, Penn State got off to a fast start on Thursday. Just 47 seconds into the game, forward Aarne Talvitie brought the puck into the offensive zone and ripped a shot on net from a tough angle that snuck over junior goaltender Strauss Mann’s shoulder.
Less than two minutes later, the Nittany Lions added another. From behind the net, forward Xander Lamppa placed a pass directly in front of the net for forward Jared Westcott, who pulled back the puck and shot it past Mann. Down by two just over two minutes into the game, Michigan had a big hole to climb out of.
“The first shot went in the net,” Michigan coach Mel Pearson said. “Bad angle shot, beat Strauss. I don’t know even how it went in, and gave them some momentum. And then obviously from that point on, they get the second one.”
But the Wolverines responded quickly. Twenty seconds after Wescott’s goal, Blankenburg put a far-side wrist shot over goaltender Oskar Autio’s blocker. Later in the period, Blankenburg scored an equalizer, this time on a power play.
Early in the second period, it looked like the Wolverines were ready to pull away. After holding Penn State scoreless for the final 17:30 of the first period and scoring two goals of their own, they took their first lead of the game on a backhand goal from sophomore defenseman Cam York.
Three minutes later, the Nittany Lions answered with a power play goal of their own, but Michigan tried to stymie Penn State’s momentum quickly when freshman forward Thomas Bordeleau potted one.
But from there, it was all Nittany Lions. The shots the Wolverines had been rejecting the night before suddenly were all finding the back of the net.
Freshman defenseman Owen Power blocked a shot with his skate, but it rolled right back to Penn State forward Christian Sarlo who found defenseman Jimmy Dowd wide open for a goal. A deflected shot just barely trickled past Mann, and freshman goaltender Erik Portillo — who replaced Mann for his first collegiate appearance halfway through the second period after the Nittany Lions’ sixth goal — suffered a similar fate on a rebound.
Three of Penn State’s five second period goals came on the man advantage, as Michigan failed to kill a single penalty in the period.
“When you score goals, then you get momentum, and we couldn’t kill a penalty,” Pearson said. “They get momentum from that. So we’ve got to learn to keep control, keep our cool and just play the game. We have to stay on the ice.”
The Wolverines trailed 7-4 by the time the second period ended, having been outshot 32-15 by the Nittany Lions up to that point. Michigan looked utterly defeated.
While the Wolverines held Penn State scoreless for the first 18 minutes of the third period and scored one of their own — before the Nittany Lions scored an empty-netter and a late power play goal — it didn’t matter. Michigan’s goaltending could not bail it out early and its offense couldn’t get it back in the game later on, resulting in the Wolverines’ worst loss of the season against a previously-winless Penn State team.
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