Six days ago, the Michigan hockey team secured its first sweep of the season over then-No.11 Penn State. The sweep was important — not only did it close out a season at Yost Ice Arena and honor the roster’s seniors, but it also secured wins for the Wolverines in the last games the two teams would play before facing off in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.
But the 15th-ranked Nittany Lions (11-9-1 Big Ten, 22-11-2 overall) wouldn’t accept a third-straight loss to the Wolverines, capitalizing on early scoring to beat Michigan, 4-1. For Penn State, the win meant an advancement to the second round of the Big Ten Tournament to face Minnesota at Joe Louis Arena on Friday.
For the Wolverines (6-13-2, 13-19-3), though, it meant their season would come to an end.
“You knew it would be a hard-fought game,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “We just played Penn State two games at Yost last weekend, and I thought the team that got the best start tonight was going to have the advantage, and obviously they took advantage. They scored I think with six seconds left in that penalty and then scored a late goal, last-minute goal in the first period, and we just couldn’t answer the bell.
“It was a tough night to get things started offensively. Their goalie was good when he had to be. And give Penn State credit, they played hard the whole game and they played the right way. We just weren’t good enough.”
The first period started with both teams on even footing. But the Nittany Lions soon began to dominate, and, by the end of the first period, they had three goals on the scoreboard to show for it.
After freshman forward Jake Slaker was called for charging, Penn State found itself with a range of power-play opportunities. Forward Brandon Biro managed to control the puck behind senior goaltender Zach Nagelvoort’s net, and after initially looking to circle back to the other end, he passed it to forward Liam Folkes. The ensuing shot put Penn State ahead with 9:50 left in the first period.
Just over two minutes later, though, the Nittany Lions recorded another goal when Ricky DeRosa broke up a Michigan pass, and the puck eventually landed in the hands of Nate Sucese, who finished it off for the second goal at the 13:24 mark.
With 29 seconds remaining in the period, forward David Goodwin scored again to put the Nittany Lions up 3-0 at the end of the first period.
The offensive initiative from Penn State didn’t end there, though. Defenseman Vince Pedrie jumpstarted the second period with a goal just over a minute in, and the Nittany Lions were playing with a four-goal lead.
“The message (going into the second period) was (to) try to keep doing what we were doing and stay the same,” said Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky. “Unfortunately for us, I think Michigan came out a lot stronger, they took a few chances that paid off and were able to generate a lot more shots.”
The Wolverines almost wound up on the board when freshman forward Adam Winborg forced a shot on Penn State goaltender Peyton Jones that senior forward Alex Kile cleaned up, but Michigan was offsides and the goal was waived.
It wasn’t until the 10:19 point in the second period that the Wolverines finally managed to land on the scoreboard. Junior forward Tony Calderone’s shot sent the puck into the air, and freshman forward James Sanchez deflected it into the net, making the score 4-1 headed into the third period.
Michigan began to lay on shots, but its late start to the game proved to be destructive. Sophomore forward Cooper Marody tried to capitalize on an open net when Jones found himself trying to cover the puck, but the shot hit the post instead.
A late power play occurred when forward Chase Berger landed in the penalty box for hooking, but the opportunity didn’t result in a goal. By the time Berger stepped back on the ice, 1:30 remained in the third period. And despite an additional power play, no goals would be scored, and the hopeful weekend wouldn’t be big for the Wolverines like the sweep had been last weekend. There was no win, no celebration for the seniors, no momentum heading into the next weekend. Just a 4-1 loss that knocked the Wolverines out of the tournament.
“I think it’s extremely emotional,” Calderone said. “I mean, obviously for the seniors, but even for us. I think as juniors we’ve only got one more year left, and it’s always easy to say, ‘We’ve got next year, we’ve got next year.’ But it’s going to be us next year if we don’t pull it together this summer and come back with a better season next year.”