PHILADELPHIA — The second trip to the Wells Fargo Center wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the first.
More penalty trouble and some shaky defense left the Penn State men’s ice hockey team with a bitter taste as the Nittany Lions saw an early two-goal lead turn into a 5-2 loss to Vermont on Saturday evening.
A year ago, the Nittany Lions had one of the biggest highlights of its inaugural Division I season with a 4-2 win over the Catamounts in Philadelphia, thrilling a crowd of better than 19,000
In front of 17,632 mostly Penn State fans Saturday, the team again got off to a strong start with goals from Taylor Holstrom and Tommy Olczyk in the first eight minutes.
But five unanswered goals off the sticks of Jake Fallon, Nick Luukko, Matt White, Brendan Bradley and Pete Massar won it for the Catamounts (1-1-1).
“It’s an honor to play in this building, it’s an honor to play in front of them,” coach Guy Gadowsky said of the big turnout of alumni. “That’s what hurts the most right now. I wish we had a better game for them.”
The Nittany Lions (1-3-1), who were whistled for eight penalties for 27 minutes in a tie against RIT on Friday, committed nine infractions for 32 minutes on Saturday, including two five-minute majors. For the second time in as many nights, last year’s leading scorer, David Glen, was ejected with a five-minute major and a game misconduct with a blow to an opponent’s head.
“It’s easy to get down,” Gadowsky said. “We took too many penalties. We took five-minute penalties. It’s very tough to win hockey games when you’re doing that.”
They should have known it was going to be a rough night right after the puck dropped — Connor Varley drew a holding call six seconds into the game when he dragged a Vermont player to the ice on a near-breakaway off the draw.
The second period was the toughest stretch for the Nittany Lions, who were outshot 12-1 while getting whistled for 19 of those penalty minutes.
Vermont converted one of its six power play chances, while Penn State was 0 for 5. Both teams also netted shorthanded scores.
Holstrom started the scoring at 11:56 of the first period, knocking a rebound barely over the goal line after Vermont goaltender Mike Santaguida stopped Mike Williamson’s shot from the point.
On a Vermont power play 1:21 later, Santaguida stopped Ricky DeRosa on a breakaway, but Olczyk knocked the puck into an empty net for a 2-0 lead.
Casey Bailey nearly made it 3-0 less than two minutes later when he had a breakaway, but this time the stop was made by Santaguida, who finished with 31 saves.
Vermont then started its run less than 30 seconds later, when Chris McCarthy took a feed from behind the Penn State net and slid the puck across to Fallon.
After the Nittany Lions had just finished killing off both a 5-on-3 situation and the five-minute major on Glen, Luukko cashed in from the point, firing the puck through heavy traffic in front of goalie Eamon McAdam, with the puck bouncing into the net.
The freshman goaltender from Perkasie in the Philadelphia suburbs was burned again midway through the second when a long pass sailed down the ice and McAdam expected an icing call. The whistle never blew as the puck slid inches away from him, and White poked the puck into the net.
“It was probably the worst period we’ve had,” Gadowsky told the Comcast Sports Network after the period ended.
Bradley put in a rebound of his own shot 2:30 into the third for a shorthanded score, and Massar redirected a Rob Hamilton blast on a power play a little later to complete the Catamount scoring. Penn State outshot Vermont 23-6 in the period, but none of those attempts made it across the goal line.
McAdam stopped 24 shots in his second start of the season.
Penn State is back on the ice Friday night, visiting Robert Morris.