UNIVERSITY PARK — It was another early deficit for the Penn State men’s hockey team, another furious comeback, and another rally that fell short.
One more Nittany Lion near-miss.
Trailing by three goals, Penn State came all the way back to tie it in the third period before a late goal gave No. 15 Union a 4-3 win Saturday night at the Pegula Ice Arena.
Max Novak netted the winner with 6:50 left to squelch the comeback hopes.
“I’m hoping we had a little desperation, (were) a little quicker to the puck,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I’m hoping they didn’t feel the game was over. I think we’ll find out tomorrow but I’m proud we were able to come back on a very, very tough team.”
Penn State (3-6-1) also had rallied from 3-0 down against No. 12 UMass-Lowell two weeks ago only to fall short 3-2.
The Nittany Lions and Dutchmen meet again at 7 p.m. Sunday.
“We’ve got to play a full 60 (minutes),” said defenseman Patrick Koudys, who scored Penn State’s second goal. “Tomorrow, that’s what we plan on doing.”
“If we would have started playing that well in the first, we wouldn’t have had to worry about that,” said forward Kenny Brooks, whose first goal of the year tied the game.
Freshman Eric Sheid also found the net — his team-leading fifth goal of the year — while Matthew Skoff made a number of spectacular saves among his 30 stops in the loss.
Kevin Sullivan, Jeff Taylor and Daniel Ciampini scored early for the Dutchmen (7-3-2).
What may have helped start the comeback attempt was a series for Skoff at the other end of the ice.
Skoff also turned back a flurry of tries by Union about six minutes into the third period, punctuated by losing his stick and diving across the goal mouth to block a shot.
“He bailed us a little bit,” Gadowsky said. “And as we got a little bit of momentum, the bench certainly seemed to change in energy.”
A little over a minute later Koudys turned the momentum even more in the Lions’ favor, unleashing a rocket from the blue line over Colin Stevens’ shoulder and into the top shelf to pull within 3-2 with 12:47 left and pick up his first goal as a Nittany Lion.
“Shied made a nice pass, I just tried to walk, get a nice shot on net,” Koudys said. “We had guys going to the net, crashing, just hoping for something to work out and it worked out nicely.”
“I thought that was a huge goal by ‘Dys,” Gadowsky said. “That gave us some belief.”
Just over three minutes later Brooks tied it, redirecting a perfect feed from the corner from Taylor Holstrom, igniting the crowd even more.
Union silenced the crowd when Daniel Ciampini dove to slide the puck over to Novak for a one-timer past Skoff.
The momentum also was bolstered by Shied’s power-play goal with 22.6 seconds left in the second period thanks to some sparkling skating.
He slipped through the Union defense at the blue line along the right-hand boards, hugged the boards all the way to the end line before a sharp cut in, swooping toward the net and slipping the puck past Stevens.
“When you look at climbing a hill, two is a lot easier than three,” Gadowsky said. “… Obviously it was big. It gave us a little bit of life and made the hill look a lot smaller.”
Stevens finished with 29 saves.
Penn State outshot Union 13-8 in the third period as part of the comeback.
Following Sullivan’s goal in the first, the Dutchmen kept up the early pressure with Taylor’s score 1:18 into the second for the 2-0 lead, ripping a slap shot from the point.
Ciampini made it 3-0 with 4:07 left in the second when he took a long lead pass from Shayne Gostisbehere and broke in on Skoff. The goalie stopped the first try but the rebound was right back on Ciampini’s stick as he spun around slipped the shot between his legs and under Skoff.
It was another hole the Nittany Lions found themselves in, and again the hole was a little too deep.
“You can’t expect to win when you don’t come out ready to go,” Skoff said.
“You have to learn how to win games like that,” Gadowsky said. “It’s a good start that we can get there, but it’s a fine line in those types of games, having success and closing it out.”
Notes: Following Sunday’s game, Penn State fans will have to wait a while to see another game. The next home game is Jan. 12 with No. 1 Minnesota. Road trips to Wisconsin to start Big Ten play next weekend and the Three Rivers Classic at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh at the end of December are next on the schedule. … Gadowsky said freshman Eamon McAdam will start in goal Sunday.