It looked like Connecticut was going to spoil opening night for the Penn State men’s ice hockey team.
David Goodwin had other ideas.
Goodwin knocked home a rebound with 48.3 seconds on the clock and the Nittany Lions and Huskies played to a 2-2 tie Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
“We felt confident the whole game,” Goodwin said. “We just tried to stick with the positives, stay confident. We went out there and we were just saying ‘We’ve got to get it to the net and start whacking.’ I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t any desperation in our play.”
Trevor Gerling had deflected in a shot with 4:46 left to put UConn up 2-1.
Matthew Skoff made 26 saves starting in goal for Penn State.
Tommy Olczyk scored on a penalty shot for the Nittany Lions, who never led.
Patrick Kirtland had the other goal for the Huskies, who return to Pegula Ice Arena for a rematch at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“Often the first night it’s tough to determine what’s going to happen,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I like how we came out. I think some guys started to get a little synergy. There wasn’t a lot of flow or tempo to the game, but I thought we did some good things.”
The teams went to a shootout as an exhibition, although it did not count.
UConn scored twice with goals from Evan Richardson and Shawn Pauly, while Casey Bailey was the only Lion to convert out of three tries. It was the first shootout conversion in program history after Penn State was 0 for 9 over three games last season.
“We want that experience, we want to practice it,” Gadowsky said. “At the same time, it’s funny. It doesn’t mean anything, but it feels — you certainly want to win it. It does not feel as good as a tie should.”
With Skoff stepping off the ice seconds earlier to give Penn State an extra attacker, the Nittany Lions swarmed the net and Goodwin pounced on a rebound after earlier tries by Patrick Koudys and Dylan Richard.
“I was just kind of whackin’ and grindin’ in front,” Goodwin said. “Honestly I saw the ‘Roar Zone’ put their hands up before anything, I saw that, and I put my hands up and I scored. It was a good sequence of events.”
Gadowsky gave a lot of credit for the late goal to the student section right behind the net.
“The student body was awesome tonight,” Gadowsky said. “I think they had a lot to do with us tying it up late.”
Kirtland broke the ice on the season with a wrist shot from the slot, beating Skoff low after Brent Norris and Joona Kunnas had worked the puck up along the boards.
Olczyk tied it five minutes later on a penalty shot, skating in slow on Nichols and poking it into the net.
“My dad’s probably going to tell me I came in too slow,” Olczyk said, referring to his father, former Penguins coach Eddie Olczyk. “… Something told me, I knew what I was going to do the whole time, and I just figured, come in a little slower, get the goalie thinking. I knew what I was going do. He didn’t know what I was going to do.”
The senior drew the chance when he was hauled down on a breakaway.
“I missed a lot of breakaways last year,” said Olczyk, who missed on the team’s only penalty shot last season. “It’s nice to score a goal in the first game, definitely get a little monkey off the back, I don’t have to worry about it now.”
The scoring was quiet until late in the third, when Johnny Austin wound up a slap shot from the blue line that went through a maze of players and was deflected by Gerling past Skoff.
The game certainly had its ragged, first-game-of-the-season moments.
Midway through the first period, a Nittany Lion in the neutral zone made a pass back to a teammate who had already left that spot, and the puck fluttered all the way back to Skoff. Moments later, another Lion made another bad pass for a giveaway, and then seconds later three Lions all skated practically shoulder-to-shoulder just to Skoff’s left.
Skoff also made several big saves to keep the Nittany Lions in the game, including a breakaway by Brent Norris late in the second period.
“I felt good. I felt pretty confident early,” Skoff said. “I know in the first period we were kind of buzzin’ so I didn’t get much action. But from the start I felt connected.”
His counterpart at the other end, Rob Nichols, was equally impressive and made 33 saves. The best of which was stopping Bailey from point-blank range when it appeared Bailey had an open side of the net for an easy goal late in the first period.
“If we got the first goal I think things would have been different,” Gadowsky said. “I think they knew they were playing pretty well. I think the shots were (13-5) … in the first period. I think they thought they were playing well. And when they got the first goal ad you’re playing from behind a little bit, that’s when you start pressing.”