The Penn State hockey team had seen three hat tricks in its four-plus-year history.
The team nearly had two on Friday night.
The Nittany Lions may have found a magical scoring combination in the process.
Playing on the same line for the first time, Denis Smirnov scored three goals and Andrew Sturtz had two goals and an assist as the No. 10 Nittany Lions beat Arizona State 7-4 at Pegula Ice Arena.
“Our line was going tonight,” Smirnov said. “It was nice.”
The hat trick was the fourth in team history, and gives Smirnov eight goals and 20 points on the season. He entered the game leading the nation in scoring among freshmen and ranked sixth among all scorers.
Sturtz, who now leads the team with 10 goals, and Smirnov were joined by center Dylan Richard to give the Nittany Lions a potent offensive combination.
“That’s something we really wanted to try,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “They looked very good.”
Sturtz returned to the lineup after missing last weekend’s games with a lower body injury.
“I felt good,” Sturtz said. “Took a couple shifts to get my wind back, but as the game progressed I definitely felt like my old self.”
Nate Sucese and Alec Marsh also scored for Penn State (10-1-1), which is unbeaten in its last 10 games. Peyton Jones made 22 saves for the win.
Tyler Busch, Steenn Pasichnuk, Brett Gruber and Jacob Stridsberg scored for the Sun Devils (2-10), in just their second season as a Division I program. Joey Daccord and Ryland Pashovitz minded the Arizona State net.
Smirnov struck fast for his first goal, a mere 58 seconds into the game by knocking in a rebound of a Sturtz attempt.
After Busch tied it for Arizona State, the Nittany Lions scored again on their first power play of the night, with Sturtz redirecting a Vince Pedrie shot from the circle.
Later in the first, Sturtz scored right off Richard winning a faceoff, then 11 seconds later Smirnov redirected Nikita Pavlychev’s shot to chase Daccord.
“Playing hard,” Sturtz said. “That’s what really got us what we got tonight.”
Pasichnuk batted in a rebound out of the air late in the busy first for the Sun Devils.
Smirnov completed his hat trick 3:29 into the second, snaring the puck alone in front of the net and taking his time to pick his spot.
After Gruber scored late in the second and Stridsberg hit the net early in the third to pull the Sun Devils within a goal, a long rebound bounced to Sucese with 6:44 left to take the lead back to two and give him seven on the season. Marsh closed the scoring in the final minute with his first of the year.
Sturtz, however, couldn’t join in the hat trick party.
“Any time you get in a situation like that it’s on your mind,” Sturtz said. “I’m just happy to come away with (a win). … It’s not really about scoring three goals to me. If I can be consistent and score one every night, that’s more important to me than scoring three in a game. It’s really nice to see Marshy get one toward the end of the game there.”
Notes: The teams meet again at 3 p.m. Saturday before the Nittany Lions take the holiday week off, then start Big Ten play hosting Michigan on Dec. 2-3. … With students starting Thanksgiving break, the “Roar Zone” was filled with the general public. … The Sturtz and Smirnov goals 11 seconds apart was the fastest back-to-back goals in team history. The old mark was 16 seconds in 2014 against Bentley by Taylor Holstrom and Eric Scheid. … The last hat trick was netted by Tommy Olczyk last season against Princeton.