The Penn State men’s hockey team is alive and well.
Needing desperately to get a win, the Nittany Lions used a three-goal first period to put them at ease.
Liam Folkes, Nate Sucese and David Goodwin netted the early scores in a 4-1 victory over Michigan in the opening round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.
“Because of what we did in the first, we put ourselves in a good spot,” coach Guy Gadowsky told the media in Detroit.
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Penn State (22-11-2), which set a program record for wins in a season, will face regular-season conference champion Minnesota in the semifinals at 8 p.m. Friday.
The win improved the team’s chances of making the NCAA tournament. The Lions remain among the nation’s top teams, with the bracket announced Sunday, and provided payback for a Wolverine sweep between the teams last weekend.
“Everyone was just really excited to play them on neutral ice,” Goodwin said. “Everyone just had more of a killer instinct tonight.”
Also, Ohio State beat Michigan State 6-3 and will face Wisconsin in the other semifinal at 5:30 p.m.
Vince Pedrie netted the other goal for Penn State while Peyton Jones made 30 saves, a few quite spectacular, in the win.
“Defensemen, forwards getting guys out from in front of the net, letting me see the puck,” Jones said. “It’s them doing a good job letting me see the puck.”
James Sanchez had the lone goal for the Wolverines (13-19-3) and Zach Nagelvoort also made 30 saves.
The first period was a big one for the Nittany Lions, made possible by some nifty passing on all three scores.
The first saw Brandon Biro spin away from a defenseman behind the net as Folkes swept past, taking the feed and slipping the puck between Nagelvoort and the near post. Folkes was put into the lineup after missing last Saturday’s meeting between the teams in favor of Zach Saar.
About 3 1/2 minutes later on a rush up the ice, freshman Denis Smirnov found a passing lane to Sucese — though it almost looked as if Smirnov was shooting — with Sucese redirecting the puck into an open side of the net for his 15th score of the year.
A turnover led to Alec Marsh sending a cross-ice pass to Goodwin for the final tally of the first, in the period’s final minute, with the senior captain finding a gap under Nagelvoort’s arm. The goal was the 11th of Goodwin’s season and 44th of his career, one behind Casey Bailey’s team record.
“That was definitely the start we wanted,” Goodwin said of the three-goal period. “We felt we took the pedal off the metal a little bit in the second, but after a good first period it put us in a good spot to be successful the rest of the game.”
There was one big loss in the opening period, however. Andrew Sturtz, whose 21 goals leads the team, took a hard check from Michigan’s Alex Kile behind the net and staggered to the bench and then the locker room. Gadowsky didn’t have any information on the injury after the game.
Pedrie made it 4-0 1:03 into the second period, firing a rocket off a faceoff.
Michigan got on the board a little later when Sanchez knocked in a rebound on a power play.
Notes: The game might have been coach Red Berenson’s last as Wolverines coach, although he has not said publicly what his plans are. There has been speculation about his future for the past four seasons. ... Minnesota won all four regular-season meetings with Penn State.