The dream season came to an end for the Penn State men’s hockey team Sunday night.
A combination of turnovers and a three-goal, second-period burst helped Denver to a 6-3 win over the Nittany Lions in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final at U.S. Bank Arena.
It lets the tournament’s No. 1 seed, the Pioneers, book a trip to the Frozen Four at Chicago’s United Center. They will face Notre Dame on April 6. Harvard and Minnesota-Duluth will meet in the other semifinal. The Fighting Irish beat UMass-Lowell 3-2 in overtime to earn their spot earlier Sunday.
Troy Terry led the Pioneer offense with three goals and two assists, with two more scores for Jarid Lukosevicius and one for Adam Plant.
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Nikita Pavlychev, Denis Smirnov and James Gobetz had the Penn State goals, putting up a good fight for a while but unable to sustain it for 60 minutes.
Peyton Jones made 22 saves but lost the duel with Denver’s Tanner Jaillet, who made 24 stops.
After Penn State fought back to tie the game early in the second, the Pioneers took command.
With end-to-end action, Ricky DeRosa had a breakaway that was denied by Jaillet, and Denver had a rush back the other way finished by Terry to put Denver up for good 6:30 into the period.
Lukosevicius netted his second nine minutes later from the slot off a Penn State turnover, then late in the period during a 4 on 4, Terry got his second on a redirection by the post.
It gave Denver a 5-2 lead heading into the second intermission, and with perhaps the nation’s best defense, it was more than enough.
Less than a minute after Penn State had two top-grade scoring chances denied, when Dylan Richard hit the cross bar and David Goodwin couldn’t convert on an open rebound, Denver got on the board. Lukosevicius skated across the front and lifted a backhand shot over Jones 3:17 into the game.
Plant made it 2-0 with a shot from the point through a traffic jam of bodies four minutes later.
Pavlychev cut the lead in half with five minutes left in the first when he and DeRosa finished a 2 on 1 shorthanded break, with the big freshman tapping the puck in from the crease behind Jaillet.
Fresh off killing a penalty to start the second, Smirnov tied the game when he swiped the puck in the Denver end, and as he skated to the side of the net banked it off a Denver player into the net.
As the third period dragged on as Denver tried to run out the clock, Gobetz gave Penn State some life with 7:20 left with a rocket from the point for his first career goal.
Terry thwarted the comeback hopes by swiping the puck and completing the hat trick into an empty net with 2:14 left, nailing down the end of the Nittany Lions’ season.