It may be almost the end of the season for the Penn State ice hockey team, but the squad is still finding ways to post a few more program firsts.
David Glen recorded the first official hat trick in the Nittany Lions’ brief Division I history and goaltender Matthew Skoff made the lead stand up at the other end with the program’s first home shutout in a 4-0 win over Alabama-Huntsville on Friday night at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
Max Gardiner netted the other goal for the Nittany Lions (11-13), who have won four straight including exhibition games against Ohio last weekend. The contest matched the two lone independent programs in NCAA Division I.
For Glen, it was some official history after first turning the trick unofficially earlier in the season. Glen had a hat trick in an 8-3 win against club program Arizona State on Nov. 30.
“It’s not something I focus on or come in focused on,” said the freshman. “All the credit to my linemates. They made heck-of-a-plays out there to open up space and give me looks at it. It’s an honor and I’m just happy to be part of it.”
At the other end, Skoff made 23 saves for his own place in program history. It was his second shutout of the season, also getting one at Fredonia State in December. The goalie was helped tremendously by the defense in front of him, which blocked 20 more Charger attempts.
The defensive effort was even more impressive after the team began the night with only five defensemen in the lineup, then lost Joseph Lordo to give them four by the third period. Luke Juha, Nate Jensen and Brian Dolan already were missing, and Kenny Brooks played on the blue line in the third.
“That speaks volumes, especially playing with only five D,” Skoff said. “The forwards stepped up as well. Just getting in front of shots, taking away their space at the point, it makes my job a lot easier.”
The highlight save came with 7 minutes left in the second period, when Huntsville’s Doug Reid picked up the puck just after jumping out of the penalty box, with the perfect timing leading to a breakaway. Skoff, however, was up to the challenge.
“I was really debating on trying to go out and play it,” Skoff said. “Throughout the game I didn’t make very good decisions playing the puck, so I just decided to stay back and just play the breakaway.”
Skoff’s play left Chargers coach Kurt Kleinendorst impressed.
“Big saves came at the right time when they needed it,” Kleinendorst said. “It definitely has an influence on the game.”
John Griggs made 39 saves for Huntsville (3-18-1), which was outshot 43-23.
After a scoreless and rather emotionless first period, Penn State finally got on the board early in the second, when Kenny Brooks set up Glen for a wrist shot 1:41 into the frame. Brooks had a pair of assists and did a lot of dirty work in the corners and against the boards all night.
“I couldn’t ask for more in a linemate,” Glen said of Brooks. “He works as hard as he can every shift. (He) makes rooms, makes plays on both sides of the puck and makes it easy on me to try and get open and that sort of thing.”
The second goal brought a little more life to the sold-out crowd of 1,300 on hand when the 6-foot-3 Gardiner put up a fantastic screen in front of Griggs and barely redirected a blast from the blue line by Mark Yanis for his first score since Oct. 27.
“It was very fitting that he got the power-play goal,” Gadowsky said. “He does a great job in front. He’s a big body, he takes that job pretty seriously.”
Glen then added some insurance with a blast from the left circle that ricocheted off the crossbar and into the net.
He finished off his hat trick by knocking home a rebound, alone in front of the net with Griggs out of position and a wide open target for his team-leading 15th goal of the season. Backup goaltender P.J. Musico responded by tossing his hat onto the ice in celebration.
The game featured plenty of raised sticks, pushing and shoving and quite a few penalties. The biggest skirmish came not long after Glen’s second goal with a number of players paired off in scuffles. By the end, the teams combined for 21 penalties and 50 minutes of infractions.
“I don’t like it,” Gadowsky said. “Certainly not what we want to see but I really like, I think the guys handled themselves pretty well when there was a shot well after the whistle. We don’t want it that way, but certainly if it’s going to go in that direction we’re going to stand up for ourselves.”
Notes: The teams meet again at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. ... The Huntsville roster features a pair of players with blue-blood hockey lineage. Forwards Brice and Sebastian Geoffrion are the sons of former NHL player Dan Geoffrion and the grandsons of Montreal Canadien Hall-of-Famer Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion. Their brother, Blake, is in the Canadiens’ system and was the 2010 Hobey Baker Award (national player of the year) winner at Wisconsin. ... Friday’s game was the Chargers’ first since Jan. 12 when they faced ACHA club program Oklahoma, Penn State’s opponent next weekend in the final games to be played in the Greenberg Ice Pavilion. ... Huntsville will join the WCHA next season.