It is becoming a common story for the Penn State men’s hockey team: The Nittany Lions tangle with one of the nation’s top teams, play well, but come up short.
The latest chapter in the tale was told Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena, when Penn State had visions of an upset of the nation’s highest-scoring team.
No. 2 Boston College was powered by its top-scoring line, with two goals for Kevin Hayes and one for Johnny Gaudreau, in a 3-2 victory in front of a crowd of 6,214.
National leader Gaudreau registered his 22nd goal and 28th assist, while Hayes now has 19 goals. The third member of the line, Bill Arnold, helped on all three scores and also has 28 assists.
Freshman Thatcher Demko made 33 saves for the win as the Nittany Lions outshot the Eagles 35-30. Penn State’s Eamon McAdam again was a hard-luck loser, making 27 stops.
Eric Scheid and Taylor Holstrom scored and Tommy Olczyk was stopped a first penalty shot for Penn State (4-15-1), which lost for the 12th time in 13 games, All but two of those losses are to ranked teams and seven of those losses are by one goal.
“Just a bounce away,” Scheid said. “I think we (more chances than) them tonight. Their goalie played well. Right now I think we’re looking for one bounce to help turn the tide our way.”
The game featured plenty of end-to-end action in both directions, a style which suited both BC and Penn State.
“We gave up minimal odd-man rushes, but we did have 10,” said Nittany Lion coach Guy Gadowsky, whose team lost 8-2 to the Eagles a month ago. “I didn’t expect that we’d get 10. We didn’t finish on them. It did have that feel back-and-forth. It was an exciting game.”
Gadowsky was frustrated as much with the loss as with a five-minute major penalty that helped set up the third Boston College goal, when Jonathan Milley was whistled for boarding.
“I’m disappointed we had a one-goal game again, and we take a major,” he said. “I’m disappointed in that. I don’t know how many times we have to learn that lesson. It’s getting a little redundant.”
Hayes scored 22 seconds into the penalty, ripping the puck past McAdam, off the post and across the line.
But Penn State held firm after that point — another penalty with two seconds left on the call against Milley left the Lions killing 6:58 with a man down — and the team even generated offense while playing shorthanded.
Olczyk was hauled down on a breakaway by Teddy Doherty. On the penalty shot, the Penn State captain broke in on Demko and tried to slip it between his legs, but the goalie had the stop.
“(I was feeling) nerves, a little bit,” Olczyk said. “Everyone’s standing up, obviously wanting a goal. I did, too. Unfortunately the puck didn’t end up in the back of net. If I could go back and do it again, I’d probably try something different.”
“When you do have players like that, that do all the little things that don’t necessarily show up in the box scores but everybody knows how important they are to win,” Goadowsky said. “Those are the guys that usually score the big goals, so I felt really good about him having the penalty shot.”
Two minutes later, the Lions did score with Holstrom in on a 2-on-1 break with David Goodwin as Holstrom lifted the puck over Demko’s shoulder. Luke Juha started the play and picked up the assist.
McAdam had another number of high-quality saves, including stopping Austin Cangelosi late in the first period while sitting in the goal crease as the Eagle winger fired the shot into McAdam’s glove. Then, while trying to preserve a one-goal deficit late in the third, Gaudreau was alone in the slot and took a feed from the corner from Hayes, but McAdam blocked the shot.
“A very good performance by him,” Gadowsky said. “We do have to get him his first win though.”
Boston College got its first score 7:40 into the game, with Arnold rushing up the boards and sweeping past the goal. He got the puck to Hayes, who from behind the net banked a shot off McAdam and the puck just barely trickled across the goal line before the goalie could sweep it away.
“When we did put them together it was so good,” said Boston College coach Jerry York, whose team is unbeaten in 11 games since the top scoring trio were put on the same line. “We benefited by their play.”
Penn State thought it had the equalizer about four minutes into the second period when Max Gardiner rang a shot off the post and the puck slid along the goal line behind Demko, with the red goal lamp lighting, but the puck never crossed the line.
But Penn State did tie it at 6:45, when Scheid seized a rebound right in front of Demko and slipped it beneath the goalie’s pads.
Boston College got the lead back late in the second period during a 4-on-4 situation. Gaudreau and Arnold tore down the ice on a 2-on-1 break, Arnold fed Gaudreau, and the nation’s leading scorer was alone to slip the puck past McAdam.
“Penn State has made marked improvement since we saw them in the Christmas tournament,” York said. “(It) just seemed more cohesive as a team, they’re strong, they’re physical, I was very impressed with them. They’re this close to winning a lot of games.”
“The last time we played Boston College we only did it for 10 minutes out of 60 minutes,” Olczyk said. “Tonight we did it for a lot longer. We proved that we can play with probably the most skilled team in the country.”