As the clock hit one minute remaining in the third period, the fans rose to their feet anticipating the moment.
Waiting for so long, the Nittany Lions finally got to experience their first Big Ten win — and a shutout — against a ranked opponent.
“First Big Ten win in the history of Penn State,” said goalie Matthew Skoff, whose 32 saves earned him his second career shutout. “It’s just awesome to be a part of. Just very, very ecstatic and pumped.”
Behind Skoff and three first-period goals, Penn State put away No. 10 Michigan 4-0 Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
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Standing in front of his net, the sophomore goalie savored that final minute ticking away.
“It’s something I will remember for a long time,” Skoff said. “That just speaks volumes of how this hockey program has come so far with all the support we have. It was really cool to see especially from my end because I kind of saw everything, I saw the student section and eventually everybody stand up so it was very cool.”
Zach Saar, David Glen, Casey Bailey and Ricky DeRosa all scored goals as the Nittany Lions (5-18-1, 1-9 Big Ten) ended a nine-game losing kid and halted the Wolverines’ five-game unbeaten streak. Eric Scheid had two assists, while DeRosa, Taylor Holstrom, David Goodwin, Kenny Brooks and David Thompson had one assist each.
Making it all stand up was Skoff, just the second goalie this season to blank the Wolverines (14-7-3, 6-3-1-1) this season.
“Talk about timely goaltending, there’s huge saves early and that gave us a lot of confidence,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “Great goaltending is more about timely goaltending, and I thought that started us off well.”
It was the start of the game that set it up, with several solid chances for the Wolverines. By midway through the first period Skoff already had a nice collection of game highlights, and from there the defense in front of him did the rest to protect the lead.
“Those early chances definitely got me into the game,” Skoff said. “After that I think a lot of the shots they had were from the outside, outside the house, maybe one in the second maybe they had right in front of me, so the defense did a good job with their gap and their stick. It kind of made my job (easier). It may look like I had a tremendous game, but there’s a lot of defensive play that goes without saying, they had a good game.”
What made it work was grabbing the lead early and never letting up.
Penn State was putting pressure on Michigan goalie Zach Nagelvoort in the opening minutes and it paid off 5:31 into the game when Saar threw the puck toward the goal from the side of the net and it found its way in.
“We established a really good forecheck,” Saar said. “David Goodwin, Taylor Holstrom were tenacious on the puck and it was bouncing in the corner. I think I tried hooking it out and I got hit, Goodwin tried hooking it out and somehow we got possession and I saw an opportunity to hit it. It wasn’t a beautiful shot on net, but it found a way.”
Glen then made it 2-0 when right off a faceoff he worked a give-and-go with Brooks, took the puck below the goal line and banked the shot off Nagelvoort.
Bailey then made it 3-0, firing a wrist shot from the slot that trickled through Nagelvoort’s legs.
“Everyone was confident from the first period out,” Skoff said. “We had goal-scoring in the first period, which was huge, and always to get a lead is good. I just think everyone had a little chip on their shoulder from last night that no, this isn’t going to happen again.”
The Wolverines’ freshman netminder was pulled after the goal, giving up three scores out of the nine shots he faced.
“They were the better team right from the get-go and we never got back in the game in any meaningful way,” said Michigan coach Red Barenson, who brought in Steve Racine for the rest of the game. Racine finished with 30 saves and allowed just one score.
While Skoff was making plenty of saves, he also got a little help.
In the second period Cristoval Nieves rang a shot off the crossbar, while in the third the officials reviewed a scramble in front of the net, but the puck didn’t cross the goal line until after the net was off its moorings.
DeRosa capped the scoring with just under four minutes left, deflecting Thompson’s shot from the point past Racine.
It allowed yet another historic marker to be checked off Penn State’s list, and it made the final minute so sweet to enjoy.
“That was a tremendous night and something I’ll never forget,” Gadowsky said. “That’s why I came here – to compete against the best teams in the nation and the Big Ten.”
Notes: Penn State stays home next weekend, hosting Michigan State on Friday and Saturday. The attendance was 6,170. Saturday marked the 12th time in the last 17 games Penn State lined up against a ranked opponent. Penn State lost a pair of defensemen to injuries in Luke Juha and Nate Jensen, each of whom took hard spills to the ice. Forward Kenny Brooks was forced to play on defense the latter half of the game. Late in the third period the student section began chanting “Just like football.” The shutout came exactly one year from their last shutout, a 4-0 win against Alabama-Huntsville. “I did not know that,” Gadowsky said. “Can’t wait ‘til next year.”