Even with the clock winding down, the Penn State men’s hockey team did not give up hope Friday night.
They could feel the momentum about to swing their way.
“We came out of the third period hot,” senior forward Taylor Holstrom said. “We knew we were going to get one. We didn’t know when, but we did. The crowd was into it. It wasn’t a better feeling.”
Holstrom and Eric Scheid scored goals 16 seconds apart in the final three minutes of the game, finishing a rally from a two-goal deficit to give the Nittany Lions a 3-2 victory over Bentley at Pegula Ice Arena and extend their win streak to four straight.
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“It is a big, big win,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I give the guys a lot of credit, mostly for being able to play a good style of Penn State hockey when it matters most.”
The win gave Penn State (5-1-2) a sweep of the two-game weekend series in the final home game of 2014 for the Nittany Lions.
Scott Conway netted a second-period goal for Penn State, while Alex Grieve and Max French scored first-period power play goals for the Falcons (3-4).
Matthew Skoff made 34 saves as the Nittany Lions outshot the Falcons 49-35, including 22-7 in the third period.
The Penn State faithful were anxious for some late-game heroics.
“When the student body gets rockin’ and the atmosphere gets loud, and you feel the snowball starting to roll, it really matters,” Gadowsky said of the home ice advantage. “This win is another win you can really credit the atmosphere of Pegula Ice Arena and the student body for.”
First, the Nittany Lions tied it when Dylan Richard fed Holstrom in the slot for a one-timer with a man advantage with 2:59 left.
“Rocket (Richard) threw a pass in the middle and I just shot as hard as I could,” Holstrom said. “I don’t know really where it went, actually. We were just trying to get shots and it went in.”
Then, with the arena already near the boiling point, Scheid stole the puck after a teammate lifted a Falcon’s stick on a pass, skated across the blue line and unleashed a slap shot from the right circle to send Pegula Ice Arena into a frenzy.
“The puck popped out to me,” Scheid said. “I picked it up and I just started driving wide. Once I got into the zone, I pulled up looking for a late guy coming in, maybe a defenseman for a high-slot shot, didn’t see anyone there. Then Jimmy (Robinson) had a great middle drive to the net and took the (defense) with him. Just some traffic in front and I figured, might as well throw something at the net, maybe something good happens.”
Scheid knew the emotions were on his side right after Holstrom had tied it.
“I kind of just went out there that shift with the idea, ‘We’ve got a 2-2 game, it’s a whole new game now,’ and do what I always do,” Scheid said. “Keep playing that I’ve been playing the whole game. It just helps when the crowd’s behind you.”
Scheid’s score was the only one of the night with the teams playing 5 on 5. Bentley was 2 for 4 on the power play Friday, while Penn State was 2 for 6.
The Falcon power play was working to perfection in the first period, converting on both man-advantage opportunities, needing just three shots for two goals.
Grieve tapped in the puck from the doorstep after French sent a pass across the crease for the first score, then from the right circle French lifted his stick to redirect a Matt Blomquist slap shot from the point for the two-goal lead.
“We certainly didn’t play our best at the start,” Gadowsky said. “Knowing full well their power play is sixth in the nation and our game plan was not to give them any power play opportunities. To give them two and it’s 2-0, things just weren’t working. It was tough. It was tough sledding for a while.”
Penn State got on the board with a power play goal of its own midway through the second, with Ricky DeRosa feeding the puck from behind the net to Conway at the side, with the freshman slipping it in from the tight angle.
Earlier this season in Alaska, Penn State twice had third-period leads disappear in the final six minutes of games to land a tie and a loss. There also were games against Wisconsin, Union and Massachusetts-Lowell last season in which the Nittany Lions watched victories disappear.
“It’s certainly nice to be on this end of it,” said Gadowsky, whose team also rallied from a goal down on Thursday. “But you learn through those experiences.”
“It feels really good to be on the other side of one of these kind of games,” Scheid said. “We’ve been a part of a lot of games where we’ve given up leads in the third. It’s been really haunting us lately, so to be able to come back both nights and get a win, it feels pretty good.”
Notes: The Nittany Lions will be off for two weeks before returning to the ice Nov. 14-15 to visit No. 8 UMass-Lowell. Penn State next plays at home Jan. 9 against Ohio State. … The Lions posted their second straight sweep, after knocking off Holy Cross last weekend. … In the final seconds of the third period, defenseman Connor Varley went to the ice to block a shot, with the puck ringing off his head. He had to be helped from the ice, but Gadowsky said ,“he’s good.” “Varley got the hard hat tonight,” Holstrom joked. “… Varley took one off the head late in the game. That’s huge.” … Bentley goalie Blake Dougherty made 46 saves in the loss.