The hole got to be too big, too fast for the Penn State men’s hockey team on Friday night.
No. 16 St. Lawrence scored three goals in less than five minutes to open the game and held off the Nittany Lions’ comeback attempts for a 6-3 win at Pegula Ice Arena.
“We need to be better as a whole,” said Andrew Sturtz, who had a goal and an assist, “especially off the start.”
Mike Marnell netted two goals late, Eric Sweetman notched a goal and an assist while the other Saints’ scores came from Joe Sullivan, Ryan Garvey and Jacob Pritchard.
Vince Pedrie and Nate Sucese also scored for the Nittany Lions. Chris Funkey made 15 saves in relief of a tough outing for starting goalie Peyton Jones.
Kyle Hayton was busy in the St. Lawrence net, making 43 saves.
The Saints scoring came almost immediately, on just their second and third shots of the game.
First, Sweetman raced behind the net to wrap the puck around a mere 2:21 into the contest, then Sullivan knocked in a rebound 31 seconds later. Just over two minutes after that, St. Lawrence cashed in again with Garvey hitting the net on a breakaway.
“Obviously, we weren’t ready to play at the drop of the puck and they were ready to compete,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “That’s my responsibility. But I can tell you it was by design that we stayed quiet to see what would happen. We failed that test.”
The third goal led to Gadowsky pulling Jones, who made five saves on eight shots he faced in the first 4:50 of action.
“We needed a spark, for sure,” said the coach, noting a huge 8-1 shot disparity at that point.
“We certainly responded,” said Gadowsky, whose team finished with a 46-26 lead in shots. “But if we have to wait to be down 3-0 and to be outshot 8-1 every time for us to respond, then it doesn’t matter.”
All of Funkey’s appearances at Penn State have been in relief, though Friday was by far his longest outing.
“You try to prepare the same way for every game,” Funkey said. “That way you’re ready if anything like that does happen.”
Pritchard scored 3:30 into the second, knocking in a rebound to add to the lead.
Penn State finally got on the board a couple minutes later when Sturtz made a blind, backhanded pass from one side of the crease to Pedrie on the opposite side to find the top shelf on a power play.
“I knew he was going to be there,” Sturtz said. “I just kind of threw it behind me. I planned on him being there.”
Sturtz then fired the puck from a tight angle in the final minute of the second to pull the team within two.
Three more goals were scored in the final two minutes. With Funkey pulled for an extra attacker, Marnell hit the empty net — twice — around Sucese’s power play score, the first career goal for the freshman.
“For the first five, 10 minutes they came out flying,” Sturtz said. “We knew they would. They’re not ranked No. 16 for nothing. They’re a good hockey team.”
Notes: Penn State is on the road the next two weeks, staying in-state to visit Mercyhurst next Friday, then heading to Notre Dame on Oct. 21-22. … Penn State was 2 for 8 on the power play, while St. Lawrence was 0 for 3. The Nittany Lions were 2 for 13 on the weekend with a man advantage. … Brandon Biro, Chase Berger and Denis Smirnov all picked up assists for Penn State.