Penn State hockey fans are getting spoiled.
The Nittany Lions are red hot right now.
Thanks to eight different goal-scorers, No. 10 Penn State buried Arizona State 8-0 Saturday evening at Pegula Ice Arena to win its ninth straight and run its unbeaten streak to 11 games.
“We’re definitely a top team in the country when it comes to offense,” said freshman Liam Folkes, who scored his first career goal. “It’s not just one person or two people doing it, it’s everyone consistently doing it day in and day out.”
The scoring barrage marked the sixth time this season and fifth time in the last six games Penn State scored at least five goals.
The Nittany Lions (11-1-1), the nation’s highest scoring team, outscored the Sun Devils 15-4 in the two-game series.
Dylan Richard, Chase Berger, Nate Sucese, Vince Pedrie, Kevin Kerr, Nikita Pavlychev and Denis Smirnov had the goals.
“It gives everyone a sense of confidence when we’re rolling four lines,” said defenseman Trevor Hamilton, who assisted on three goals. “I think our fourth line could be a first line on any other team. … It gives everyone confidence when our offense is rolling and putting up these goals.”
The pile of goals, and a 51-18 shot disparity, made for a rather stress-free game for Chris Funkey with his first career shutout in his second start of the season.
“It’s a great feeling but that’s a team shutout, 100 percent,” Funkey said. “The way the guys played in front of me tonight … it makes it so much easier for me.”
Facing so few shots, the sophomore was sharp when he needed to be, stuffing two breakaways by Jordan Masters and also denying a couple tries in a flurry in front of the net early in the third.
“I just try to stay ready so when those situations arose, I was prepared for them,” said Funkey, who was a teammate of Masters in juniors. “… I was pretty happy I was able to stop him on those.”
The first-period scoring came rapid-fire, with four goals in less than four minutes.
Smirnov created the first one, tenaciously pestering a Sun Devil for the puck and then poking it to Richard in the high slot.
Less than two minutes later, Hamilton made a perfect feed from the blue line to Berger on the doorstep for the deflection on a power play.
“That was a beautiful play to Chase Berger,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “Absolutely beautiful. He’s been a huge addition to us.”
Just over a minute after that, while killing a penalty, Berger outfought a couple Sun Devils for the puck and fed it to Sucese alone in front for the freshman’s eighth of the season. Just over a minute after that, Zach Saar stepped out of the penalty box at just the right time, jumping into a 2 on 1 break with Pedrie, with Saar setting up the defenseman’s fifth goal of the year.
Kerr finished the first-period scoring three minutes later, skating alone through the slot off a delivery from Hamilton.
Folkes fed the puck across to Hamilton, and his attempt was denied, but the puck bounced right back to Folkes with an open side of the net.
“I passed it backdoor to (Hamilton) and I said, ‘Why didn’t you put that in?’” said Folkes, who also had two assists. “But then thank God the rebound came to me and I got the goal.”
Pavlychev and Smirnov closed the scoring in the third.
“I hope (Penn State fans) are enjoying it,” Gadowsky said. “We enjoy playing that way. Yeah, it’s fun to watch.”
Notes: Penn State will take next week off before preparing for Michigan on Dec. 1-2 to open the Big Ten schedule, and the final games of 2016. … The five goals in the first period matched the single-frame record set twice in 2014. … Eight different goal-scorers is a single-game team record. … The scoring total matched the team record for a game and was the largest margin of victory in the varsity program’s history.