Now Penn State hockey fans can really start to brag.
With an 11-game win streak after beating up on Michigan, it’s a shame the Nittany Lions are taking a break for a month.
“Penn State put on a clinic this weekend,” Wolverines coach Red Berenson said, later adding, “… They’ve got it all right now. They’re as good as the best team we’ve seen.”
Penn State dominated at both ends of the ice, and the frustration boiled over as the No. 7 Nittany Lions left the No. 20 Wolverines battered and bruised 5-1 Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
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“I got hit a lot,” said Andrew Sturtz, who scored a goal to give him 13 on the season, second-best in the nation. “I don’t know if I’ve been hit that much this year.”
With a nation-best unbeaten streak at 13 games, Penn State (13-1-1, 2-0 Big Ten) heads into a long holiday break as the team to beat in the Big Ten, using eight different goal-scorers to beat the Wolverines by a combined 11-2.
Freshman Denis Smirnov had a goal and an assist to give him 27 points on the season, and James Robinson, Trevor Hamilton and Brandon Biro also scored, while Peyton Jones made 22 saves.
“That’s a big weekend for us,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “We have a long way to go. We haven’t accomplished anything this season, but that’s a big weekend for us.”
Cutler Martin had the goal for the Wolverines (6-6-1, 0-1), who were taunted relentlessly by the Roar Zone student section. Jack LaFontaine made 53 saves as Michigan was outshot 58-23.
The game featured a rare fight in the final minute of the second period, after Jones got leveled behind the net by Michigan’s Max Shuart. Then with 4.6 seconds left, Griffin Luce delivered a blow to a Lion after the whistle in frustration.
“When two teams that have a history like we had last year and the years in the past, sometimes emotions get high,” said Kevin Kerr, who set up Hamilton’s goal. “The crowd loved it and I think we all got a bit of an energy boost from it.”
“Any time you play Penn State, it’s going to be a physical game, especially in this rink,” Michigan’s Alex Kile said. “It’s a great crowd, great student section so when they really get involved it really helps the home team, and they play physical and it kind of makes us respond the same way.”
Robinson opened the scoring, knocking in a rebound of a mini break for Zach Saar, and Martin answered with Michigan’s lone goal 61 seconds later.
Penn State struck twice in the final three minutes, first on a Trevor Hamilton power play goal, then Derian Hamilton delivered a perfect feed up the middle to Smirnov at the opposite blue line on a breakaway, slipping the puck under LaFontaine.
“An unbelievable pass by Derian Hamilton to send Denny on a breakaway,” Gadowsky said. ‘That was a big, big goal.”
During the 5-on-3 power play to open the third period after the melee, Sturtz converted by tipping in Vince Pedrie’s shot from the faceoff circle.
“We knew we had to take advantage,” Sturtz said of that power play situation. “It was good to see that nothing changed. We didn’t come in (to the locker room) freaking out, ‘Hey, we need a goal right now to win this game.’”
Biro closed the scoring four minutes later.
“It’s hockey,” Gadowsky said of the chippy play. “It’s Penn State-Michigan, and it’s hockey and I don’t think it was anything much more than that.”
Notes: Penn State returns to the ice Jan. 6 at Ohio State. … Michigan and Penn State do not meet again until March 10-11 in Ann Arbor. … After the game defenseman David Thompson had his hair cut in the arena lobby, with the locks donated to benefit Thon. … Entering the series the teams were essentially tied for the lead in Division I in penalty killing, but Penn State was 2 for 4 Friday and scored four on the weekend, while the Wolverines didn’t cash in any chances.