On a night the Penn State men’s hockey team needed a win, and to gain some confidence, the Nittany Lions got both.
In his final home game, and following an emotional Senior Night ceremony, captain David Goodwin led the charge with two goals and two assists and Penn State maintained very real hopes of making the NCAA tournament.
“It was a very special night,” Goodwin said. “I can’t really believe that it’s over here at Pegula, but I think we went out on as high of a positive note as we could have.”
With spectacular goaltending from Peyton Jones and elegant stick work from freshman Denis Smirnov, the No. 11 Nittany Lions took down No. 16 Wisconsin 6-0 Saturday night at Pegula Ice Arena.
Fellow seniors David Thompson and Zach Saar also got in on the scoring, along with Kris Myllari and Alec Marsh for Penn State (21-9-2, 10-7-1), which equaled last season’s win total.
“Four of our six goals were scored by seniors,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “You dream about those things. ... It was really cool to see, with a packed house. Huge game with big implications.”
Jones, who struggled in Friday’s 7-4 loss, was practically an acrobat between the pipes while making 36 saves.
“It meant a lot to me that Coach Gadowsky came to me right away and said ‘You’re going tomorrow and you’re going to be great,’” Jones said after his second shutout of the season. “That was huge for me.”
It wasn’t that Wisconsin was lacking in chances, but Jones was just too tough.
“Tonight we couldn’t beat him,” Badgers coach Tony Granato said. “He was good; he was strong. Even second chances that we had on him, he found ways to recover (and) made some miraculous saves.”
Matt Jurusik was under fire much of the night for the Badgers (19-12-1, 12-6), making 34 saves.
After Mylarri started the scoring, knocking in his own rebound in the first period, it was 2-0 50 seconds later when the puck was cleared from the defensive end to Smirnov in the neutral zone. While falling to the ice, the freshman perfectly fed a breaking Nate Sucese along the boards, who then hit Goodwin swooping in alone on the opposite wing.
Goodwin’s second score also was made possible by Smirnov’s magic, as the freshman slid down the ice backward with the puck, waiting patiently for the perfect feed to Goodwin.
“They’re magicians,” Goodwin said of his linemates Sucese and Smirnov. “They make my job easy. Both my goals I had plenty of time. I could have pitched a tent in front of the net and still buried it.”
With three assists, Smirnov has 43 points for the season, breaking the single-season team record.
In the second, a scramble in front of the Badger net led to the puck being knocked in – by Wisconsin’s Jake Bunz as he tried to clear it. David Thompson, who had fired a shot from the point, got credit for the score.
Chase Berger made a scintillating backhanded feed to set up Marsh for a third-period goal, and Saar capped the scoring with 8.6 seconds left with a rocket from the point during a 5-on-3 power play, with each of the five seniors on the ice for the final possession.
“Not only to see Zach score, but to see all seniors on the ice at the same time and to get that last one,” Gadowsky said. “Believe me, Pegula means a lot to them.”
Notes: Dylan Richard and Ricky DeRosa are the other seniors, and former Lion Mike Williamson, who had to retire because of injuries, also was honored before the game. … The Nittany Lions close the regular season next weekend at Michigan before the Big Ten tournament gets rolling. … With an assist on Myllari’s opening goal, Trevor Hamilton joined Goodwin and Smirnov in the 20-assist club for the season. … Casey Bailey held the old single-season points record of 40 in 2014-15. … Goodwin now has 43 career goals, two behind Bailey’s team mark. Goodwin’s 125 points is already the career record.