This is one the Penn State men’s hockey team will be kicking itself about for a while.
There is nothing like scoring in the game’s first minute, dominating in shots and possession, and never again cashing in on any of those chances.
Matt Berry scored the game-winning goal while the Nittany Lions were shut down for the final 59 minutes of a 2-1 loss to Michigan State on Saturday afternoon at Pegula Ice Arena.
Patrick Koudys scored 43 seconds into the game. Joe Cox had the Spartans’ other goal to take both games of the weekend series.
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Penn State finished with a 29-13 shot disparity, and they admitted this loss hurts a lot.
“They’re a good team,” Koudys said, “but it’s on us.”
At one point the shot disparity was even more stark at 26-6 with 12 minutes left in the game, with plenty of credit to the defense for blocking eight shots and stepping into a number of passing lanes.
“We didn’t give up a lot,” coach Guy Gadowsky said. “I thought we could have had this one.”
But the team also knows so many chances slipped away.
“We have to manufacture or do a better job of taking advantage of the chances we get,” Gadowsky said. “We do get chances and we’ve got to do a better job of scoring goals at this level of the Big Ten.”
Losing this one came less than 24 hours after seeing a 2-1 lead disappear in the final four minutes, eventually losing to the Spartans in a shootout.
“The last two games we could have capitalized and we didn’t,” said Kenny Brooks, who had a solid weekend as a substitute defenseman.
Just 43 seconds into Saturday’s game, after a faceoff in the Spartan end, David Glen got the puck back to Koudys at the point and he fired through a maze of players for his second goal of the season. Dylan Richard helped move the puck back to Koudys after the draw.
“Good momentum for the guys,” Koudys said. “Just had to carry that through a little better.”
As exciting as it was to score so quick, the Nittany Lions had no idea they would be shut down by Spartan goalie Josh Hildebrand, who made 28 saves.
“It’s tough,” Koudys said. “We had to kind of build off that momentum and try to play our game better for a full 60 (minutes).”
On just their fourth shot of the game, and first of the second period, the Spartans tied it when a turnover got to Cox in front of the net, and his backhand went wide but bounced off a Nittany Lion skate past goalie Matthew Skoff, who stopped 11 shots.
“It was hard to get to the net,” Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said. “They defended very hard. I think we were looking to make an extra play, a fancy play, and we didn’t keep the game simple enough.”
Michigan State nearly took the lead midway through the third when Lee Reimer fired from close range and rang it off the post.
Berry then netted the winner with 5:04 left, in a scramble in front of the net the junior winger lifted the puck over Skoff.
“We had a hard time matching the level of Penn State today,” Anastos said. “We were just hanging in, hanging around, and made the right plays at the right time to be able to figure out a way to win the game. … Winning ugly’s OK sometimes.”
The Nittany Lions gave themselves a chance, and they could be taking a three-game win streak on the road next week, but instead experienced two more learning opportunities with their eighth one-goal loss of the season.
“We certainly gave ourselves a chance to win,” Gadowsky said. “We had a couple very good flurries that, if we poke those pucks in, that’s the difference between a win and a loss.”
Notes: Penn State hits the road the next two weeks, visiting No. 10 Michigan next weekend and No. 2 Minnesota the following week. … Before the game a “good luck” message was shown on the arena video boards that featured Ed Olczyk (Lion captain Tommy’s father) and Ben Bouma, an All-American for the Icers club program. The message from the NBC TV men was recorded from one of the Olympic rinks in Sochi, Russia. … Early in the second period, Brooks was helped from the ice by team trainers after he took a Spartan shot to the kneecap. Brooks missed a few shifts but returned later in the period. … The official attendance was 6,140, the 13th time in 14 home games the arena was sold out.