Once again the Penn State men’s hockey team dug itself a deep hole and had to crawl back out.
It has become a familiar refrain at Pegula Ice Arena.
The Nittany Lions twice rallied from deficits and skated to a 5-5 tie with Northern Michigan on Saturday evening.
Eric Scheid scored twice and assisted on another for Penn State (12-7-4, 5-2-1 Big Ten), with one goal each for Ricky DeRosa, Tommy Olczyk and Dylan Richard, with the latter forcing the tie. A night earlier they won 5-4, rallying from three goals down.
“It’s obviously nice to come back,” captain Patrick Koudys said. “But we should never put ourselves in that situation to begin with. Something we’ve got to fix, make sure we don’t sag back ever and just keep moving forward.”
Zach Urban had a goal and two assists, with one score each for Dominik Shine, Ryan Kresti, Reed Seckel and Darren Nowick for the Wildcats (9-9-6).
Northern Michigan won the exhibition shootout 3-2, with the Penn State scores from Scheid and Peter Sweetland. The goalies picked the Lions shootout competitors.
Penn State dominated with a 64-29 disparity in shots on goal. The Nittany Lions had 117 shots in the two-game weekend series, but they also were forced to rally from a multi-goal deficit for the fourth time in the last six games.
“Just staying positive,” Scheid said. “One of the main things we try to stress on the bench is, no matter what happens to start a game, don’t ever get too high, don’t ever get too low.”
The teams combined to use four goaltenders, but for different reasons.
Eamon McAdam was pulled after a difficult first period, surrendering three goals on just eight shots, having trouble controlling rebounds and keeping sight of the puck as the Lions fell behind 3-0.
“We’ve got to do what we can to help them both out of it,” coach Guy Gadowsky said as both McAdam and Matthew Skoff are struggling in goal. “I really don’t have a good answer for it.”
Making a relief appearance for the second straight game, P.J. Musico made 19 stops over the final two periods.
“A lot of people say it’s tough,” Musico said. “I try not to focus too much on that, just kind of go out, play and have fun.”
Northern Michigan’s Mathias Dahlstrom had played well Friday, peppered by 53 shots, and turned away another 20 Saturday, but he was injured in the opening seconds of the second period and helped to the dressing room. Dahlstrom returned for the third period, making a total of 39 saves.
Penn State fans thought there was a 1-0 lead just 53 seconds in when Curtis Loik knocked in a rebound, but after an earlier attempt by James Robinson, the freshman forward made contact with Dahlstrom, and the officials waved off the score.
“That would have set us off the right way,” Gadowsky said. “I thought we continued to play actually very, very well.”
The Nittany Lions kept up the pressure and had another flurry of tries without success, then saw Shine break alone the other way. His first try was stopped by McAdam, but the sophomore couldn’t control the rebound, which landed right at Shine’s skates behind McAdam.
McAdam made another stop five minutes later, but again he couldn’t control the rebound — and lost track of it — as it bounced to a wide open Kresti in the circle, hammering in a slap shot as McAdam looked the other way for the puck.
The lead went to 3-0 in the final minute of the first when Gerard Hanson’s slap shot from the top of the circle was stopped by McAdam, but Urban found the loose puck and it trickled over the line.
“There were a couple fluky goals,” Gadowsky said. “That’s just what you have to deal with.”
Seconds into the second period, in a scramble in front of the net, Dahlstrom was sliced by a skate blade on his wrist. He immediately rushed to the bench for assistance, and was helped to the locker room. He returned for the third after receiving seven stitches.
“It was a pretty good cut,” Wildcats assistant coach John Kyle said. “… It was something he could play with, and that it was more or less getting his mind behind the fact that he was OK.”
Penn State finally got on the board on a shorthanded tally, with Richard and Scheid taking off on a break, with Scheid slipping the puck past replacement goalie Michael Doan.
The momentum didn’t last long, with Seckel taking the puck off a faceoff and breaking in on Musico, beating the senior with a top-shelf shot.
But the Lions cashed in twice late in the second. First, Koudys unloaded a blast from the point that DeRosa deflected in. Less than 90 seconds later, Scott Conway slipped the puck between a pair of Wildcats to send Scheid down the ice alone on a break to beat Doan.
“I try to use my feet and my speed to my advantage,” Scheid said. “I guess I just kind of saw an opening, took it and luckily both went in.”
Olczyk tied it, knocking in a rebound 3:09 into the third after Max Gardiner had deflected a Connor Varley slap shot.
Just under four minutes later, Northern Michigan was up again on a Nowick slap shot.
With 6:32 left Richard tied it again, batting in a rebound out of the air in the crease after a shot from Scheid. A huge melee ensued around the net, with two players, including Koudys, ejected with game misconducts.
Notes: Penn State plays its final non-conference game of the season next weekend, meeting Vermont at the Wells Fargo Center in the Philadelphia College Hockey Faceoff. … The team wore special jerseys which were auctioned off to raise money for the IFC Panhellenic Dance Marathon and the Four Diamonds Fund. In place of players’ names, each sweater had “Thon” in the nameplate. … Taylor Holstrom left the game in the first period, “Upper body banged up,” Gadowsky said, but did return in the third.