During a break in play in the third period Friday night at Pegula Ice Arena, “Danger Zone” blared through the building’s speakers.
The Kenny Loggins tune from the 1980s movie “Top Gun” was apropos for the evening’s game. At times it felt like there were jet fighters racing from one end of the ice to the other.
In a matchup of two of the nation’s top scoring teams battling for a high seeding in the Big Ten, it was Penn State with the superior flyboys.
Led by Eric Scheid’s goal and two assists, Penn State blazed to an early lead and never relented in a 6-4 victory over No. 16 Michigan to open the final home weekend of the season, and the next-to-last weekend of the regular season.
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“I like getting moving like that, going back-and-forth,” said Scheid, who posted his seventh multi-point game of the season. “As a team, we’re really effective at getting pucks in their zone and wearing teams down. I think that’s not really a game we want to get into. But whatever we’ve got to do to get the win, that’s what’s important.”
David Goodwin, Casey Bailey, Scott Conway, Dylan Richard and Nate Jensen also scored for the Nittany Lions (17-12-4, 9-7-1 Big Ten), who beat a ranked Wolverines team yet again. Penn State is now 5-3 all-time against Michigan.
“We love beating them, they hate losing to us and it’s showing the chippiness is increasing,” said Scheid as the teams were involved in a number of on-ice scuffles, not to mention plenty of trash-talking, including after the game’s final horn.
Eamon McAdam made 41 saves and even had an assist for the win, standing up to loads of pressure from the nation’s highest-scoring offense at nearly 4 goals per game.
“That’s a really fun game to be in as a goalie,” McAdam said. “You hear it all the time about it’s harder to play in a game where you only see 15 shots. That’s just a game you get into. They’re a good team, they’re going to score.”
Andrew Copp, Justin Selman, Dylan Larkin and Cutler Martin scored the goals for the Wolverines (19-12, 11-6) and Steve Racine made 37 saves.
Penn State is seventh in the nation netting 3.39 goals per game while leading Division I at better than 40 shots per game.
“They certainly have the personnel to do it and they play to that strength,” coach Guy Gadowsky said of matching up with the Wolverine offense. “Certainly can’t blame them at all. We did expect that it was going to be an up-and-down game with a lot of chances. We were happy to. We like to think we can get chances as well.”
Coupled with Minnesota’s win over Ohio State, the Gophers and Wolverines are tied atop the conference standings, with Michigan State just two points back and Penn State five points behind.
Penn State scored first for the fourth straight game when Scheid took a long pass from Richard and carried the puck into the corner, looped around to the right faceoff circle and, with a bevy of bodies in front of Racine, beat the junior goalie with a low wrist shot 3:13 into the game.
Goodwin made it 2-0 4:35 later after Tommy Olczyk hit the sophomore streaking down the ice at the blue line, with Goodwin completing the breakaway by firing the puck over Racine’s right shoulder.
Bailey made it 3-0 on a power play, picking off an attempted clearing pass at the blue line, taking a couple strides in and rifling his 22nd goal of the season past Racine.
“That’s a tough way to start,” Michigan coach Red Berensen said. “We knew they’re a good first-period team and they got the jump on us. We give up goals too easily and too early and it was hard to get those goals back.”
The margin went to four goals 3:48 into the second when Erik Autio kept an attempted clearing pass from crossing the blue line. The freshman defenseman took the puck a few feet along the boards and fed it to Conway in the slot for the freshman forward’s ninth tally of the season.
As lopsided as it was by that point, it could have been even worse, with a number of open nets or breakaways stopped or missed. Max Gardiner was alone on a breakaway and missed, Richard twice could not convert a feed from Scheid on breaks and another Nittany Lion shot in a crowd was cleared inches from the goal line by the glove of a Wolverine defenseman.
A pair of power play goals from Copp and Selman got Michigan back in the game, but the momentum didn’t stay in the Wolverines’ favor for too long. A neutral zone turnover led to a 2 on 1 break, with Scheid sliding the puck across the slot to Richard with a wide-open net and his eighth score of the season, returning the margin to three goals with 31 seconds left in the second.
“They’re obviously a tremendous offensive team,” Gadowsky said. “You don’t feel safe with them being up three, so I thought that was a huge goal late in the period to get us going – to get us back to feeling a little better.”
Larkin scored 44 seconds into the third, beating McAdam with a low shot from the circle for his 13th goal of the season.
Jensen got the goal back on a power play, knocking in an easy rebound after a rush up the ice produced a David Glen slap shot stopped by Racine. The other assist was credited to McAdam, the first of his career — he thinks possibly in his lifetime — and the first for a goalie in the team’s three-year Division I history.
“That might have been my first one for all I know,” McAdam said. “I don’t usually get many.”
Martin finished the scoring with 14.6 seconds left with a rocket from the point for the Wolverines.
Notes: The teams tangle again at 3 p.m. Saturday, closing the home schedule for Penn State. The team’s seven seniors will be honored around 2:40 p.m. Because it is his final home game, Gadowsky said P.J. Musico will start in goal. … Also picking up assists for the Nittany Lions were Conway, Jensen and Connor Varley … Forward Kenny Brooks was lost to an injury early in the first period, didn’t return and will not play Saturday. … The announced attendance was 6,011 for the 32nd sellout in 35 home games the last two seasons. … The teams combined for 19 penalties for 38 minutes, Michigan was 2 for 7 on the power play and Penn State was 3 for 4.