Down two goals early to a team it had smothered a night earlier, the Penn State men’s hockey team needed to deliver a big blow.
Chase Berger delivered that shot.
After spotting American International those scores, the Nittany Lions stormed back, with Berger scoring the go-ahead goal in the final seconds of the first period en route to dropping American International 5-3 Saturday afternoon at Pegula Ice Arena.
“We came out a little flat at the start, which was disappointing,” said Eric Scheid, who had a goal and an assist. “But our ability to rebound and turn the tables on them again was a big morale boost for us.”
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Dylan Richard, Andrew Sturtz and Tommy Olczyk scored the other goals in the win, and Eamon McAdam made 19 saves.
Jackson Dudley, Travis Douglas and Shawn McBride netted goals for the Yellow Jackets.
Penn State outshot AIC 44-22, a night after dominating the shot count 57-25 and won 8-3.
The biggest lift came from Berger.
After an initial try by Curtis Loik, there was a mad scramble in front of the net. Somewhere in the chaos, as the puck sat in the crease, Berger managed to poke it into the net and give his team the lead.
“I just started wacking away,” Berger said. “It looked like it just kind of got caught in the goalie’s pad, and at that point my stick was on the other side of the post, so I was just kind of fighting in there. I think actually maybe one of their guys kind of pushed it in there a little bit, or maybe the goalie himself, but I was just wacking away.”
Scoring just before the first intermission, after falling behind early, was an emotional lift.
“You don’t ever want to give up a goal in the last minute or the first minute of a period,” Scheid said. “Chase scoring that goal, that’s huge. Going into the locker room with the lead there is a big deal.”
It wasn’t the best of starts for the Nittany Lions. After stopping a shot, McAdam searched to his left looking for the puck, which bounced behind the net. David Gandara swung it around to the other side and into the crease as McAdam continued his search to the left, and Dudley poked it into the open net.
Douglas made it 2-0 three minutes later, firing a shot from the circle that McAdam initially appeared to stop, but the puck trickled behind him and across the line.
“We probably weren’t as sharp as we could be,” Gadowsky said. “I think they were better too. I think AIC played very well.”
“I don’t know about shock, but we knew they were going to come out hard,” Berger said. “We wanted to score one early and kind of put them down a little bit right away. They came out really hard and we got caught off guard, kind of.”
Penn State finally got the offense rolling in the second half of the first period. First, on a power play, Scheid sent the puck from behind the net out to an unchecked Richard, who fired the wrist shot into an open side of the net.
Just over two minutes later, Vince Pedrie and Scheid created a turnover along the boards, and the senior forward blazed in on Hunter Leisner, beating the goalie with a wrist shot.
After missing the first two weeks of the season, Scheid was happy to break through in his second game of action.
“It’s always good to get the first one out of the way, in the first weekend as well,” Scheid said. “It was tough watching, but luckily got to come out and have a good weekend.”
Sturtz, who had a three-goal weekend along with Berger, scored the lone goal of the second period, lifting a wrist shot to the top shelf.
Seconds later, Penn State got a scare when Bailey More delivered an elbow to Alec Marsh’s head. More was given a game misconduct, and after a couple minutes lying on his hands and knees on the ice, Marsh was assisted to the dressing room. The freshman did return in the third period.
“It’s a bad feeling. You just hope that he’s fine,” Gadowsky said. “We had the discussion about concussions earlier. It’s certainly not a good feeling. Great to see him back on the bench, though.”
McBride cut the lead to one 6:52 into the third, stuffing a wrap-around shot past McAdam.
Olczyk added insurance as the Nittany Lions were killing a penalty. The fifth-year senior snared the puck out of the air with his glove at their own blue line, knocking the puck forward to start a breakaway. He beat Leisner to cap the day’s scoring.
Gadowsky thought Olczyk’s goal was a key point in the game, along with Berger’s goal and a defensive block by David Thompson midway through the third period when the margin was still one goal.
“Obviously a huge, huge time in the game where they’re looking to even it up and we’re looking to kill (the penalty),” Gadowsky said. “When you go into it thinking, ‘Jeez, let’s just kill it, let’s just come away with this even and you get a huge goal like that, it’s huge. That was a big, big goal.”
Notes: Penn State remains home next week, hosting No. 17 St. Lawrence on Thursday and Friday. … After entering the weekend leading the nation in power play conversions at 67 percent, Penn State was 1 for 5 Saturday and 1 for 7 for the weekend. The Nittany Lions could not cash in on the 5-minute major from the penalty on More. … Also picking up assists for Penn State were Erik Autio, Curtis Loik, Derian Hamilton, David Goodwin, Ricky DeRosa and Marsh. … Loik, Marsh and Goodwin have each posted a point in all five games this season. … The official attendance was 5,940, but the arena was only a little over two-thirds full, including the student section, with the Penn State-Maryland football game played at the same time. … Gadowsky was not definitive, but said it was likely the same goalie rotation would be used next weekend with Matthew Skoff in the first game and McAdam in the second.