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Nittany Lion Notebook: Penn State at No. 4 UMass Lowell

Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Penn State (6-2-2) took the ice this weekend after a week-long break and played to a loss and a win against No. 4 UMass Lowell (7-2-2), handing the River Hawks their second defeat of the season and giving the Nittany Lions their first victory over a top-five ranked opponent in their young Division I history.

Friday: 5-3 loss vs. UMass Lowell

The Nittany Lions went down early in the match to the River Hawks, getting into a 2-0 hole in the first 20 minutes of the game. Robert Francis' slap shot tally beat starting Penn State goaltender Matt Skoff with 11:13 gone in the game and then captain Zach Kamrass' first goal of the season with less than two minutes to go in the opening frame on a shot from the slot doubled the UMass lead.

Penn State got off to a better start in the second as Casey Bailey cut the lead in half 2-1 on his sixth goal of the year just 17 seconds into the frame. Taylor Holstrom's point shot got through traffic to Bailey, who gathered the loose rebound and put a back handed shot top shelf on River Hawk goaltender Kevin Boyle.

UMass responded quickly to regain their two-goal lead 1:40 later on John Edwardh's goal that stemmed from a Penn State defensive lapse and Skoff couldn't recover on the mistake for the 3-1 score.

The River Hawks added onto their score with 11:13 to go in the second period off of Francis' second score of the night on a great face off win from teammate Chris Maniccia. The 4-1 tally was the last for goaltender Skoff and sophomore Eamon McAdam took the net for the Nittany Lions, making nine saves in his first period of action for Penn State.

McAdam gave up his first of the season with 11:39 to play in the game on CJ Smith's third goal of the year to make it 5-1 for UMass.

Former captain Tommy Olczyk got the Nittany Lions back on the scoresheet 5-2 with just over eight and a half minutes to play in the game on his second tally of the year. Curtis Loik fought off multiple River Hawks behind the UMass net and dished the puck to the wide open senior and he stashed it glove side on the back hand on Boyle.

It was just a little too late for a Penn State comeback, but David Goodwin tacked on his fourth of the year to cut the lead to 5-3 on Holstrom's no look pass with 1:15 to play from the slot.

Skoff ended the game with eight saves on 12 shots and in McAdam's first appearance this season, the sophomore held the River Hawks to 17 saves on 18 shots. Penn State did outshoot Lowell in the 60 minute outing, 37-30.

Saturday: 4-1 win vs. UMass Lowell

The Nittany Lions dominated the River Hawks in almost every aspect of Saturday's historic 4-1 victory. Beating No. 4 UMass Lowell gives Penn State it's first nationally ranked top-five opponent they've beaten and the win against the River Hawks is also the team's highest ranked opponent they've beaten in their three years of Division I play. Penn State's last ranked opponent win was against No. 10 Michigan last February.

Junior Bailey continued his scoring streak with a pair of scores and last season's captain Olczyk tacked on his second goal over the weekend in the commanding win. Forward Holstrom put up three assists in the 4-1 victory.

Bailey's first of the game came on a power play just past the six minute mark of the opening period. The puck came to Bailey off of Holstrom's face off win and the junior waited for traffic to form in front of the net before snapping a hard shot from the top of the right circle past goaltender Jeff Smith high, right side for the 1-0 score.

Two minutes later, Bailey put home his eighth of the year on Holstrom's pass from behind the net right to the stick of the junior and there was no hesitation as he expanded Penn State's lead to 2-0.

When it looked like the Nittany Lions were going to take a two-goal lead into the first intermission, Eric Scheid tallied his sixth of the season with 19 seconds to play in the period. Penn State's relentless pressure kept the River Hawks on their heels and Scheid put one home from in front after David Thompson's shot deflected off of bodies in front and Scheid stuffed it home to go into the first break up 3-0.

The Nittany Lions did not let up in the second and 47 seconds in, Olczyk expanded the lead to 4-0 after UMass turned the puck over at their own blue line while exiting the zone. Olczyk took the lead pass from Holstrom, who collected the turnover for his third assist, and put the puck in on Smith while streaking down the right wing. Boyle took the net after Smith let in four goals on 14 shots in the first 21 minutes of the game.

Goaltender McAdam's bid for the shutout was ended when UMass tacked on a power play goal with 9:30 remaining in the contest, but the Nittany Lions held the River hawks to just six shots in the period to hang onto the 4-1 victory.

Penn State continued their unbeaten streak of outshooting opponents in Saturday's game, putting up 31 shots to the 25 for the River Hawks.

The Good

Sophomore goaltender Eamon McAdam won his first collegiate game in net for the Nittany Lions over the weekend in his first start between the pipes since early February 2014 against No. 10 Michigan. McAdam saved 24 of 25 in Saturday's victory, a major factor in keeping UMass to their lowest goal total for a game this season, and stopped 41 of 43 over his two games played this weekend.

"I think Eamon has really made some commitments to himself and how he was going to approach this year," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "Both in his own work ethic and throughout the start of the year the way he's approached practices and the team has been excellent.

"He's absolutely deserved to get the chance if we needed him to come in."

"It was a pretty big relief and a monkey off the back kind of feeling," said McAdam. "It's always good to get your first win. Last year, I was close a bunch of times, but I couldn't pull together a win. Like I said, it was a big relief. My parents were there, which is cool because I got to enjoy that with them."

The Bad

Penn State's uncontested starting goaltender for the season Skoff let in four goals on 12 shots in Friday's 5-3 loss. The junior played almost half a game, clocking in at 28:47 in the loss.

"We certainly were giving up some huge opportunities [Friday night]," said Gadowsky. "By no means is this a knock on Skoff, but we happened to give up a lot of Grade A opportunities and four of them went in."

It wasn't a good game all around for the Nittany Lions but up until now, Skoff had been very solid in net for Penn State all season long. McAdam's performance in net over the weekend will be something to keep note of if things happen to take a strange turn between the pipes somewhere down the road this season.

Weekend Standout Players

  • F Taylor Holstrom: 5A (now tied for top in the nation on points this season with 16 and the sole leader in assists with 13)
  • F Casey Bailey: 3G, 1A
  • G Eamon McAdam: .953 SV%, 1.32 GAA

Upcoming

Big Ten play officially starts for Penn State next weekend, when they will head to Ann Arbor to play the Michigan Wolverines (4-5-0). Last season, the Nittany Lions held their only winning record of any conference team against Michigan last season, going 3-2-0 against the Wolverines last season, including their thrilling 2-1 double OT win in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

Friday's game starts at 7:30 p.m on Fox Sports Detroit Plus while Saturday's game starts at 7:35 p.m. on Comcast Network 900.

Women's Corner

The Penn State women's team (6-5-3, 1-2-1 CHA) picked up their first win in the CHA this season, splitting a weekend series verses RIT, losing Friday night 3-0 but winning 3-2 Saturday afternoon. To read more on their weekend, check out my recap on Victory Bell Rings here.