Penn State (7-3-2, 1-1-0 Big Ten) officially started their conference play over the weekend and came away from their series in Ann Arbor with a two-game split, playing to a gutsy 3-2 victory over Michigan (5-6-0, 1-1-0 Big Ten) Friday night but falling short Saturday in a 8-1 loss.
The win gave Penn State their first Big Ten victory of the season, a statistic I called back in the beginning of October when we did our conference predictions, and now the Nittany Lions hold a 4-3-0 record over their closest team to a rival that they have.
Friday: 3-2 win vs. Michigan
Michigan gained an early lead only 46 seconds into the game on Max Shuart's third goal of the season from a rebound that Penn State sophomore netminder Eamon McAdam could not stop in front.
However, Penn State managed to put a three-spot on Michigan in the final six minutes of the first period to take the commanding two-goal lead.
Max Gardiner tied the game for the Nittany Lions for his second tally of the season with 5:54 to play in the frame. With Penn State on the power play, Casey Bailey's signature one-timer from the left circle found its way through bodies in front of the net and deflected off of Gardiner past Michigan netminder Zach Nagelvoort for the 1-1 tying score.
Eric Scheid made the Wolverines pay off a turnover 22 seconds later, as the forward rushed the attacking Michigan offense off a Penn State defensive zone draw and picked up the lose puck to go on a breakaway. Scheid eluded the defender chasing him down from behind and fooled Nagelvoort five-hole with some trickery to put the Nittany Lions up 2-1.
Bailey gained his second point of the night on an unassisted tally with shades of Scheid's goal two and a half minutes later. Another Michigan turnover in Penn State's defensive zone gave Bailey a two-on-one break with teammate David Goodwin. Bailey avoided a sliding Michigan defender on the rush and put a slicing wrister in on Navelvoort's gloveside to put Penn State up 3-1 going into the first break.
Despite the scoreless second period, Michigan held the lead in the shot count 18-7 but McAdam was solid in between the pipes in the middle frame to keep Penn State's lead at two.
The Wolverines broke through again 3:07 into the final frame thanks to Michael Downing's shot that beat McAdam from the slot for his second of the year, but Penn State managed to hold onto the 3-2 victory despite being outshot again in the period, 8-6.
McAdam stopped 38 shots for his second win as starting netminder for Penn State, two more than he had all of last season.
The 3-2 win for Penn State was the first time this season where the Nittany Lions were outshot in a game through their first 11 contests of the season. The Wolverines dominated the shot count, 40-28.
Penn State also went 1-for-2 on the power play and kept Michigan from scoring on the extra-man advantage in each of their four chances through the 60 minute game.
Saturday: 8-1 loss vs. Michigan
Taylor Holstrom tacked on Penn State's only tally in their seven-goal loss to the Wolverines on Saturday, their biggest loss in their young Division I history.
After a scoreless first period, Michigan exploded for three goals in the second period and then five in the third to put up their fifth win of the year and their first in the Big Ten conference.
However, Penn State believed they took a 1-0 lead in the first on freshman Scott Conway's wrap around goal attempt, though after an official review the try was called a no-goal after the puck did not cross the goal line.
Holstrom broke the Michigan shutout with just 33 seconds to go in the second period to give Penn State a 3-1 score. Bailey assisted on Holstrom's tally to extend his four-game point streak and gave the forward three points in two days.
Unfortunately, Penn State's fighting chance was snuffed out as six minutes into the final frame, the Nittany Lions allowed their first shorthanded goal of the season to Andrew Copp to make it 4-1. From there, Michigan scored a total of four more times in the final 20 minutes and had a total of seven goal scorers in the contest.
Again, Penn State was able to blank Michigan on the power play and the Nittany Lions went 1-for-8 on their own extra-man chances.
Sophomore McAdam took his first loss of the year while saving 37 of 45 Wolverine shots and Penn State was outshot for the second time this season and was bested by Michigan in the stat 45-42.
Along with getting their first Big Ten win three months earlier in the season than last year, Penn State played a staunch defensive game in their 3-2 win on Friday. Not only did McAdam help steal the win with his 38 saves, the team blocked a total of 23 shots and killed off a late Michigan power play which could have turned the tide of the game to tie contest.
"Their habits in the defensive zone were excellent, but they have to be because we were playing there all the time," head coach Guy Gadowsky said. "And to kill a penalty late I think showed a lot of their grit, but we can't put ourselves in that position."
On the reverse side of that, Gadowsky was not pleased with the way his team performed in the win Friday.
"We didn't play well. Luckily we had a tremendous goaltending performance, but I don't think anybody is happy in that locker room right now," Gadowsky said after Friday's game. "Regardless of who we were playing, we didn't play well and we were lucky to win."
They weren't lucky Saturday and it showed, with the Nittany Lions getting out performed on basically every statistic against the Wolverines. In total, the team was a -40 in +/- rating, but a few bright spots were the team's ability to keep Michigan off the scoresheet on the power play and they won the battle at the face off dot on Saturday 36-25.