Things were never going to be easy for Penn State, joining a conference that featured, historically some of the best teams in the country. In its second year as a D1 program, the Nittany Lions have been in several one-sided affairs. That includes a 7-3 defeat to Michigan on Friday.
Saturday's nationally televised game at home against the Wolverines was also one of them - in the other direction.
After nine consecutive losses to open up the inaugural season of Big Ten conference play, Penn State (5-18-1, 1-9-0-0 Big Ten) shut out #10 Michigan 4-0 on ESPNU to earn its first-ever conference win and three points. Sophomore goaltender Matthew Skoff made 32 saves in front of 6,170 fans at Pegula Arena for his second career D1 shutout.
It's a setback for the Wolverines. The team had the chance to get ahead in the Big Ten conference title race with Minnesota being swept by Wisconsin earlier this weekend. Michigan (14-7-3, 6-3-1-1 Big Ten) now is six points back of the Gophers - the two teams play one another next weekend in Minneapolis - instead of trailing by three with two games in hand.
The Nittany Lions got off to a quick start, only needing only 5:31 to get on the board. Zach Sarr, who had scored in Friday's loss, beat Michigan freshman goaltender Zach Nagelvoort to give the home team a 1-0 lead. He was joined almost six minutes later by teammate David Glen, who banged one home from the side of the net.
It's Glen's third goal of the season and first since donating bone marrow. The sophomore forward returned to the lineup Friday following a three game absence for the procedure.
Casey Bailey notched his 5th goal and all of a sudden the visiting Wolverines found itself in a 3-0 hole. The three goals on nine shots spelled the end of Nagelvoort's night as Michigan head coach Red Berenson brought in Steve Racine. The sophomore settled his defense down, making 30 saves.
However, he was matched on the other end by Skoff. Michigan came close at times. Despite Boo Nieves hitting the post and an apparent goal waved off, Skoff would not let anything past him Saturday. The McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania native played with a confidence throughout the game which spread to his team. Penn State killed a timely penalty late in the second period when the Wolverines were threatening and didn't sit back on the lead.
PSU had a few chances of its own to get the fourth goal before Ricky DeRosa did so with 3:51 remaining in the game.
To make matters worse for Michigan, sophomore forward Alex Guptill (Dallas Stars) left the game in the second period with what appeared to be a shoulder injury. The Nittany Lions were without Nate Jensen after a hit by Michael Downing (Florida Panthers) in the second period. Jensen was shaken up although he returned to the game.
Penn State, who next hosts Michigan State on Friday and Saturday, can now knock off the list its first conference win and shutout (a year to the day the program got its first), though. You always remember your first.
- UMD Hockey: Aaron Crandall wins shootout, celebrates by doing "Bernie" dance (VIDEO)
- College Hockey Television Schedule: February 7th and 8th
- St. Lawrence at Quinnipiac: Pregame notes and line charts
- Northeastern gives up 48 shots and falls to UMass 3-0 at home
- Introducing our BTN Frozen Friday Drinking Game
Nathan Wells is a college hockey columnist for SB Nation. You can also follow him on Twitter -- Follow @gopherstate