Penn State now owns sole possession of first place in the Big Ten conference after coming away from a weekend series with Michigan State with a tie and a win. Both weekend games saw the Nittany Lions (11-7-3, 5-2-1-0 Big Ten) come back from a 2-1 deficit and while Friday's game against the Spartans (7-11-2, 1-3-2-2 Big Ten) ended officially in a 2-2 tie with Michigan State winning the shootout and the extra point in the standings, Penn State rebounded Saturday evening for a 5-2 win.
Friday: 2-2 tie vs. Michigan State
For the second straight Friday, Penn State overcame an early hole on a Big Ten opponent to force overtime, but could not tally a win on the scoresheet. The Nittany Lions recovered from a 2-1 Spartan lead to take Michigan State to an extra five minutes of hockey, but lost 3-2 in the shootout, surrendering the extra point in the standings to the visitors.
Down 2-1 heading into the final few minutes of the game, David Goodwin's goal with 7:49 left to play gave Penn State life, but the Nittany Lions could not capitalize in the overtime period and had to settle for one point of two in the official tie.
Michigan State took the 1-0 lead with 3:49 left in the first, despite being outshot by a wide margin of 11 in the opening frame. Ryan Keller's second goal of the year got past sophomore starting netminder for the Nittany Lions Eamon McAdam to put the Spartans out front early.
However, Eric Scheid picked up where he left off from last weekend's two goal performance to tie the game 1-1 for the Nittany Lions with 59 seconds to play in the opening period. Scheid went in on a breakaway alone and his shot was seemingly stopped by Michigan State goaltender Jake Hildebrand, but the puck found its way over the goal line for the junior's 10th goal of the year.
The Spartans had one goal left in them to end a flurry of a first period on a quick strike from Villiam Haag past McAdam for the 2-1 score 26 seconds after Scheid's tying tally. Penn State almost thought they had tied the game once more on Dylan Richard's shot before the end of the opening frame, but the call stood as a no-goal to end an exciting last few minutes of the opening 20.
Michigan State outshot Penn State in a scoreless second 12-9, though both teams were held off the scoresheet until Goodwin tied the game with under eight minutes to play in the third period. The top line winger beat Hildebrand with a shot from the high slot that went high on the netminder just under the crossbar to send the game into overtime.
Penn State was outshot 5-1 by the Spartans in the five minute overtime period and could not generate enough chances to beat Hildebrand one last time.
Even in the shootout, the Nittany Lions couldn't net one more tally against the Spartan netminder while Brent Darnell was the deciding factor for Michigan State, beating McAdam in the second round to give his team the shootout victory 3-2.
Penn State did outshoot Michigan State by a hefty margin 50-35 and while no power play goals were tallied by either squad in their two attempts for the game, the Nittany Lions had six different players notch points in the tie.
Saturday: 5-2 win vs. Michigan State
After last week's hat trick, Casey Bailey was the star of the show again for the Nittany Lions, tallying two goals in the team's 5-2 victory to take back first place in the Big Ten.
Four straight goals from Penn State after another 2-1 Michigan State lead capped off a stingy four goal performance from the top line of Bailey, Goodwin, and Taylor Holstrom.
It took 71 seconds into the game for Bailey to get his first and give Penn State their first lead of the series on a breakaway caused by a Michigan State defensive turnover. The junior forward beat Jake Hildebrand on his stick side to put the Nittany Lions up 1-0 within the first minute and a half of the game.
The Spartans tallied their only two goals of the game to end the first period. The first came from Villiam Haag to tie the game 1-1 three minutes after Bailey gave Penn State the lead. On the power play with Dylan Richard in the box for hooking, Haag beat Penn State goaltender Matt Skoff a minute into the advantage. Then to end the period, Spartan captain Michael Ferrantino struck with 23 seconds to play in the opening frame for his ninth goal of the season to put Michigan State up 2-1 heading into the second period.
Penn State's comeback started off the stick of defenseman Nate Jensen, who pocked his first goal of the year to tie the game 2-2 with 4:59 to go in the second period. A wrap around attempt by Curtis Loik and James Robinson's follow-up was stopped by Hildebrand, but Jensen was able to pick up the loose puck in a scramble in front and fired it top shelf on an out of position Hildebrand.
With under three minutes to play in the middle period, Goodwin gave Penn State the lead again after a blocked shot from Connor Varley came to Bailey and the forward's pass set up the wide open 3-2 play to his linemate. The Nittany Lions went into the second intermission with the lead for the first time in the series.
A minute thirty into the final period of the evening, Holstrom contributed to the Penn State lead 4-2 then 59 seconds later, Bailey finished his two-goal game off of assists from linemates Goodwin and Holstrom to put the Nittany Lions on the path to victory 5-2.
In net for Penn State, Skoff had a 28-save effort for his seventh win of the year and his first win of the 2015 half of the season.
The Nittany Lions also outshot Michigan State 40-30 and outpaced them in every period besides the third, where they tied the Spartans on the scoresheet with 11 shots. Michigan State tallied one power play goal on five attempts while Penn State was held off the power play goal column with no goals in six tries.
Coming off of their two losses in the Three Rivers Classic at the end of December, Penn State's been playing a bit of up and down hockey over the past few weeks. The Nittany Lions are 2-1-1 to start 2015 and while they lead the Big Ten by one point over Michigan, they only received two votes in the last USCHO rankings and are 22nd in the PairWise rankings, six spots out of a potential NCAA tournament berth.
On the plus side, only three of their last fifteen games are out of conference and Penn State has gone 5-2-1 in their games against Big Ten opponents. However, the Nittany Lions have to play powerhouse Minnesota, currently ranked 16th in the USCHO poll as of Sunday, four times and No. 19 Michigan twice before the season's end so Penn State needs to find their gear and find it fast if they want to make a run for the NCAA tournament.
Penn State will finish their six game home stand next week against their second to last non-conference opponent in Northern Michigan (9-8-5) for two games.
The Penn State women's team (12-9-3, 7-4-1 CHA) bested CHA opponent RIT at home for their second conference sweep of the season. Saturday, the Nittany Lions beat the Tigers 2-1 then Sunday they finished the sweep with a 3-1 win.