College Hockey:
Arizona State gains split with Penn State after Saturday exhibition victory

— The Arizona State Sun Devils of the ACHA defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 3-1 to split a two-game weekend exhibition series at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.

For the second night in a row, the Sun Devils did not come out intimidated by their NCAA opponent, outshooting the Nittany Lions 16-10 in the first period.

The period ended scoreless only because of the stellar goaltending of Penn State’s P.J. Musico and Arizona State’s Joe D’Elia.

Penn State had three power-play opportunities, including a five-on-three advantage for 46 seconds. However, the Sun Devils’ penalty kill excelled just one night after allowing Penn State goals on all three power-play chances. The Nittany Lions killed off the only Sun Devils’ power play in the period.

The Sun Devils rolled their first period ferocity into the middle stanza. Just 38 seconds into the period, after a Nittany Lion turnover, and on a two-on-one rush, Dan Styrna found Faiz Khan on the left-wing side and he backhanded the puck past Musico to make it 1-0.

Penn State has now allowed the first goal of the game in five of their six home contests.

Following the goal, Arizona State tightened up defensively, employing a suffocating neutral-zone trap that only allowed Penn State to register nine total shots in the second period. At the other end, Musico remained stout in keeping the Nittany Lions within one following a scoreless middle frame.

Penn State appeared to be given a momentum shift late in the period when Sun Devils’ captain Colin Hekle took a slashing minor at 19:16. However, Arizona State killed the penalty as it carried into the third.

The Sun Devils’ continued energies provided an insurance marker early in the third. After a pair of Nittany Lions slid down in the slot area to try to block a pass, Kale Dolinski found the loose disc, spun and beat Musico through the five-hole to make it 2-0 at 2:40.

The Nittany Lions’ scuffling attack got a much-needed boost from their penalty killers to cut the lead in half. Tommy Olczyk walked down the right wing side after stealing the puck and slid a soft backhand feed to Curtis Loik, who finished it to make it 2-1 at 6:28.

Moments later, the Nittany Lions appeared to have the game tied.

Dominic Morrone deflected Luke Juha’s point shot behind D’Elia. Unfortunately, Morrone used his glove to make the tip and the referees immediately waved the goal off to keep the score 2-1 in favor of the Sun Devils.

The Sun Devils made sure Penn State had no more comebacks in them shortly thereafter.

After a Max Gardiner turnover at the offensive blue line, Dolinski roared past the Penn State forward and beat Musico on a breakaway backhander to make it 3-1 at 13:35.

From there, the Sun Devils’ defense held strong and D’Elia’s 36 saves, including 17 in the final period, were enough to preserve the win.

After the tough defeat, Penn State head coach Guy Gadowsky pulled no punches in explaining his team’s loss.

“[Arizona State] definitely wanted to take advantage of this opportunity,” said Gadowsky. “One team really wanted to be here and the other did not.”

ASU coach Greg Powers saw a greater focus and intensity level from his squad in the second matchup.

“Last night, we blinked and [Penn State] scored three quick goals,” said Powers. “It was going to take 60 minutes of intense focus [to win].”

In the opposing dressing room, Loik’s frustrations were evident.

“Any team we play, it should be the same mentality,” said Loik. “If we had brought what we had brought against Union, we would have been out of here with a victory.”

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