STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — In a rematch of an outdoor game played in January 2012, Neumann defeated Penn State 3-2 in overtime Tuesday night at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
A year ago outside at Citizens Bank Park, Neumann won 6-3.
Tonight, Neumann goalie Ben Curley held his team in the game and finished with 44 saves before Jon Low scored the overtime winner 4:07 into the extra session.
The Knights survived a third-period Penn State onslaught thanks to Curley’s heroics and his teammates rewarded their netminder. On a broken play in the offensive zone, Casey Rogers put a shot on goal through traffic from high in the slot. Penn State goalie P.J. Musico could not smother the puck and Low sneaked to the left post and tucked it past the sliding goaltender to seal the win.
The game started quickly when just 20 seconds into action, the Knights picked up right where they left off at Citizens Bank Park as Jordan Zalba walked his way to the slot. He backhanded the puck off of Musico’s pad, but Chris Bournazos picked up the rebound and shoveled his ninth goal of the season over the sprawled Nittany Lion goaltender to make it 1-0 early.
The slow starts continued to be a trend for Penn State, as they have allowed the game’s first goal in 14 of 20 NCAA games, a statistic that did not sit well with coach Guy Gadowsky.
“We were not ready,” said Gadowsky. “The hockey gods will never let you get away with that. It’s a mental toughness issue. We have to figure it out.”
As a sloppy first period continued, the two teams canceled out an opponent’s power play by taking too-many-men bench minors less than two minutes apart. Continuing the trend, neither side was able to convert on the other’s mental error, keeping the score 1-0.
Even though the Nittany Lions showed a higher quality of play to start the second, a Neumann bounce handed the Knights the two-goal lead. From the left wing boards, a D’Lane Sather centering pass deflected off a Nittany Lion cutting through the slot and past Musico to make it 2-0 at 4:45.
Despite holding the advantage, the Knights could not stay out of the box and the Nittany Lions made them pay. After some good puck movement along the right wing boards, Peter Sweetland found Casey Bailey cross-ice, who ripped a one timer from the left circle past Curley to make it 2-1 at 9:46. It was the Anchorage native’s team-leading tenth goal of the season and third on the power play.
The Nittany Lions continued to pour on the offensive exploits to tie the game. At 14:54, after Kenny Brooks worked the puck to the front of the net, he found his linemate David Glen on a backhand feed to the left side, and the Penn State center buried it to make it 2-2. Glen joined Bailey in tallying goal No. 10 on the season.
As the third period began, Penn State continued to dominate in the shot category, unleashing six attempts in less than three minutes. However, Curley was able to come up with the answers.
Neumann continued to have difficulty generating offense as the third progressed. By regulation’s conclusion, Penn State had outshot the Knights 21-1 in the third period, but the Nittany Lions did not make excuses.
“We shouldn’t put ourselves in that situation where we need to scramble in the third period,” said Bailey.
With his combined 25 saves in the third period and overtime, Curley won the praise of his coach, Dominick Dawes.
“[Curley was] phenomenal,” Dawes said. “Goaltending has been the backbone of our team. I also give credit to the guys in front of him. They blocked a ton of shots tonight and took away a lot of their second chances.”