STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Mark Yanis blasted a one-timer for the game-winning goal late in the third period as Penn State defeated Alabama-Huntsville 4-3 at the Greenberg Ice Pavilion.
As the game entered the final moments, Yanis, who missed more than two months with a broken foot earlier in the season, blocked a shot off his leg with just over five minutes to play.
While he admitted he could not feel his leg for a time, Yanis gutted it out and remained on the ice and ultimately proved to be a hero.
At 15:33, Taylor Holstrom ran a Charger into the boards, stole the puck, and backhanded a pass blindly through the slot. Yanis pinched into the open space and unleashed a howitzer from the high slot past UAH goaltender John Griggs’ stick to give the Nittany Lions the win.
Penn State had a much improved first-period effort as opposed to Friday night’s opening 20 minutes, which featured misplays and tons of defensive giveaways.
Penn State’s offense quickly struck less than halfway through the first period Saturday. At 8:45, following a long cycling session in the offensive zone, Holstrom fed Casey Bailey between the circles, and the Alaska native buried a one-timer past Griggs to make it 1-0.
As the first period came to a close, Penn State continued to press the Charger defense while only dressing four defensemen because of injuries.
About halfway through regulation, at 10:45 of period two, David Glen connected on his fourth goal of the weekend and 16th of the season. On a power play, he slid to the bottom of the right circle and one-timed a shot past Griggs off a feed from Bailey.
Penn State did not hold a 2-0 lead for long, however.
The Chargers came storming back with offensive pressure of their own and at 17:34, Kyle Lysaght took a feed from Michael Webley in the right circle and drilled it past Nittany Lions’ goaltender Matthew Skoff to cut the lead to 2-1.
Penn State then took two penalties in the final minute of the period, as Rich O’Brien and Connor Varley were escorted off. With 1:16 of a two-man advantage time to start the third, Huntsville connected quickly.
At the 54-second mark of the final period, Justin Cseter found a loose puck after Skoff made an initial save on Jeff Vanderlugt and tucked it into an open net from the left circle. With the game tied 2-2, the Chargers were unable to score on the back end of the power play and the game remained tied.
At 7:23, controversy entered the game’s atmosphere. After stripping a puck free from behind the goal line, Kenny Brooks threw a blind bank shot into the crease. Griggs deflected it behind his body towards the goal line and while it appeared to hover around the line, the referee decisively ruled “goal” on the ice, giving Penn State a 3-2 lead.
After the game, Chargers’ coach Kurt Kleinendorst was candid in his assessment of the call.
“There was not one single person behind the goal cheering,” said Kleinendorst. “If you know the puck is in, you cheer, but not one single person got excited.”
Despite the bad break, the Chargers did not quit and at 12:20, Brice Geoffrion deflected a point shot to the side of the net, then jabbed it past Skoff to tie the game at 3-3.
That set the stage for Yanis’ game-winner.
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky was ecstatic about his team’s gutsy victory, particularly the battered blueliners.
“To play with four [defensemen], it’s pretty easy to have a built-in excuse not to play hard,” said Gadowsky. “I give those guys a lot of credit.”
In the loss, Griggs shined for Huntsville, recording 32 saves, while Skoff turned aside 24 offerings.