STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Two first-period goals were enough for Penn State as the Nittany Lions beat Sacred Heart 2-1 to keep them undefeated at their new home inside Pegula Ice Arena.
The game was a back-and-forth affair, with both teams getting quality chances.
Penn State’s first goal came on the power play at 3:51 of the opening period. Luke Juha snapped a shot from the left point that was initially stopped by Sacred Heart goalie Alex Vazzano, but it popped up off his blocker. After some significant hang time, the puck bounced off Vazzano’s back and into the net for Juha’s third power-play goal of the season.
Ricky DeRosa may have scored the second goal for the Nittany Lions at 8:04 of the first period, but the play originated from Tommy Olczyk. The Lions’ captain pounced on a puck that Neil Fachini couldn’t control behind his own net. Olczyk managed to take the puck to the net and took a shot from the crease. The ensuing rebound popped right onto the freshman’s stick and the shot zipped past Vazzano’s blocker.
DeRosa was named the game’s first star as his second goal of the season ended up being the game-winner.
After the game, the Aston, Pa., native said that he is getting more comfortable on the ice.
“It’s definitely nice,” DeRosa said. “You just build confidence in practice. Just going over the little things [like] doing the same drills [and it] translates over to the games.”
Penn State coach Guy Gadowsky said DeRosa had good game all around.
“He had a couple of great plays in the defensive zone as a centerman,” Gadowsky said. “He is versatile [and tonight,] he was very good down low.”
After the second goal, the scoring dried up until 19:32 of the third period when Will Rayner scored with an extra attacker for Sacred Heart. The goal kept the last 28 seconds of the game interesting when the puck bounced past PSU goalie Matt Skoff, denying him the shutout.
Skoff said he would have rather taken the win and added that it “wasn’t a big deal” not getting the shutout.
Prior to Rayner’s goal, the Pioneers’ best chance came at 18:50 of the second period when the puck took a deflection off a Penn State player and was heading straight for the twine behind Skoff. However, Juha reached out and cleared the puck off the goal line to keep the shutout possible.
Juha credited the clearance to “being at the right place at the right time” and added that the play was instinctive.
“I should probably buy him dinner,” Skoff said with smile.
Penn State appeared to have taken a three-goal lead in the third period after a scramble in front of the Pioneer net resulted in the puck sneaking through Vazzano. After a lengthy review, it was determined that the puck was kicked in.
Vazzano finished with 37 saves.
Skoff, who made 20 saves of his own, added that he thought his counterpart played “tremendous.”
Sacred Heart was unavailable for comment following the game.