It was a bit tough to tell who won and who lost Saturday’s non-conference college hockey game between Union and Penn State.
On the Penn State side, coach Guy Gadowsky was certainly happy with his team’s effort, especially the play of goalie Matthew Skoff.
On the Union side, coach Rick Bennett and his players believed they should have given a much better effort against NCAA hockey’s newest Division I team.
But looks can be deceiving. It was the eighth-ranked Dutchmen who should have been happy with their 2-0 win over the Nittany Lions at Messa Rink.
Bennett expected a tough game against the Nittany Lions, since he knows Gadowsky and his style. Gadowsky coached for seven seasons at ECAC Hockey-rival Princeton before taking the Penn State job on Easter Sunday of 2011.
What Bennett wanted from his Dutchmen (7-2-1) was more intensity. He didn’t believe his players were intense enough, even though they had a 42-22 shot advantage. The two-week layoff, plus playing an unknown team in Penn State, may have combined to make Union a bit lethargic.
“As a coaching staff, and myself, we could have gotten that across a lot better,” said Bennett, whose Dutchmen face the Nittany Lions again today at 4 p.m. “I think our guys know it. They know it now. Sometimes, it’s a little too, too late. That was almost the case tonight.”
Asked if he felt fortunate to win, Bennett said, “Yes, yes we do.”
It was scoreless after the first period. Wayne Simpson gave Union a 1-0 lead in the second, and the score remained that way until Cole Ikkala’s empty-net goal with 13.5 seconds left clinched Union’s win.
“I thought the way Matt was playing, we were going to have chances,” Gadowsky said. “That’s an excellent team. [Chances] are tough to come by.”
Skoff, a freshman, nearly stole the game for the Nittany Lions
(6-4). He made 40 saves.
“I actually prefer getting peppered like that,” Skoff said. “It’s easier to get into a groove the more shots you get.”
Skoff’s biggest came late in the second period. He was twisted around and off balance when Simpson attempted a wraparound before passing the puck to Shawn Stuart at the top of the right circle. Stuart’s drive was ticketed for the upper corner of the net, but Skoff somehow flicked out his glove and knocked it away.
“Actually, the guy came around the net, and I thought he was going to stuff it,” Skoff said. “And then he threw it out in front, and I awkwardly got out there. I saw it was going high glove, so I just threw it up. It was kind of a lucky save.”
Meanwhile, Dutchmen sophomore and Niskayuna native Colin Stevens didn’t face the volume of shots that Skoff saw. But Stevens had a couple dangerous ones on the same play late in the second period. Stevens got turned around after stopping a Michael McDonagh shot. Nate Jensen got the rebound, and the puck was sliding toward the goal line.
Stevens quickly got his glove on it and swept it away. A video
review confirmed that the puck never crossed the goal line.
“I think I went down a little too early,” Stevens said. “A guy sent a pass across the top of the crease. I reached back, and got a little lucky.”
Stevens made 22 saves to earn his second shutout of the season. He got the start in order to give Troy Grosenick another day to rest his right leg that he injured Nov. 9 at Harvard.
“Sometimes, your goaltender has to win you a hockey game, and that’s what happened tonight,” Bennett said. “I thought Colin did a great job tonight. He battled hard. I though if I had to give anybody the battle award, it would definitely have been Colin tonight.”
The only goal Skoff allowed came midway through the second period.
Pinpoint passing between Ryan Forgaard and Kyle Bodie started the play. Forgaard sent the puck up the left wing to Bodie, who took a look across the ice and saw Simpson breaking down the right wing. Bodie hit Simpson perfectly with the pass.
Simpson skated to the right circle, and fired a wrist shot past Skoff’s stick side at 9:35 for his seventh goal of the season.
“It was two great poised plays on the neutral-zone offense,” said the senior Simpson, who is nine points away from 100 for his career. “It was just up to me to find a spot and, luckily, I found a spot under the blocker there.”
Penn State 0 0 0 — 0
Union 0 1 1 — 2
First Period — None. Penalties — Glen, PS (tripping), 1:17; Longo, PS (hooking), 13:02; Stuart, Uni (interference), 19:00; Gardiner, PS (high-sticking), 19:32.
Second Period — 1, Union, Simpson 7 (K. Bodie, Forgaard), 9:35. Penalties — K. Bodie, Uni (roughing), 5:41; Longo, PS (hitting after whistle), 15:47; Roy, Uni (hitting after whistle), 15:47.
Third Period — 2, Union, Ikkala 1 (Novak, Stuart), 19:46 (en). Penalties — Loik, PS (cross-checking), 11:48; Glen, PS (roughing), 14:17; Vasaturo, Uni (slashing), 14:17.
Shots on Goal — Penn State 5-7-10 — 22. Union 14-15-13 — 42.
Power-play opportunities — Penn State 0 of 2; Union 0 of 4.
Goalies — Penn State, Skoff 2-3-0 (41 shots-40 saves). Union, Stevens 3-1-0 (22-22).
A — 1,815. T — 2:01.
Referees — Peter Feola, Kyle Allen. Linesmen — Tory Carissima, Justin Prusak.