Saturday, January 19, 2013
Phanatic Hockey Editor
Let's not kid ourselves. While the first-ever Division I college hockey game which took place at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night between Penn State and Vermont was a positive sign for the 2014 Frozen Four, it simply wasn't 19,529 fans good.
That was the number of tickets sold, roughly 4,000 more than who actually showed up, and the typical band-playing, mock-razzing atmosphere found in tight-knit campus venues was almost totally consumed by the size of the arena.
And you might not be able to look past the fact that Vermont (385 miles) was the home team and Penn State (193 miles) wasn't, but if college isn't about suspending disbelief and having a good time for once, what is?
Justin Kirchheval picked up the deciding goal thanks to some faulty work by the officiating crew, and the Nittany Lions emerged with a 4-2 victory over the Catamounts.
Already up by two, the Nits' margin stretched to three at the 9:43 mark of the second period. Kirchheval circled behind Vermont's Brody Hoffman from left to right, and tucked the puck inside the near post.
Though the disc squirted through a tiny space between the goal line and Hoffman's pads, and a replay freeze-framed the moment most (but not all) of the disc was over the line, what should have been an easy non-call turned into a valuable insurance goal for the Blue and White.
Taylor Holstrom, David Glen and Casey Bailey also lit the lamp for PSU (9-12-0), which won for just the second time in their last six games. Matt Skoff was solid in net, turning away 34 shots.
The win was key, as Penn State now heads off to East Lansing for back-to-back road games at Michigan State next weekend.
Robert Polesello and Kyle Mountain provided offense for Vermont (6-12-4), while Hoffman made 28 saves in defeat. Nick Luukko picked up a primary assist on the first goal for the "home team."
Penn State brought a majority of fans to the contest, and their team gave them something to cheer about before the four-minute mark when Holstrom tipped in a Conor Varley pass from the slot.
Glen then doubled the advantage with 1:21 remaining in the first period, netting his team-best 11th of the season with some good work down low and a one-timer off a nice pass from Kirchhevel.
Eighty-five seconds after the tomfoolery which surrounded the third goal of the night, Polesello finally lit the lamp for the Catamounts, taking a Nick Luukko shot and ripping it past Skoff.
Bailey scored with 4:42 remaining for a three-goal margin, then Mountain closed out the scoring with his first of the year with 11 seconds to play.
The victory makes PSU 2-for-2 against Vermont in D-I play, as the Lady Nits beat the Cats by a 5-3 count at Burlington in October in their first-ever game.
Hear PSU head coach Guy Gadowsky's post-game comments below: