MENDOTA HEIGHTS, Minn. – For St. Thomas to earn a split against Penn State Wednesday night, Tommies head coach Rico Blasi said that his team needed to cut down on penalties, play a full 60 minutes and avoid playing the Nittany Lions’ game.
They were on track to accomplishing all three of those tasks during the first period, but eventually, all three of those boxes were unchecked as UST fell to Penn State 4-1 and extended its losing streak to eight. Meanwhile Penn State won for the third time in less than a week after splitting a series against Minnesota last weekend.
“Obviously, we didn’t generate a lot of offense,” Blasi said. “We’re not sustaining any o-zone play, so it’s really hard to stay in the game with teams like Penn State, who come at you in waves and they’re really good at finishing their plays off and we just didn’t generate enough chances. For us to be offensive and get some opportunities at the net, we’ve gotta probably have 24 or 25 scoring chances and maybe 30 shots and when you get 12, you’re already out of the game.
“We did a pretty good job for a period and a half again of staying with them. It just seems like every miscue that we have right now is going in the back of our net. We did a better job with the penalties till the third period again when we took a couple foolish penalties again. It’s all part of the process and part of this learning experience that everybody’s going through."
Kevin Wall got things started for the Nittany Lions early in the first period as he weaved his way toward the Tommies net and tucked the puck under UST goalie Jacob Berger’s pad to put PSU up 1-0 at the 3:02 mark. However, the Nittany Lions weren’t able to generate any big scoring chances again until the final minute of the period when Wall was denied on a rush by Berger. At the other end of the rink, things were pretty quiet for the Tommies as their only scoring chance came when Tim Piechowski skated hard into the slot but had his shot stopped by Penn State's goaltender Liam Souliere.
Needing a spark to get back into the game, the Tommies got in on the power play. With Penn State’s Christian Sarlo in the box for holding, UST forward Grant Loven got a pass from Christiano Versich and roofed a shot over Souliere’s blocker to tie it up at 1-1 with just under a minute in. Trevor LeDonne and Trevor Zins both had good looks at the net as the period went on, but couldn’t beat Souliere.
Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions started to find some openings in the period. Tyler Paquette snapped a shot into the back of the net while getting hit in front of it to give PSU a 2-1 lead at the 9:36 mark and less than a minute later, Connor MacEachern scored to pad the advantage to two goals at 3-1.
After staying fairly disciplined on the ice all game, the Tommies committed a costly penalty that effectively put the game away for the Nittany Lions in the final period. After making a save during a scrum in front of the net, Berger was laying in the crease and Wall took advantage, lifting a shot into the open net to cap off the scoring.
UST returns to CCHA play next week when it hosts Bemidji State.
First period — 1. PSU, Kevin Wall 9 (Kirwan, Copeland) 3:02.
Second period — 2. UST, Grant Loven 4 (Versich) PPG 0:51; 3. PSU, Tyler Paquette 5 (Pilewicz) 9:36; 4. PSU, Connor MacEachern 8 (McMenamin) 10:30.
Third period — 5. PSU, Wall 10 (Copeland, Kirwan) PPG 9:16
Power-play opportunities: PSU 1 of 4; UST 1 of 4
Penalties: PSU 6-12; UST 4-8
Goalie saves: PSU, Liam Souliere 12 (3-5-4); UST, Jacob Berger 29 (12-7-10)